Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby (Prime Video) joins a large slate of music docs which have dropped within the months in and round COVID, appearing as each promotional instruments and biographical content material for artists who have been pressured out of some cycles of the promotional beast. Untrapped options in depth interviews with Lil Baby and his fellow Atlanta rappers Gunna and Young Thug, in addition to relations, associates, and music business representatives, plus Drake and Charlamagne tha God. The doc made its premiere this previous June on the Tribeca Film Festival.
The Gist: Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby begins close to the place it ends, with the rapper whose actual identify is Dominique Armani Jones in his trailer on the Grammys making ready for a efficiency of his twice-nominated protest music “The Bigger Picture.” He dons an immaculate pair of throwback Jordans, a stylized, glittery tactical vest with balaclava to match – the world was nonetheless absolutely masked in 2021 – and punctiliously arranges the jewellery round his neck. “I all the time knew,” he says in voiceover of his childhood goals, “Im-a be an actual millionaire.”
Those goals got here true in additional methods than one. As Untrapped traces Lil Baby’s meteoric rap recreation rise with 2017 and 2018 singles like “Freestyle” and “Drip Too Hard,” the latter a collaboration with Gunna, the doc additionally establishes that he technically got here late to a rap profession, since he had already established a profitable income stream as an Atlanta-area drug vendor. “I by no means needed to be a rapper,” Lil Baby says in a up to date interview, having arrived in his white designer puffer to match his gleaming Chevrolet Corvette. “I used to be already younger and turnt on the streets.” And his longtime buddy and mentor Young Thug agrees. “He was all the time that man that everyone liked. He was all the time a cash getter. So, with or with out rap, he was gonna get some cash.”
After a two-year beef for possession, Baby hooked again up with associates Pierre Thomas and Kevin “Coach” Lee, co founders of Quality Control Music, they usually rapidly shuttled him right into a recording studio, hoping to faucet into his intangible “Lil Baby-ness.” Other early singles adopted – “My Dawg” is the place he “discovered his swag,” in response to Lee – and earlier than lengthy the rapper’s debut album Harder Than Ever was hitting the Billboard Hot 100. “The Breakfast Club” radio host Charlamagne tha God sums up the hip-hop world’s pleasure over Baby. “The circulation, the voice, the cadence, the lyrics – it was simply one thing taking place.”
But there was one thing else taking place, too, specifically, COVID-19. Lil Baby’s subsequent album My Turn dropped proper earlier than lockdowns, depriving him of promotion and dwell performances however nonetheless turning round thousands and thousands in gross sales. The rapper additionally noticed a chance in the course of the protests over George Floyd’s demise to lend his voice and help to the Black Lives Matter motion. By the time we rejoin him within the heady ambiance across the 2021 Grammys, Lil Baby has grow to be a bit older – even when he’s nonetheless in his twenties – a bit wiser, and completely dedicated to residing his life along with his two younger sons’ well-being in thoughts.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of? Untrapped director Karam Gill isn’t any stranger to rap music or the Atlanta scene. Lil Baby and Migos have been featured in his 2020 documentary Ice Cold
Performance Worth Watching: Lil Baby’s lovely little boys Jason and Loyal are instantaneous scene stealers in Untrapped, whether or not showing on stage with their dad, getting gussied up for the Grammys, or appearing like your typical toddler and five-year-old as they pontificate round the home and playfully demand extra snacks.
Memorable Dialogue: Quality Control Music co founder Kevin “Coach Ok” Lee describes how he needed to coax and prod Lil Baby into making an attempt out the rap recreation. “Most of those guys are telling your story,” he instructed him, referring to different rappers describing the Atlanta road hustle life of their songs. “Your story actual.” Still, Lee says that Baby initially balked. The risk of failure, and taking a success to his cred, loomed. “He was so revered as a dope boy, as a road cat, he didn’t need to tarnish that.”
Sex and Skin: A few photographs right here in there of strip membership interiors and/or unique VIP events, with money all around the flooring and dancers of their naked necessities doing their factor.
Our Take: Many of the music docs which have proliferated within the wake of the worldwide pandemic keep on with a typical formulation. There is the star to be profiled, the sweat and grind and glitz of their life on the street, and diverse cutaways to life at residence or in quieter moments of downtime in unique resort suites or the hushed cabin lighting of a personal jet. But whereas there’s a bit of every of these tenets in Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby, the narrative thrust right here is extra moody, extra considerate, and usually extra private than so a lot of docs of its ilk. From its opening moments, which mix authentic footage with stylized photographs of vehicles, medication, and money that channel the texture of some legacy tv title about these very issues, to the deeper exploration of Lil Baby’s upbringing on Atlanta’s southwest aspect and the way that area’s power cycles of poverty and violence fashioned his worldview as a lot as they established one thing for him to beat, Untrapped gives a extra absolutely fashioned profile of an artist whose seemingly instantaneous superstardom has given him as a lot success because it has bigger points to contemplate. But in the end, it’s like Drake says, each concerning the music business and life usually. “You gotta simply preserve working. You can’t acknowledge how effectively it’s going.” Opinions change – “that’s simply how this shit works.”
Our Call: STREAM IT. Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby is extra contemplative than many of the music documentaries which have dropped within the wake of COVID-related work stoppages, and it supplies a wealth of unique entry and content material for the celebrity rapper’s ever-growing fanbase.
Johnny Loftus is an impartial author and editor residing at massive in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges