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Baka Not Nice - 4Milli Music Album Reviews

Across 25 torturous minutes, the Toronto rapper doesn’t make a single lasting impression as a performer, storyteller, or craftsman. He’ll do well on OVO.

Like all OVO Sound signees, Baka Not Nice’s role within Drake’s fiefdom is defined by how Drake sees him. Since his introduction on “From Time” from Nothing Was the Same, Baka has been styled as the label’s resident goon, a no-nonsense bruiser who puts loyalty and integrity above all. In Drake’s eyes, Baka represents Toronto’s unsung underbelly, a land of accents, culture, and danger. Before Drake could go global, he had to establish his pull over a global city, and Baka, his former bodyguard, was his man on the ground.
As a rapper, Baka embraces the role Drake has laid out for him to a fault. On 4Milli, he raps with a joyful gracelessness, forgoing wit or emotion and opting for menace. He lives to pull cards and check posers, to hurl insults and to flex. His sole interests are intimidation and keeping it real; rapping comes second. This emphasis on power and reputation sets Baka apart from the Drake-lite crooners that fill OVO’s roster (dvsn, Majid Jordan, PARTYNEXTDOOR, etc.), and he clearly enjoys all the chest-puffing—but his goon raps are largely bland and unmemorable. Baka Not Nice actually does live up to his name: His music is literally without style or flourish.

Rap has a rich history of straight shooters, but Baka’s straight talk is so unimaginative it’s taxing. When he uses humor to color his insults, he’s so unsubtle he sounds like a parody of a bully. “I’mma catch you niggas when I choose to/Sliding down your block just to shoot you/Like doot-do, do-do-doot-do,” he sings on “Money in the Bank.” On “Cream of the Crop” he growls into the mic while detailing a hook-up...because he’s sooo beasty in bed. When he tells stories, he somehow omits characters, setting, and plot. His vignette of a drug deal on “Dope Game” is so sparse and lifeless, it’s nearly a koan: “Told him to meet me in person/He met me in person, he froze.”

This limited skill set is most constrained when Baka alludes to his time in prison. His rap sheet includes armed robbery and assault and he was once detained and held in custody for 10 months for assault and human trafficking (the charges were later dropped). These bids and the circumstances around them are frequently evoked across 4Milli, yet they never have context or weight. On “Live Up to My Name,” for instance, Baka says that he began a sentence on the day Men in Black was released (July 2, 1997) and left when “Timberlake was bringing sexy back” (~July 18, 2006). It’s a jarring and clever way to render how much of a time-warp incarceration can be, but Baka goes no further. The before, the after, and the jail time itself dissolve into the generic boast that follows: “Facts, nigga, facts.”

Baka ends 4Milli by accosting hangers-on that weren’t with him before his come-up. “Where the fuck were you when the judge gave me 13 years, nine months? Where the fuck were you, when my pops was in the courtroom, in shock? Where were you when I was down below? Yo, I got convicted of something I ain’t even fucking do, my nigga,” he rants on the outro of “Gimme That Work.” These questions are rhetorical, but 4Milli is so placeless, impersonal, and disjointed that even hypothetically, it’d be hard to muster either answers or concern. Across 25 torturous minutes, Baka doesn’t make a single lasting impression as a performer, storyteller, or craftsman. He’ll do well on OVO.

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