Rap music is in the era of the Baby. Two of the most popular rappers to emerge in the past five years have ‘baby’ in their names: Lil and Da. Some of the best new rap names have contained the term (‘Big Baby Scumbag‘) and many more of the best rappers are their own brand of baby, such as Sada Baby and Sahbabii.
So today, I’m taking a look at two Babies growing up in Australia. Both from Melbourne, one has the spirit of a baby coursing through his veins (and recently dropped my favourite Australian song of the year so far), and another who probably has most in common with famous-people babies being kept in the shadows, a SoundCloud enigma who (like a parent’s dream baby) seems to be determined to make as little noise as possible, both in his music and in his career.
I will stop talking about babies now but they’re two of my recent favourites and they’re both Babies so what choice did I have really?
Baby Face Mal knows he doesn’t look like a guy you’d expect to say “I run up to your squad and make you do what I say/One of me, some of you, look what I do to your face”.
To the untrained eye, it might look like he’s playing dress-up, but watching just thirty seconds of this freestyle will make clear that he’s not pretending. There is no insecurity or facade detectable, just a cheeky, knowing smirk, as if it’s Mal himself who is most amused by the conflict between his baby face appearance and his bars about stabbing people etc. He looks pleased with himself – like he’s in on a joke the audience isn’t – and constantly jokes about being a baby in his lyrics.*
He embraces that childish sense of humour, and this light-heartedness fuses with a cold-heartedness to produce emotionless descriptions like “I like to wild out, slap a couple people here and there/Manhandle em, throw ’em from here to there” and casual remarks about even the most serious of subjects like “I just blacked out/Woke up like a mong with my clothes on/Depression crazy but at least I can flow on a song”.
Baby Mal made a splash last year with his collab with Lil Sknow, where the two traded top-shelf drill bars, and he backed it up with a drill-heavy tape “Time Out” that exhibited plenty of his humour and sharp lyricism but has a more hostile energy and puffed-chest demeanour. This nonchalant cut is a bit of a new flavour for him. He’s one of the best doing drill but his flow feels even slicker outside of that formula and it better displays his unique charm.
He’s a rappin-ass rapper who can deliver a couplet or a single line with great impact, whether funny or dark. He does that over-and-over on this freestyle, never settling on one flow for too long and fleshing out his chaotic personality in a paradoxically smooth fashion. He’s the naughty kid grown taller but not quite grown up, cool-headed and cold-blooded yet cheeky and playful, the type to clown you before he does anything serious, emotionally closed-off and so deep in the streets he’s “forgot how to socialise out of business hours” but with a baby face that allows him to stuff shit in his jocks while talking right at the shop clerk. On his song “Koota”, he raps “I’m a wog, I ain’t a gringo” and he reps Turkish and Egyptian flags in his IG bio. This heritage shows in his accent and reinforces his unique style, occasionally mixing bits of those languages and their slang into the Aussie street dialect that he weaves so eloquently.
I’d list my favourite bars but there’d be too many. If a bar isn’t quotable, it’s probably catchy or just sounds amazing over the beat e.g “Baby Face Mikooo, why i’m always in a piiickle.” Quite often it’s both, like: “Berry bomb doink, mmm so tasty/Room full of gas and ain’t no one say safety”.
It’s only on YouTube and unofficially on SoundCloud, but hopefully it drops on streaming services soon and we hear much more from Mal in 2021. Judging from snippets and this freestyle, he’s only getting better. Follow him on Instagram here to stay tuned.
I first heard Brickbaby as a guest on the song “ZIAD” by Chef Chung from his album “Between The Lillies” (which I wrote about for Last Call Mag). My ears pricked up when I heard him rap, in a subdued voice like he wasn’t trying to wake up someone sleeping right next to him, “Dirty hoe, I nut all on her breast she rub it in like Vicks”. He pauses for a second to let the imagery sink in. Later in the verse, he mutters: “Kick his teeth in now a n***a need some braces”.
A lot of rap music from the last decade was trying to be as loud and in your face as possible, best exemplified by trap super-influencer Waka Flocka Flame and his album Flockaveli. In more recent years, there’s been a development of rappers like Drakeo The Ruler and 21 Savage who evoke menace through quiet restraint rather than chest-thumping aggression, discharging raps vicious enough they don’t require the raising of their voice. I feel like Brickbaby arrives at this point, at an intersection with the type of spacey, druggy SoundCloud rap where rappers often try to melt into the beat or float over it rather than be on top of it.
Mumble rap is a dumbass term that didn’t accurately describe even half of the music that fell under it’s umbrella, but a lot of Brickbaby’s could be described music as mutter rap. It’s a style that’s fitting for his low-key, practically anonymous coke-dealer persona. It’s like he’s too sedated to muster up any more energy so you’ve gotta lean in to hear to hear him rap quietly in your ear, or as if he wants to bring as little attention as possible to what he’s rapping about. It also fits an apparent apathy towards the music industry – he has little presence on IG and has only six uploads on his Soundcloud, the second last of which is captioned: “found this on my old laptop haven’t been making much music”. Maybe he doesn’t care if you hear him. His soft-spoken style means you can let the dreamy beats and nicely flowing syllables wash over you or it can draw you in to pay even more attention to what he’s saying.
And make no mistake, Brickbaby is the main attraction. Beyond the unique style of delivery, he’s got bars. He’ll start a song with the lines: “Once I was so high I seen my aunty wave from heaven/kicked them bricks, was out for days my stomach fucking clenching”.* Where some might make a whole song about xanax withdrawals, Bricky packs a lot of power into two lines then moves onto rapping about scamming kids during detention by the next line. For the type of rapper whose every line is unrelated to the one before or after, you have to make that line punchy, and he does that more often than not.
He does sometimes raise his voice though, and one of his best songs is his most animated, “Hibachi”, which would be a great soundtrack to a North Face ad if they ever wanted to market directly to coke dealers. It features another great Aunty line, this one about an Aunty who gives him a drug script, then a kiss and tells him he’s looking handsome.
“Hibachi” was produced by Swell, another Melbourne local who made the massively popular song “I’m Sorry” from 2016. It’s currently sitting at 113m plays on Spotify (which is more than any Hilltop Hoods, The Avalanches or The Veronicas song for perspective), making it one of the most popular songs by an Australian artist of the past ten years? Feels like something that should be talked about, idk. Amazing song and his SoundCloud is worth a look.
Brickbaby only has six songs out exclusively on SoundCloud along with a handful of features which can also be found on his SoundCloud. Recently, he put out a sombre, lo-fi cut “mix it up” where he once again spits succinct but especially earnest bars over some soft keys provided by Melbourne artist Baro. Hopefully he keeps putting out music.
All the rappers who think they’re the next Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole could learn a thing or two from these guys.
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*On this freestyle, Mal says “Bro bro said I’m childish, I said what you ain’t know that?/Been like dat like Kodak”, which at first just sounds like a simple reference to Kodak Black’s early classic “Like Dat“, until you remember that Kodak’s whole persona is the Project BABY, and that baby of the projects concept has always been central to his persona. Mal is thorough with the baby shit.
**The way the first lyrics of the song – “Once I was so” – almost sound like “Wussup wussup” is cool.