While Eminem’s Kamikaze sinks lower and lower down into a sea of obscurity, rap fans find themselves in a transitional phrase. Eminem, Kanye, Kid Cudi and other old guard hip-hop artists are flailing to make anything innovative, and a new wave of rap is coming up from below, and it’s much more fun. Rap has taken a silly turn, with rappers like Lil Yachty and Young Thug bringing boats and slime into their lyrics regularly. In line with this new, more playful, nonsensical form of rap, SahBabii has emerged as someone who creates some of the most exciting and compelling music.
SahBabii was born on the South Side of Chicago and grew up in the Wentworth Gardens project. He moved to Atlanta at 13 and with his brother, known now as T3, began to pursue hip-hop. He released two mixtapes that didn’t make a splash, and perhaps discouraged, SahBabii didn’t make another mixtape for three years.
But his 2017 mixtape S.A.N.D.A.S. was released to tremendous praise online. The mixtape was at once similar to what many rappers at the time were creating but also featured an incredibly unique sound. His songs combined a bubble gum pop sensibility with an intensely creative lyricism. On his song “King of the Jungle,” SahBabii raps, “That Glock get to burning like gonorrhea / That choppa sound off, onomatopoeia.” Or in “Marsupial Superstars” he sings, “Put my cinnamon in her apple jacks / I’m vegan throw that apple back.” These lines are hilarious and clever and don’t take themselves too seriously, showing that although he’s a respectable rapper, he also isn’t afraid to be goofy.
SahBabii continues this trend with his new mixtape Squidtastic. He starts off with a nautical theme that loosely structures the album. This is similar to the aquatic subjects rapped about by Ugly God and Lil Yachty, but SahBabii doesn’t sound like he’s copying them. While S.A.N.D.A.S. had a frenetic energy that announced that Sahbabii was back, Squidtastic is a little more focused, calm and reflective. Songs such as “Boyfriend” or “Tall” are cute, either disclosing the desire to be with someone or chanting a mantra of self-love. Arguably the best track on the album, “Anime World,” is a dream-like playground of classic anime references sung with SahBabii’s echoey vocals and perfectly accompanied with soft yet energetic vibrations. It’s tracks such as these that also portray a melancholic nostalgia, which is interesting for this only 21-year-old rapper — it betrays the amazing growth that he’s made in his music-making.
SahBabii’s style takes much of the best of contemporary rap and distills it into incredibly compact and melodic songs. He’s young and energetic, screaming and hooting with a professional boisterousness, which is comparable to Rae Sremmurd’s best work. His vocal performance is hard to categorize as either rapping or singing, each word always connected to a tone with an almost nursery rhyme flow like Young Thug, except with more carefully chosen words that don’t sacrifice coherence for a better sound. Each instrument, each rhythm is created to support an overall joy of music. It seems almost futile to analyze each song because really they’re just fun. You won’t want to intellectualize it; you’ll just want to listen to it and smile and dance.