Melodic Blue

Baby Keem's new album art for "The Melodic Blue" features a rainbow dock on the glistening water. 

Contrary to what most people think, trap music is a wildly diverse landscape of artistic direction and vision. While the genre has its doppelgangers and clones, it boasts boundary-pushers and innovators like Young Thug, Playboi Carti and Travis Scott. The list of trap visionaries might have to make room for one more: Baby Keem. 

The Las Vegas rapper’s most recent project “The Melodic Blue” shows the most potent boldness of Keem’s artistry at work, as the 20-year-old takes a detour away from the sounds he cultivated in prior records. 

Keem has been silently building a blue-ribbon catalogue of trap albums. 2019’s “DIE FOR MY B****” was contagiously aggressive, focused and energetic. Keem’s first project, “The Sound of Bad Habit,” executively produced by Cardo is pure potential on full display. 

Keem’s consistency hasn’t slowed whatsoever in 2021. Beside the release of “The Melodic Blue,” Keem dropped two standout singles, “no sense” and “durag activity” featuring Houston’s own Travis Scott. Additionally, Keem found himself featured with Scott on Kanye West’s latest classic record “Donda” on the exceptional “Praise God.”

“The Melodic Blue” is a continuation of so many artistic strokes found in various of his previous works.

The abrasive opener “trademark usa” is as assertive and grand as “STATS” from Keem’s last album.

“issues’’ toned down production and delivery from Keem harkens back to the sonic palette utilized on “HONEST.”

While Keem builds on what he’s established in the past, he pushes his creative direction forward in a plethora of ways with “The Melodic Blue,” the most ear catching and compelling track on the record comes with the foreshadowing “scapegoats.”

 

The soulful pitched-up looped sample accompanies Keem as, of course, he boasts about “how fast these Porsches get” and how he’s “borderline more than rich.” However, “scapegoats” requires a closer examination, as Keem lets us see a more vulnerable and confessionary side, “One day I’ll tell you how my life was unfortunate/Who I made this tape for? I’ll tell the story two years later, for now the case closed.” In it’s closing seconds, the looped production gives way to an alluring piano and intimate guitar. The remarkable production on “scapegoats” sounds as if a veteran and established producer constructed it. However, Keem is credited with production on this track. “scapegoats” is a culmination and exhibition of Keem’s full potential behind the boards as well as a story-teller. It’s a one minute track that impresses from start to finish. 

Immediately following “scapegoats” on the tracklist is the grandiose “range brothers,” featuring Keem’s cousin, the elusive genius Kendrick Lamar. Keem’s production on “range brothers” is inheiriently intriguing. Defined by stumbling and fluid kicks, high hats and 808’s, Keem’s flows fit perfectly. When Kdot cuts in after the first beat transition, “range brothers” is rejuvenated by his urgent delivery. Keem and Kendrick trade bar for bar, making for one of the best moments in rap this year. Of course, we get a classic Kendrick Lamar moment on the cusp of the third beat of “range brothers,” spitting some of the most hilarious adlibs in rap history. “range brothers” is a microcosm of what Keem does so well as an artist. He demands respect simply due to his raw talent as an emcee and producer, but prioritizes keeping his art purely fun and light in nature. 

Lamar also appears on the lead single of the record, “family ties,” which happens to be my personal pick for song of the year. Keem displays his full skillset as a rapper on this track, as his word play, flow and rhyme-schemes were intricate enough to draw praise from both Tyler, The Creator and Vince Staples on Twitter.

 

After a second beat switch, Lamar enters attack mode, crafting his best verse since the release of “DAMN.”  “family ties” is a brilliant union of exceptional rappers destined to cross paths many more times in the future. 

Considering this is a experimental effort from Keem, not everything here is worth pursuing artistically. “pink panties” is a bit scattered (although Keems flows stay impressive ) as the hook derails the song. “cocoa” with Don Toliver is high energy, yet lacking substance. 

All in all, “The Melodic Blue” is a slow burn of a project. After your first listen, you may not totally understand what makes this project stand out, that’s because it’s a wildly unique and peculiar listen. While Keem’s experimentation with trap doesn’t always stick here, it’s surely the start of artistic evolution that will define rap for years to come. 

Favorite songs:

family ties (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

scapegoats 

lost souls (feat. Brent Faiyaz)

Luke Modugno is a digital editor. Follow him on Twitter: @lmodugno5.

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