Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Lil Baby – The Bigger Picture

The shirt says it all.


Andy Hutchins: If DaBaby’s “Intro” was triumph in rap in 2019, this is defiance and resilience circa 2020: The better Baby head-fakes with a single bar about whip appeal and then launches into one of the more blistering critiques of the current moment of American failure any citizen will deliver. He’s viscerally vivid when it comes to the paranoiac existence of Black people in a country still coming to terms with them as people (“I find it crazy the police’ll shoot you / And know that you dead, but still tell you to freeze”; “Stare in the mirror whenever you drive”; “Must not be breathin’ the air that I breathe / You know that the way I can bleed, you can bleed”) and perfectly relentless over the instrumental, as Section 8 layers insistent drums, delicate piano, and siren synths to mimic the tempest that is this “hell of a year” in American life — one so profoundly fucked that “What happened to COVID?” comes off as a dark joke. Even the most Instagram-ready bars — “Every colored person ain’t dumb, and all whites not racist / I be judgin’ by the minds and hearts, I ain’t really into faces” — work because this is, at its core, an exhausted acknowledgement that that’s not the point: “There’s a problem with our whole way of life,” charges the hook. And yet, the soul of “The Bigger Picture” is hope, and belief in a future: Baby’s proclamation that “We can storm any weather” gets followed by “You know when the storm go away, then the sun shine,” whether this world deserves that optimism or not. As anthemic and vital as music gets, and sincerely moving to boot.

Tobi Tella: The strength and conviction it takes to release this, especially in the current rap environment that has seen fanbases mostly co-opted by white people, but the line between anger and empathetic is rode well, and the honesty pouring out of this is beautiful. Beautiful enough for me to not sideeye at that COVID line.

Alfred Soto: The track contradicts the title: as filigreed as a miniature. Unafraid to look afraid, Lil Baby uses his high-pitched timbre and mixing board distortion in the service of a July 2020 journal entry. He wills himself not to dismiss the white people whom he’s justified in hating. The most hortatory line is the best: “Fuck it, I’m goin’ on the front line.” 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Compelling mostly for its inner conflict and imperfections– in Lil Baby’s uncertainty, in the obligatory feeling of his lyrics (“we gotta start somewhere/ Might as well start here”), he conveys the weariness and resolve that allow “The Bigger Picture” to work as a protest song. The song’s worldview rooted in personal experience rather than movement politics, regardless of the protest chant samples, and it succeeds on the strength of that; you get the sense of thinking out loud rather than canned speeches. It’s not always artful or coherent, but it works nonetheless.

Edward Okulicz: This is just such a mass of complicated emotions — numbness, weakness, the feeling of power that one could change it — that it almost feels ridiculous dissecting it line by line or sound by sound. But “The Bigger Picture” does so much right. Take the newsreaders on the opening, the female voice relaying atrocities that have terrified millions with a numbed intonation, as if livelihood and life is just a thing to report. Take the audacity of saying “God is the only man I fear.” Take how every line seethes with intent and feeling, drawing a line between the everyday fears that were there before with the new ones. It’s impossible not to feel those fears a little.

Thomas Inskeep: This is the most astute song I’ve heard linked to 2020’s police brutality/Black Lives Matter protests, from a rapper from whom I frankly didn’t expect it. This is thoughtful and smart, with a subtle musical backing that accents and doesn’t outshine Baby’s lyrics.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: With sangfroid, surgical precision, and arresting directness, Lil Baby perfectly captures 2020’s political and racial zeitgeist in the same way that Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” did in 2015. “The Bigger Picture” isn’t a pretty picture, but it’s one that America needs to confront if it is to ever eradicate police violence and systemic anti-black racism. 

Reader average: [8.33] (9 votes)

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