Five Burning Questions: Lil Baby Debuts at No. 1 on Billboard 200 With ‘It’s Only Me’

Few rappers have made the jump to popular music’s A-list as successfully this decade as Atlanta rapper Lil Baby, whose 2020 album My Turn topped the Billboard 200 albums chart for five weeks and spawned major hits like “Emotionally Scarred,” “Woah,” and (from its deluxe edition) “We Paid” and “The Bigger Picture.”


This month, Lil Baby returns with that set’s proper follow-up, It’s Only Me — which was preceded with a slow trickle of one- and two-off single releases. The set bows atop the Billboard 200 this week with 216,000 equivalent album units moved and all 23 tracks appearing on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the year’s most dominant streaming releases.

Is the album a step up for Lil Baby? And where would we have him go next? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. It’s been two years since My Turn officially introduced Lil Baby as a solo superstar — does this reception for It’s Only Me tell you that his status has grown, fallen, or maintained in the years since? 

Rania Aniftos: Grown! A second album as a solo star topping the Billboard 200 is an impressive feat, proving that it wasn’t just hype that launched My Turn to the top of the chart. It’s the fact that he’s a full-blown artist with fans that love his music, and this confirms his staying power in the music world. 

Carl Lamarre: For someone who amassed superstar success in 2020, I think Baby’s appeal has grown since then, especially knowing he doesn’t have a traditional hit record behind this album. When Baby trucked his way into rap supremacy, he was armed with a bevy of singles like “We Paid,” “The Bigger Picture,” and “Emotionally Scarred.” This time around, he doesn’t have any surefire hits, but his consistency post My Turn has garnered loyalty from his core fanbase, along with new fans he’s picked up on the road.

Jason Lipshutz: Grown. Lil Baby has a much bigger profile than he did two-and-a-half years ago, with more hits, high-wattage collaborations, larger performance venues, and now, an even bigger No. 1 album debut on the Billboard 200. My Turn was the project that lit the fuse for Lil Baby as a modern hip-hop superstar, and It’s Only Me continues his prolonged explosion.

Andrew Unterberger: Maintained — which is hard enough to do, especially when nothing you’ve released in the last two years has really cut through in a major way, and the streaming ecosystem is constantly shifting behind you. Lil Baby appears to be established enough now to not really have to worry about pushing back against the tides; an enviable spot for 99% of rappers right now.

Christine Werthman: Grown. 2020 was a banner year for Lil Baby, as My Turn debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 with 197,000 equivalent album units earned — and then he just kept going, as “The Bigger Picture” turned into an anthem for those marching in Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, and was nominated for two awards at the 2021 Grammys. Luminate named My Turn the biggest album of the year in 2020, and this year, it was certified quadruple platinum on Feb. 28, exactly two years from its release. The new set, It’s Only Me, once again debuts at No. 1, this time with 216,000 equivalent album units earned, exceeding his 2021 No. 1 with Lil Durk, The Voice of the Heroes, by 66,000. The new album’s numbers also surpass those from 2020, and considering he’s now got 25 songs on the Hot 100, it’s clear that demand has only increased for Lil Baby. 

2. While Lil Baby has slow-released a number of new songs in the past year (“Right On,” “Frozen,” “Detox,” etc.), only “In a Minute” and the just-released “Heyy” appear on It’s Only Me. Do you think this has proven an effective promo strategy — or see it as an effective release strategy in general?  

Rania Aniftos: Definitely, especially in the hip-hop scene, with new rappers budding up in the game all the time. I think the consistent rollout of tracks keeps Lil Baby relevant in the press and among hip-hop fans, while giving him time to work on his full album. Hence, when It’s Only Me dropped, fans knew what to expect and hadn’t forgotten about him, so they flocked to stream the album.  

Carl Lamarre: If you couple Baby’s features with his slow-churning output, this is a smart recipe to success: If you feed your fans, they won’t yearn for more music. Like I previously said, despite his singles not having the same luster as his previous ones, Baby remained a formidable contender in-between releases because of his consistency. Thanks to that formula, his fans stood by him and showed up on his big day.

Jason Lipshutz: In this case, the release strategy was half-effective — those new songs didn’t become hit, or at least, hits of the stature of Baby’s most effective crossover singles — but they did keep him top of mind ahead of the It’s Only Me release, and that may have helped deliver the best Billboard 200 debut of his career. Perhaps It’s Only Me bows with an even bigger equivalent album unit total had one of those pre-release singles caught fire, but even without it, Lil Baby dominated this chart week.

Andrew Unterberger: Effective for maintaining, but not necessarily effective for growing. If Lil Baby wanted to make the jump to the Kendrick/Bad Bunny/Harry Styles level of stardom (and accompanying first-week numbers), he could probably stand to pull back on the regular releases and maybe turn his albums into more discrete projects and eras, building a more pronounced sense of anticipation for each new song when it arrives. But he’s doing quite fine as is, so I can’t really blame him for sticking with his current strategy.

Christine Werthman: Considering all those songs currently on the Hot 100, I’d say this strategy worked just fine. As a listener, it’s never that exciting to get an album that’s packed with singles you’ve already heard, so I appreciate that he kept dropping new music this year while still managing to have enough in the can for a full album. And it seems like lots of other listeners felt the same way — with the singles, whether or not they appeared on the album, building anticipation for this new project. 

3. While all the songs Lil Baby has released this year have been decently successful, only “In a Minute” has really verged on being a major multi-platform success. Do you think see any of the new tracks on It’s Only Me going to a higher commercial level? (See list of his current Hot 100 entries at bottom of e-mail.)  

