In the opening seconds of Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” video, before Donald Glover shoots a guy in the back of the head, Glover does this weird dance. He rolls his hips. He rolls his shoulders. He rolls his belly. He makes a crazy facial expression. He looks, in short, very much like the Detroit rapper Sada Baby does in the video for “Bloxk Party,” the breakout viral hit that came out in March. It’s a subtle homage, or maybe it’s a subliminal homage, or maybe it’s not an homage at all. (I’m pretty sure it’s intentional, but I couldn’t say for certain.) But like the moment, later in the video, where Glover breaks into BlocBoy JB’s Shoot dance, it’s a moment that anchors Glover’s spectacle to the things that are happening on rap YouTube right this moment.
If you pay enough attention to the rap internet, you can’t miss Sada Baby. The “Bloxk Party” video follows what I’ve come to think of as the Chief Keef model, even though that model existed long before “I Don’t Like” broke. It’s vintage YouTube-rap: A whole bunch of dudes gathered in living rooms — mean-mugging the camera, posing hard, standing on kitchen counters, drinking from red solo cups, counting money. If the “Bloxk Party” video breaks with tradition, it only does so in small ways — nobody shows off guns, nobody rolls blunts. But two things are what set the video apart: The dancing, and the actual song, both of which are exceptional.
There is a lot of dancing in the video. Everyone in the clip acts proudly goofy; it starts out with a Soul Train line opening in the middle of the apartment. And the best dancer, by far, is Sada Baby himself. He’s a cartoon figure — his waist constantly winding, his shoulders always rolling. And he’s magnetic. He’s a character — shirt usually missing, diamond-lined teeth usually showing, beard blown all the way out. He’s having more fun than anyone we’ve seen in a music video in a long time. It’s almost impossible to stop looking at him, even when he’s not the one rapping.
And he can rap. On “Bloxk Party,” he bursts with quotable punchlines: “I ain’t never had time for no arguments / Bigass shotgun look like Lauri Markkanen,” “Big brick of white look like Brock Lesnar / Got tester, sliding everywhere cuz I’m off-tether.” His voice is a deranged rasp, wild but controlled, always right on beat. The track is an energetic Bay Area-style burble-thump, with tingly pianos and a deep digital bassline. Drego, another Detroit rapper, shares the track. He’s pretty good, but next to Sada Baby, he sounds calm and conventional, a Zeppo where Sada Baby is all three other Marx Brothers.
“Bloxk Party” didn’t come out of nowhere. Sada Baby has been a star in Detroit, and around the upper Midwest, for a couple of years now. He’s got multiple videos with views in the millions. Last year, he released two full-length solo mixtapes, Skuba Steve and D.O.N. – Dat One Nigga. He’s got a few songs with Tee Grizzley, Detroit’s latest national-stage breakout star, and he’s toured with him, as well. Once you fall into the Sada Baby YouTube hole, something I’ve done more than once, it becomes readily apparent that he’s a regional cult hero, the type of surging people’s champ we don’t see often enough anymore. He’s got an aura around him. He’s got energy, personality, inventiveness, hooks. He comes off hard as fuck even when he’s being silly. He’s some beautiful fusion of 2 Chainz’ goofiness, Danny Brown’s insanity, and King Louie’s friendly toughness. He’s special. He’s been special.
And yet “Bloxk Party” still feels like a coronation moment. It’s closing on 13 million YouTube views as I write this, making it Sada’s biggest hit by far. It’s starting to snowball, to take hold in places far from Detroit. Right now, we’re in a top-heavy rap moment, a period where the big names are dominating all the headlines with their chaotic album rollouts and their bitter feuds and their grand pronouncements. But rap’s health has always depended on word-of-mouth successes, on regional sensations that caught on nationwide, on left-of-center creative forces elbowing their way into the conversation through sheer talent and will. And so Sada Baby’s emergence is one of the best, most exciting things to happen to rap in recent memory. This guy demands your attention. So start giving it.
1. Allblack – “Florida Gator” (Feat. 03 Greedo & Prada Mack)
This track would be a bass-heavy energy-bomb, a classic Oakland track, even without the crackling, chaotic 03 Greedo hook, but Greedo still brings something special to the song. It’s a stark reminder that rap is already a less interesting place without him.
2. Joe Moses – “One Time” (Feat. RJMrLA)
Joe Moses was one of the great West Coast rap hardasses who was all over DJ Mustard tracks five years ago, when Mustard’s wave was cresting. He never broke out the way YG did, but his boisterous toughness has lost none of its punch, and I could hear him over tracks like this for years.
3. Casanova – “Gripped Up”
Rip-your-face-off thunder-rap from a Brooklyn brawler who’s already in his thirties but who’s only been on the radar for a couple of years. So, uh, what’s he been doing all this time? Nevermind. Don’t answer that.
4. Pouya – “Stick Out” (Feat. Ghostemane)
Horrorcore will never die, but you will.
5. YNW Melly – “4 Real”
A floridly gorgeous falsetto sing-rap where people are still showing off guns in the video. Young Thug has reshaped the world in his image, and songs like this are the glorious result.
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO
Referring to Jon Hamm as Don Draper while referring to Jeremy Renner as "Marvel Cinematic Universe films" is extremely hilarious pic.twitter.com/j3DdVYzNul
— Cruiskeen Lawnmower Deth (@NoChorus) June 2, 2018