The first time we get a glimpse of Sada Baby in the video for “Bloxk Party,” his March song with fellow Detroit native Drego, the rapper is shown in slow-motion, his shoulders shimmying backwards and a look on his face like he caught a whiff of something foul. A minute or so later, he’s rapping about a “big ass shotgun look like Lauri Markkanen” and doing the robot while standing on a kitchen island. The song and its video have become a frequently viewed example of the captivating personality that makes the 25-year-old practically jump out of earphones and computer screens for his listeners and viewers. Even when he’s not the one rapping, he’s the person stealing the show.
In 2016, Sada Baby, born Casada Sorrell and raised in Detroit’s east side, was ready to hang it all up — after rapping for three years, he still hadn’t seen a rap check. He enrolled in a culinary program at Schoolcraft College, where he planned to walk onto the basketball team, but first decided to enter the local rap competition Imported From The D. He ended up beating out 12 other rappers to win the competition and his first rap dollars came a day later.
Since then, Sada Baby has released two full-length projects and a high volume of videos, each showing an increasing willingness to reference some of the more obscure names on NBA rosters and characters in lesser-known cartoons. His off-the-wall similes and dances seem to indicate that he doesn’t take himself too seriously but his work ethic suggests otherwise. Over the past year, he’s become one of Detroit’s fastest rising rap stars, and he’s done it by being himself.
Something I immediately noticed listening to songs like “Ghetto Champagne” and “Permanent Gang Kings” is that you really have vocals. Did you grow up singing?
I used to sing in the [church] choir a little bit, had a couple solos. That was when I was 9 till 11, but then I moved to D.C. for about a year. I stopped going to church because I wasn’t really with my dad’s side of the family as much. I used to go to church with my dad’s mom but ever since then I haven’t really been in church like that. I went the other way.
I didn’t really get an interest until my cousin Ashley started singing for real. She had a unique voice I felt like. She was more in line of like an Erykah Badu — real soulful. I went to her the first time I wanted to sing and let her hear me. She said I was decent but I needed to work at it. I just kept working at it until I got comfortable enough to sing on a song, and I think the first one I sang on was “Peacock.”
For someone who hasn’t spent much time in Detroit, what would you say about growing up there?
It ain’t just all the way terrible but if you ain’t from there you don’t really need to be nowhere near the hood. We got a lot of good food. You go out of town and be expecting some good food, and sometimes you might get it, but ain’t nobody got food like back at the house. We got a lot of different places to go eat at and it’s seventy-five percent good, for real. Not good for you but good. I don’t really eat red meat like I used to but my favorite thing to get is lamb chops from the strip club.
Which strip club?
Any strip club. With the zip sauce. And it’s not like the classic zip sauce that’s more savory, they zip sauce is sweet. They put a lot of brown sugar in it.
Detroit is the home of so many different musical styles. Were you aware of all that as you grew up? What were you listening to?
I really was listening to a lot of Cash Money. There was a group in Detroit called the Eastside Chedda Boyz and then the Street Lordz — Blade Icewood and them. You couldn’t help but to hear their shit when you growing up. There was also a lot of Pastor Troy around for some reason. Both sides of my family liked Pastor Troy.
When I got a little bit older, Atlanta really had it going: Ying Yang Twins, Lil Jon, Chingy. E-40 too, though. From his early shit, to when I got a little bit older and he had “Tell Me When To Go.” That was my ringtone for like a year. I was a big Gucci Mane fan. In high school, you were either a Jeezy kid or a Gucci kid — I was with Gucci.
Then we have club music in Detroit. There’s this guy named DJ Snowflake and he’s got a bunch of shit on YouTube. It’s songs that are damn near from before we were born but they’re still relevant. Like, every Friday the radio would do a mix and it’s all those fast-paced songs. I didn’t get complex with listening to shit until I was 19. I started listening to the Gorillaz, System of a Down, and shit like that.
Did people look at you weird when you started getting more into that stuff?
Yeah, but I didn’t really care. I was real volatile back then. If I didn’t know you, you might not wanna say shit about what I was playing. And if I did know you, we’d probably go some jokes for a while but...
When did you first start rapping?
I freestyled for a long ass time. That’s all I used to do growing up: freestyle for hours and hours, say a bunch of sweet shit and then never remember it the next day. Taking it serious and actually rapping? About four or five years ago. I was rapping with my right hand mans, Tooda Man. He was really the only reason I was rapping.