Rania Aniftos: I’m thinking “Heyy” is going to have a commercial moment, especially because it jumped from No. 77 to No. 21 on the Hot 100 this week, which is a pretty big leap. The trap-infused hook makes it a really great party hit too. “California Breeze” is also a contender for a hit, because it’s fun and catchy, and it’s the only song currently in the top 5 on the Hot 100. 

Carl Lamarre: I think “Heyy” has the most pull to become a quality single for Baby and Co. The bars are steely, the hook is sticky and the song itself boasts enough TikTok flavor to attract a whole new movement and trend on the popular app. I also am a fan of Fridayy’s hook capabilities, as the pairing of him and Baby on “Forever,” is a winner for me.

Jason Lipshutz: I’m all in on “Pop Out,” the team-up with Nardo Wick that perfectly balances Lil Baby’s floating, elastic wordplay and Wick’s deep, sinister murmurs. Love the singsong intro, the subtle strings in the production, the beat switch-up — “Pop Out” is one of the best hip-hop collaborations of the year, and deserves to be unavoidable.

Andrew Unterberger: “Pop Out” also seems like the one for me — TikTok could certainly have a field day with the mid-song switch-up — though Future collab “From Now On” is also up there for me for a lot of the same reasons.

Christine Werthman: The moody and melodic “California Breeze,” currently the No. 4 song on the Hot 100, is a standout track, and I see it sticking around, though I don’t know if it will surpass No. 4. The background sample comes from Danish artist Coco O., who is half of Quadron, the electronic duo with Robin Hannibal, who is one of the founders of the equally chill and vibe-y Rhye. Coco O.’s song “Gwen” is pitched down and stretched out, creating a soft atmosphere around Lil Baby’s lines about mistrusting some, protecting others and keeping his bookings up. Lil Baby dropped a video along with this one, so it seems like he has confidence in it as well. 

That said, this doesn’t sound like a hits-generating album. It’s best absorbed in one complete go — if you’ve got an hour and five minutes to spare — so you can fully feel the weight of the dark clouds overhead.  

4. Do you have any deeper favorites on It’s Only Me? Anything that you think pushes him into new or interesting territory?  

Rania Aniftos: While I think sound-wise, “Russian Roulette” follows a similar feel to the rest of the tracks on the album, the lyrics are super vulnerable for Lil Baby. Talking about how he grew up, friends who have died along the way and how he feels about his music career gives him an added layer of depth, which I personally always appreciate.  

Carl Lamarre: “Not Finished” is prime Baby, where he exudes feline agility without losing his lyrical verve. When Baby is dialed in, no rapper can keep up, as we have previously seen with Drake (“Wants & Needs”) and J. Cole (“Pride Is The Devil”). Also, Baby’s penchant for samples this outing was gold, as he floated on the album standout “California Breeze.”

Jason Lipshutz: A song like “Danger” only slightly tweaks the proven Lil Baby formula, but he spits with such wild-eyed conviction over that racing piano line that the song functions as a jolt of adrenaline on It’s Only Me, and an interesting change-up of Baby’s approach in the second half of the album. A project that leans toward this type of urgency would be a different lane for Baby, but a rewarding one.

Andrew Unterberger: Not really.

Christine Werthman: Instead of pushing Lil Baby into new territory, these songs find him staking out his zone, characterized by a haze of anxiety and the pursuit of revenue. What better rapper to welcome back to that bleak, hedonistic party than Future, who joins Lil Baby on “From Now On”? While Baby says his image revamp requires “no more pictures with my Styrofoam,” Future is contentedly “drinkin’ out Styrofoam,” unbothered or numb or both, his apathy making Lil Baby sound like a hopeful youth by comparison. 

5. While there are some differences, It’s Only Me does seem largely patterned after My Turn in terms of its sound and structure. If Lil Baby was to go in a different direction on his next LP, how would you recommend he switch it up?  

Rania Aniftos: I’d love to see him play with a little more R&B. There are incredible female R&B singers out there, and it would be so fun to see him have some collaborations with SZA or Jessie Reyez.

Carl Lamarre: I like the idea of Baby leaning more into samples. He does a great job in being introspective and I can honestly see him own that lane a la Drake with the right production. I also believe a tighter and more concise album — 14 tracks max — would bode well for Baby going forward. 

Jason Lipshutz: I’d go slightly shorter and more uptempo — It’s Only Me is a highly satisfying listen that requires the listener to sink into its charms for 65 minutes, but I also believe Baby is capable of a 40-minute project that’s wall-to-wall bangers. He doesn’t need to drop something like that to stay on top, but damn if I wouldn’t enjoy it.

Andrew Unterberger: I’d love to see him explore a one-rapper, one-producer team-up project, a la 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’s pair of Savage Mode full-lengths. Baby’s one of the best rappers of his generation, but his production tastes can sometimes drift towards the indistinct — so for him to find a musical collaborator with a strong signature sound and see what kind of chemistry they could build over 12-15 tracks would be a really, really exciting prospect to me.

Christine Werthman: The sound and structure might be generally similar across the two albums, but the beats on It’s Only Me are less varied, and he seemed more charged up on My Turn. I like that he brought on a lot of guests that comfortably fit his vibe and support but don’t outshine him, but he gets more amped when paired with someone less similar, like Nicki Minaj on “Do We Have a Problem?” or J. Cole on “” It’s Only Me shows that Lil Baby knows his lane, but it’d be fun to see him step out of it.