Though it’s taken over the world, rap remains an intensely regional music. You can hear this in its slang, its sonics, even the way artists with local accents rhyme words that rappers from other places might not have thought to put together.
Right now, Detroit epitomizes this fact like nowhere else. The city is home to a self-sufficient street-rap movement whose top artists—including Sada Baby, Drego, Beno, FMB DZ, and the BandGang and ShredGang crews—haven’t necessarily needed to make major moves elsewhere to build momentum. They’re MCs who sound like they grew up on a lot of Doughboyz Cashout and Chicago drill, but they’re bringing their own rawness and ferocity. And its face is the formidably bearded, Cartier sunglasses-wearing Eastside native Sada Baby.
Sada Baby (not to be confused with the similarly ascendant Charlotte rapper Da Baby) is a machine gun-loving, Percocet-gobbling gangsta rapper whose Blood affiliations drip down his album and song titles and lyrics. He’s fearless and fearsome. He’s also hilarious and quirky. He’ll sooner reference an NBA player like Lauri Markkanen, Victor Oladipo, or Lou Williams than someone who’s already been mentioned in a million other songs like Jordan, LeBron, or Curry. He references Gene Simmons and The Waterboy. Here he is on his popularity with women: “I’m in every bitch crib like some UGG boots.” He has a signature ad-lib, getting such a charge out of his own rhymes that he punctuates lines with a bodybuilder grunt: “HUHHH!” He’s a sum of small but indelibly memorable parts.
A year ago, Sada released what remains his signature song, “Bloxk Party,” rapping back and forth with the aforementioned Drego.(Some think Childish Gambino’s shirtless shimmying in the Grammy-winning “This Is America” video was partly an homage to Sada’s dancing in the “Bloxk Party” video.) But Sada didn’t immediately capitalize with a full-length project. It took him a whole year to release the new Bartier Bounty, and it’sa fiery, uncompromising, largely guest-free hour of Sada's signature mix of unrepentant street talk and offhand humor.
Atlanta’s HoodRich Pablo Juan is on Bartier Bounty opener “Hood Rich Skuba,” Detroit singer Ashley Sorrell (presumably a relative of Sada, whose real name is Cassada Sorrell) is on the following “Bonnie & Blyde,” and Drego is here too, as “Bloxk Party” is the 19th of 20 songs on the tracklist. The vast majority of Bartier Bounty, then, is all Sada’s show, a whirlwind display of originality atop a procession of Detroit beats du jour: snaking bass, piano tumbles, synthesizer pings. Sometimes he raps in a sedate mutter. Sometimes he practically shouts, and with such intensity and volume that he could probably pull off a future side project as a hardcore-punk frontman. Sometimes he sings—like, sings sings. He’s versatile, and his versatility both stretches and solidifies the sound of Detroit street-rap circa now.
Like other industry-averse street rappers, Sada occasionally says some questionable things that might make you squirm even if you’re accustomed to rap’s explicitness. He says, “We got pills in the party, Bill Cosby.” He says he’s “gettin’ higher than Mac Miller.” There’s a line where he raps about hitting a woman for taking his phone and snooping around his Facebook. As much of a buzz as he has, Sada hasn’t been widely called out for any of those lines, but I’m not sure he can get away with that kind of thing much longer.
It’s hard to guess the limits of a rapper like Sada. Three years ago, as 21 Savage was beginning to rise rap’s ranks with songs like “Red Opps,” it was easy to recognize him as an astronomically ascendant street talent, but I thought he had a ceiling. I was obviously wrong. Maybe Sada could evolve into someone like Savage, or maybe he could become more like a King Louie, the avatar of a subgenre to be named later. Whatever his future holds, Sada is the voice of a Detroit rap generation that feels both now and timeless.