“Everybody wanna say Steph Curry. It’s a thousand niggas playing basketball.”
What was going on in your life at that time that made you want to take it seriously?
Really I was just trying another way to be successful at something. I did the hustling shit and I made some money but not no money like I make now. I did a whole bunch of jobs. I worked at a car wash for one day. [The manager] called me in the office the next day like, “You ain’t quick enough.” He paid me for that day, though.
I just wanted to make some cheese. Everybody said I could rap and woo-woo. My thing was — if I was selling weed, or getting on the road, or basketball, or I was cooking — all my time had to go to what I was doing. I knew I wasn’t gonna make no money just off the dribble and that was the risk I was taking. I damn near was about to quit ‘cause I was rapping for three years and hadn’t made no money.
There was this competition called Imported From The D. It was 13 rappers. I was the first nigga there and ended being the second to last to perform. Niggas had back up dancers, pulled up on a party bus with their whole family, had cardboard cutouts, all kinda shit. One nigga had Ayo & Teo, I bullshit you not. At the time, I didn’t know who these lil’ muhfuckas was. All I knew was, That’s the nigga with the afro and that other lightskin nigga who be dancing. At the time, they hadn’t made the “Rolex” song but they were still big as dancers. I’m like, How you get these niggas? I went up there and was like, “I thought this was a rap competition” — was talking crazy. I ended up winning and the next day I got a call to open up for Curren$y.
In Detroit, there’s been decades of rappers and groups that have been successful in the city but, besides Big Sean, Dej Loaf, and, more recently Tee Grizzley, none have really broken out in a big way. Why do you think that is?
Niggas from Detroit make it hard on they self. They scared to be different. In our city, everything a muhfucka do, they worried about what the next muhfucka gon’ say about them, instead of going with they flow. Therefore, every nigga come out rapping like the next nigga, dress like him, beats like him. If a saying get to starting around Detroit, everybody’s song is titled that saying.
A lot of the stuff you reference, the sense of humor you bring, stands out from a lot of other rappers in Detroit.
I don’t get in that bitch and try to turn into no ‘nother nigga. That’s just me. I still watch cartoon movies, I still play those games all the time. I crack jokes all the time. I also got a good memory. If I don’t remember what I’m trying to say, I’ll ask somebody or I’ll go to Google. It’s a bunch of shit out here — names, characters — muhfuckas just don’t use ‘em. Everybody wanna say Steph Curry. It’s a thousand niggas playing basketball.
Visually, too, you bring that energy to your videos with the dancing. Where does that come from?
From watching 22 years of videos of muhfuckas not dancing. I don’t know when it stopped. Like it was some rule that you not supposed to dance ‘cause you a nigga. Hell nah. All the songs I listened to growing up made me move. In my head, I was like, If I ever rap, I’ma dance. That’s what the music make me do. I dance while I record, right after I make the song, when I first hear the beat.
My thing is: I’m comfortable. I don’t gotta walk in with my chest out for you to think you’ll get beat up. You’ll just get beat up. I ain’t got to look no certain type of way. I got a big cousin Nino. He’s like 5'1". I was riding with him one day — I dropped him off at the store and went to park. Soon as I came back, nigga taller than me, like 6’4”, and another nigga about 6’5”, were sitting on the curb, bleeding, talking to police. Nino standing right there. The police were like, “He just assaulted these two niggas.” It don’t really matter what you look like, your stature. So, I’m gon’ dance. And don’t think me dancing is your ticket to a walk through. Muhfuckas be thinking dancing or being a little bit loose makes you a punk. I just don’t think like that.
It seems like the way Detroit rappers collaborate — like you and FMB DZ — is really organic. You can tell you two are actually in the studio as opposed to emailing a verse or something like that.
That’s how it is. In Detroit, you don’t send nobody nothing. If you’re gonna do a song with a nigga, you gon’ pull up. Me and DZ met ‘cause his manager is my cousin. Us being damn near the same age and being the youngest niggas out, we just clicked. Our shit started taking off at the same time. We literally went from ashy, no jewelry, rerocked clothes, to clean shit together. Our hair was even short together type shit.
As your career picks up, I’m sure you’re spending more and more time outside Detroit. Have you been thinking about a permanent move?
I’m gonna move soon as I’m off these [probation] papers. I’m going to Utah. Don’t nobody know you in Utah. Probably Atlanta, though, just ‘cause it’ll make the most sense...but I’m for sure gonna buy a house in Utah one day.