The Come Up: Sada Baby Is Carrying the Torch for Detroit Hip-Hop
Detroit street rap has been going strong for decades, birthing local legends and newer names with hip-hop coursing through their veins. Sada Baby, a 26-year-old lyricist with just as many bars as he has dance moves, is a one-of-a-kind talent who is waving the flag for his city.
Now that Sada is one of Detroit's most popular rappers—a street-hardened wordsmith with an off-kilter sense of humor and an unmistakeable voice—it's hard to believe he almost left hip-hop behind. At 21, he moved out of his grandmother's house, looking to music as his salvation. And while progress was slow and steady, winning a local hip-hop talent show in 2016 gave him hope and got his name ringing around the D. The next year, he dropped his first project, Skuba Sada, following that up with D.O.N. - Dat One Nigga.
Sada Baby coupled those projects with a flurry of videos and features, effectively turning himself into a hometown sensation and an internet hero. His dance moves (along with his sharp lyrics) have helped his clips go viral. Yet Sada is not style over substance—his latest project, Bartier Bounty, meets menacing bars with a gleeful delivery and feel. His upcoming debut album will continue to carve out his place in the hip-hop landscape.
Kicking it at XXL's Manhattan office, Sada Baby shares his route to the top of Detroit hip-hop, his friendship with Tee Grizzley and why he doesn't like to drop projects.
XXL: Who did you grow up listening to?
Sada Baby: A lot of different music played throughout various households I was in. Anywhere from JT Money to Pastor Troy, No Limit, any of the Detroit staples [like] Eastside Chedda Boyz and Street Lordz. A lot of everything. Otis Redding was always in the house, Al Green, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly. Early pre-teens I might’ve started listening to other shit like System of a Down and motherfuckin' Nickelback.
You've only been rapping seriously for about five years, but before that you used to just freestyle. How did you start?
It was fun. I used to drink a lot and I wouldn't wanna hear what the rappers was talking about. We would rap over they shit for like 10 hours. We used to freestyle whole songs. Two [or] three days later, I'd forget it. That's why I never felt like I was gon' rap. Then I gave it a shot and I ain't really wanna stop. I [thought], let me try to make money off this. I almost quit rapping, but then that worked out.
When did you realize that you had something?
The kids. The kids can't lie. Grown people—whether they your homeboy, your family, whoever, they tryna tell you what you wanna hear. I got some realists around me that'll be like, "Yeah, that ain't it." But for the most part, don't nobody really wanna tell me shit that I don't wanna hear. Kids was dancing to it—my little cousins and people who kids didn't know me from a can of paint. Babies wanna hear my music, dancing to it, rapping the words and getting in trouble for cussing. I used to get in trouble for rapping cuss-word lyrics; now kids getting whoopins for me.
What was it like early on in your career, going through the ranks after you decided you were going to take rap seriously?
Wondering if shit was real or not. You get to rappin', its like that one phase where everybody be. I was in the same bucket as the rest of the alright rappers from my city. Before I was top in the city or top three or whatever they wanna call it. I was just another nigga rappin'. And I was included with niggas who had been rappin’ for 10 years and niggas who had just started, like me. Around that time, you don't know if you really got real fans or you just doing what the next nigga doing. But day by day, shit was getting better and kept getting better.
Was there something that happened that made you feel like you're turning the corner?
I ain't as out as I wanna be but I could say its something that hadn't happened to nobody else, I went on tour. For sure, Tee was the first artist besides Big Sean and Dej [Loaf]. Tee is the first rapper from Detroit to play it how he playing it, with touring and coming back home and fucking with niggas and all that type of shit. So for him going on tour and then I went on it with him, he was the first nigga to do it and I was the first nigga from my side to see niggas do it. And I'm doin' it with him. That was a turning point, because hadn't nobody from Detroit been on no fuckin' tour at all. I couldn't tell you not one artist who went and did a tour.
So how did you and Tee build that relationship?
