When it comes to raising his voice politically, Baby has reason to move carefully. In July he found himself in the midst of a hotly contested race for Atlanta district attorney when the long-serving incumbent, Paul Howard—the D.A. who prosecuted Baby and sent him to prison in 2014—announced on Facebook and Twitter that Baby had endorsed him. Introduced by a mutual acquaintance, the two did meet and had what Baby considers a much needed conversation about criminal-justice reform. “If I can sit at a table and really talk to you like I’m human, versus the politics and you in that courtroom, you really might come to reality versus you sending n-ggas goddamn down the road for 500 years,” he says. But Baby says he did not, in fact, endorse Howard. “Paul Howard sent me to prison,” he says. On August 11, Howard was trounced in a primary runoff—one more wrinkle in Baby’s glorious, strange, sad year.
Leaning back in his chair, he stares ahead at a blank wall and recalls the night in the studio three years ago when he laid down his first track. Unsatisfied, he’d resigned himself to the notion that maybe rap just wasn’t for him. But Lil Marlo persuaded him to go back to the studio. Baby can still hear his friend’s voice: “He like, ‘Bruh, I’m telling you, bruh, we need to rap. Bruh, I’m telling you, the city gon’ be behind us.’ ” With each remembered word, Baby’s recounting becomes more energetic. “We stay on the phone for maybe two hours,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Fuck it, bruh, tonight we going in.’ ”
Jewel Wicker is an Atlanta-based freelance writer. This is her first story for GQ.
A version of this story originally appears in the October 2020 issue with the title “Lil Baby’s Big Gains.”
10 Things Lil Baby Can’t Live Without
Photographs by Ahmad Barber & Donté Maurice
Styled by Mobolaji Dawodu
Grooming by Nate Poston
Tailoring by Jana Acevedo for The Spin Style Agency