Since the release of her first-ever song in 2016, Bali Baby has cycled through more styles and sounds than most veteran rappers. The Atlanta rapper released multiple early mixtapes featuring bubbly production and animated rapping, dropped a Christmas album last December called Merry Bhristmas, and, most recently, she's leaned into a poppier, rock-inflected sound on Baylor Swift.
For the 20-year-old artist, these switch-ups are second nature. She grew up listening to Lana Del Rey, memorizing all the songs on the Rock Band video game, and, as she says, there's no real way to classify a Bali Baby-type-beat. On Baylor Swift, she alternates between vibrant rapping and moody melody. As she wrote on Instagram when the project was released, the project "tells the tale of a broken hearted girl who put her all into the mic."
Why did you decide to name your recent album Baylor Swift? Where did that come from?
My older brother was making fun of me in the studio. He called me Baylor Swift when he heard me singing. I was like, ‘Oh shit, that’s kinda fye.” So, I just took it and and ran with it. I had been experimenting with that sound for a little bit but I think Baylor is like a mastered version of it.
What inspired that more pop-leaning change in sound for you?
I really just started to listen to different kinds of beats and they influenced what I was going to say. I started getting these wild beats that I couldn’t really rap on so I was like, "I guess I’ll try to sing on it." People would reach out to me and say they had some beats that they thought would fit me and send me this crazy shit. I guess that’s how they think of me. Once I started releasing songs like that it brought in more different types of producers.
Did you listen to a lot of rock and pop stuff growing up
I listened to a lot of Lana Del Rey growing up — she’s my favorite. Lot of Jhene [Aiko], a lot of music from Rock Band and Guitar Hero. I listen to all those songs on the games. I could beat anybody on any instrument. We used to challenge each other and try to all three — play the drums, sing, and play the guitar — at the same time.
"You always gotta stay ahead of the game. You can’t get lost in the stampede."
You’ve already cycled through a few different sounds and styles at this point. Do you feel like you’ve found something to stick with or are you still evolving?
I think it’s still me evolving more into something bigger. Each time I drop something, I feel like I’m coming even harder and getting better and better. I think all the sounds I’ve gone through are limitless — there isn’t a stopping point for any of ‘em. I wanna just make it better and master it before moving on. I think I sound like me, like Bali Baby. You never know what you’re gonna hear. You always gotta stay ahead of the game. You can’t get lost in the stampede.
Whenever I talk to rappers from smaller cities that are more removed from the industry, they always bring up Atlanta as an example of unity, in terms of the way artists support each other. Is that an accurate view of how things actually work?
I think for the most part we are that way. If you’re on your shit, niggas gon’ fuck with you. They’re not gonna be on some jealous shit...most of the time. Other times, it is jealousy — there’s jealousy in everything. But we do work together. Most features are Atlanta artists coming together. Atlanta’s become the center of music. We can really see the groundwork. It’s cool that the rest of the world sees it and loves and appreciates it.
Maybe this isn’t as much the case right this moment, but a year or two ago it seemed like there were so many beefs between all the different women rappers who were coming up. Do you feel like everyone’s moved past that?
I’m not on that no more. I think that’s what every rapper gon’ go through. It just depends on how you deal with it afterwards. Are you gonna linger on it, and keep letting it control your life, or are you gonna get over it and grow up?
Do you feel like women rappers in particular are pitted against each other in that way?
I guess we get in our feelings more. But I feel like people try to plot us against each other. I don’t see people plotting niggas against each other as much as I see people try to make fake beef out of females all the time. Like, Oh, she said this. She must be beefing with her. Little stuff like that is never really [the case] with males. People blow shit out of proportion and make it what it’s not.
Is that the media, fans, the artists themselves?
I think it’s all of that. Fans, the media, social media. Everything.
You had your own vlog series Gangin With Gang. Stuff definitely gets blown out of proportion but do you feel like you’re also able to control your own narrative through stuff like that?
For sure. I think we definitely do it’s just about taking the initiative, having the willpower to do it.