He had the genuine likeness to my music and we bumped into each other at [Silver Rain], titty bar. We both had a show. I was just leaving from performing, he was walking in about to perform. We end up bumping into each other; he asked me to come kick it with him. I stayed, we exchanged numbers [and] I got my ass up outta there, 'cause its still the titty bar. We been cool since then, about two years. That's my brother.
Why do you make it a point to collab with rappers from Detroit?
I make it my business to record with Tee [Grizzley] and [FMB] DZ. I really don't feel like its important. Because while it was muhfuckas like me and Tee who really had this shit going, that's the only muhfuckas. I give a fuck about Tee and DZ because niggas was ashy, hungry and ain't none of us grow up with each other, but you wouldn't know that from how we treat each other. It's important for us three to keep on setting the standard, because if you really from Detroit and you understand our rap scene, niggas still petty. Tee tried to his hardest to [turn] Detroit [into] Atlanta; it just won't work.
Why do you think it wouldn't work?
I couldn't tell you. Growing up you hear the same type of stories I'm telling when I was a kid about how people's attitudes and pride issues get in the way back in Detroit.
You dancing has helped viewers connect to your music videos. Were you always big on dance?
Kiddie discos, all that shit, I was there. At the barbecue, they cut the music on, "Get it, get it!" Right there in middle. I had the Coolio braids and everything, no bullshit! I always been like that, since a kid.
I used to always just do wild shit. My mama was dying her hair in the bathroom. I went and took the comb, slugged that bitch through [my hair]. It was like Freakazoid type shit. She come in the room, "You touched my muhfuckin..." I said, "No, I didn't." She grabbed me up, put me in the mirror and there was a brown patch in my head. They called me Dennis Rodman. That's the first time I ever had a blonde patch. I was like, "I'ma do it again."
That was always your style—you did what you wanted. Your personality pushed you over the top, too. What is it about your personality that’s making people gravitate towards you?
It ain't fake. It's all natural. I'm still learning how to be a rapper. I ain't never gon' be politically correct.
Where's your sense of humor come from?
My whole family just funny as hell. Being around my cousins all the time, I used to have skin pigmentation and a chipped tooth. I used to get all the jokes, so I had to have jokes. As soon as a nigga wanna hit me with the "polka dots" whatever, whole shotgun full of shit for him.
Whats the biggest moment in your career so far?
It's probably between getting told that I'm about to do a Freshman pitch video for XXL—I'm still tryin to hold back the tears from that. I done seen damn near every XXL Freshman cover. That and performing for my city. And the Jeezy tour. It wasn't like the lineup was saying Jeezy, Tee and then opener. The board was saying Jeezy, Tee and Sada Baby. That was crazy to me.
All of that stuff happened in the last year.
I was on tether too. I had a muhfuckin ankle monitor on while I was on the tour. That's what tether mean on "Bloxk Party." "Slidin everywhere cause I'm off tether." I used to have to charge the bitch up and every time I came to New York, it was a hassle. They made us miss a plane one time because they had to call my P.O. to make sure I ain't on the run. Just all type of shit I had to deal with. We got it done though.
So you had it on for the whole tour.
Yeah. I had it on for two tours, actually. Tee first tour and I still had it on for the Jeezy tour. It got cut off right after that.
You said that you were kinda lukewarm on the idea of releasing Bartier Bounty. Why was that?
My thing with CDs, I feel like you need that Future. No matter what he drop, they going to get it. Not just saying he can just throw out bullshit, but when Future drop, we waiting on it. You wanna hear what he got to talk about. He said he quit drinkin' lean, so it's like, "Aight, what your music sound like now?" I just wanna get my stature up.
In a perfect world, how would you want people to respond to Bartier Bounty, critically?
I want everybody who don't know me to start asking who am I. I just hope that's what the tape do. "What the fuck is this shit I keep seeing on my timeline? This bloody ass cover? Why is this trending, who is Sada Baby?"
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