BabyTron – 2022 XXL Freshman
- GOV'T NAME: James Johnson
- AGE: 22
- REPPIN': Ypsilanti, Mich.
- TWITTER: @_babytron
- INSTAGRAM: @babytron
- TIKTOK: @babytronsb
- NOTABLE RELEASES: “Jesus Shuttlesworth,” “Prince of the Mitten,” “Emperor of the Universe”; Mixtapes: Bin Reaper, Bin Reaper 2, Megatron; Guest Appearances: Lil Yachty's “Hybrid”
- LABEL: The Hip Hop Lab Records/Empire
- CURRENTLY WORKING ON: Bin Reaper 3 project due in October.
- WHO ELSE SHOULD BE PART OF THIS YEAR'S CLASS: “I can’t speak for everybody else, but I think y’all did a pretty good job ’cause y’all got me on there.”
- INFLUENCED BY: “Chief Keef. When he came out, I was like 11 or 12. I just found that shit fascinating at the time. I liked all that shit, but like probably ‘Love Sosa.’ Really, the whole Detroit rap scene. Doughboyz Cashout. I was like 12, 13. Drake, that was like earlier influence. Lil Uzi [Vert]. He had a new sound. I found that important.”
- AS A FRESHMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL: “Bad as hell. A couple fights. Just everything bad. I didn’t do work. I just didn’t care about school. Mr. Porter, my physics teacher in high school. I fucked with dude. He was just too cool.”
I always kind of remember [the Freshman classes] ’cause I always been on YouTube and shit as a kid, just listening to rap. You just gonna see it. It’s gonna pop up in your recommended or whatever ’cause it has so many views. But the one where I was like, Damn, this shit’s kind of crazy, it was the one with [Lil] Yachty and all of them. I thought that shit was crazy ’cause it was like all them people on that one and there was just a lot of shit going on. I probably started rapping like a year, year-and-a-half after that. For the first year or two me rapping, it was just in my friend’s closet having fun. I was never serious at first. It just became serious. I’d say I started rapping for real [in] 2019, and I started thinking of all the stuff I want to end up doing and [being a Freshman] was just one of the things.
Originality [is what I bring]. If you hear me, you gonna know, ‘Oh, that was a BabyTron song.’ You might hear me rap on a Harry Potter beat or you might hear me rap on an Aretha Franklin sample or an ’80’s techno beat. You just never know. You just gotta listen. It’s just punchlines, like new generation, Lil Wayne-type shit. It’s fun. Straight rap.”
BABYTRON'S 2022 XXL FRESHMAN FREESTYLE
Scamming grannies and Amiri jeans off the Crocs, BabyTron has entered the chat. Michigan's hottest new rap prospect has become the people's champ for creating a sound that deviates from the traditional Midwest rappers of the past. Harry Potter references, beats reminiscent of Beverly Hills Cop, plenty of pop culture-dipped bars, droll punchlines and a whizzing delivery comprise his gift to the genre. In just three short years, he's entered fan-favorite territory, which helped position him as the 10th spot selection in the 2022 XXL Freshman Class. BabyTron brings life to the party without even having to raise his voice as he showcases in his Freshman freestyle.
Sticking to the appealing originality that has brought digital fame to his name, the 22-year-old rapper drops a few comical lines from the top. "I bang on a bitch like Juwanna Mann/Woke up, shit, damn, I gotta ham/Get the neck from a bitch, then I gotta scram/When I'm rockin’ Off-White, you know I ain’t gotta tan," he quips.
BabyTron, who names Chief Keef, Doughboyz Cashout, Drake and Lil Uzi Vert as early hip-hop influences, takes pride in his punchlines. His music is highlighted by "Lil Wayne-type shit" with a Gen Z twist, according to the rap newcomer. This freestyle illustrates a bit of that. "Uncy live the dog life, he might get a Vick/Lil bitch a porn star, give the dick a kiss," the rhymer delivers. "When I spot up the Range, it's limitless/If the convo ain’t about no pape', I'ma finish it/Punched everything I'm wearing, I'm freestyling/RIP Chris, know you watchin', so I keep smiling/2022 been great, got some cheese pilin'/Helen Keller, if I'm in the room it's gon’ be silent."
As he dives further into hip-hop's mainstream view, the self-proclaimed "King of the Mitten" has already racked up millions of streams and filled his pockets based on a quality catalog. Nearly 10 projects in, he's stacking his paper. "Pull up in that double R Can Can/Why you always up in money, they yo' man's bands/Mr. Count ’Em Hunnids All Night Till My Hands Cramp/XXL this year, shout-out Scam Fam," BabyTron closes out, giving a nod to the scam rap he was recognized for early on in his career.
Back in high school in Ypsilanti, Mich., BabyTron got his start rapping as part of the group ShittyBoyz with his friends StanWill and TrDee. Their songs like "Gamebreaker" in 2018 shined a light on the scam-rap style that would become somewhat synonymous with BabyTron’s name. These days, his rhymes have evolved past the hip-hop form. Solo tracks followed, with "Cheat Code" in 2019 becoming his first. OG fans will immediately recall when he dropped "Jesus Shuttlesworth" that same year. The track piqued further interest in his fun brand of rapping and had him dropping lines like, "Ain't no upper cuts when I say I'm ’bout to punch up/Had a better season than Giannis, got my bucks up."
"Everybody tells me they like something different about my music," BabyTron tells XXL during the Freshman shoot this past May. "Like, 'You motivate me to get money,' or 'You help me from breaking up with my girlfriend, bro.' You know, people find all types of relatable stuff in my music, but it all depends on the person whose listening to it, for real."
Earlier this year, "Prince of the Mitten" found him rhyming over 19 different beats from Detroit rappers. In June, "Emperor of the Universe" included him taking a page from his own playbook, but instead, BabyTron pulls 21 standout beats from the game's most popular and respected artists—both new and old—and adds his own sauce to the recipe.
Projects Bin Reaper and its followup, Sleeve Nash, Back To The Future, Lewis & Clark, Dookie Brothers and its sequel, Luka Troncic, Megatron and more have also provided audiences with enough BabyTron listening material to last until he says he's releasing his next one. That'll be by the end of this year. Expect Bin Reaper 3 to arrive via The Hip Hop Lab Records and EMPIRE in October.
"I dropped three albums with over 24 songs on each one," BabyTron says. "They all got half the videos to ’em out. And then I have like 30, 40 other songs that are not on albums that are just videos. So, the work ethic, nobody outworking me nowadays. So, that’s why I'm here."
Get familiar with BabyTron's style of rap in his 2022 XXL Freshman Freestyle, powered by Puma, below.
BABYTRON, KALI, COCHISE AND BABYFACE RAY'S 2022 XXL FRESHMAN CYPHER
During the 2022 XXL Freshman shoot in Atlanta this past May, selected artists were tasked with stepping up to the plate and leaving no crumbs behind by the time everything was said and done. The quad of Kali, Cochise, Babyface Ray and BabyTron did just that in their cypher. Fusing for a track strong enough to go platinum, the layered artists prove here that the only time they fold is when it comes to the dead presidents in their pockets.
The beat is laced by multiplatinum-selling producer Wheezy Outta Here. Offering his usual brand of romantic trap, the Grammy award-winning talent utilizes a combination of chordophone and woodwind instruments for the melody, along with a turbulent drum kit to match. Additionally, the foundation, best described by the viral clip of Future saying "sensational," is, of course, equipped with his standout producer tag, which came from an old studio session with Pluto and Young Thug.
Thanks to Georgia's own Kali, things couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. Talking greasy, she uses an array of flows to detail her player mentality when it comes to having prospects and authentic motion in the rap game. "Niggas only hard to they homeboys/Niggas only hard to that weak-ass bitch/Flashin' them guns in the videos, and don't even know how to load up a switch/I ain’t even havin' no sneaky link, ’cause a nigga gon' brag on the shit," she spits.
Next is Florida's own Cochise, who's typically known for his high-pitched delivery, zippy cadences and carefree bars that precede his lively ad-libs. He puts all of those on display here. Keeping things fun and truly going off the top, he raps about being in the presence of his day ones and recruiting people’s girlfriends to keep them company. "OK, excuse me, got your shawty she loosie/I slap on her booty/She show me the boobies/And all of my niggas we getting some cuties, OK," he rhymes.
Third up is the respected Detroit rhymer Babyface Ray. Prevailing with his signature conversational flow, ’Face flexes about staying true to himself from an infant. Despite always having special qualities, he expresses that, nowadays, he has juice on tap, flexing, "Face yo' baby, face her, baby, drive her crazy/New Mercedes, huggin' me good the new 580/Blue 500, done made 500, just call me the greatest/From nothin' to somethin', now I’m a stunna like Weezy and Baby."
Rounding things out is another Michigan native, BabyTron. He opts to go a cappella, emphasizing his caption-worthy bars about being a savage-hearted hustler who gets to the bag by any means while also being quick to put his enemies in one. "Play with us or one of mines, be done left y'all/Why you playin'? Once it's up, you can’t press pause/Sonic to the blues, get to runnin' like the hedgehog/Catch ’em in a Off-White tee, get ’em X'd off," he raps.
Talk about ending the Freshman rollout on a high note.
Watch Kali, Cochise, Babyface Ray and BabyTron’s 2022 XXL Freshman Cypher