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Baby Smoove Interview: Independence is how Detroit’s rising star keeps his roots close

Midway through his first-ever on-screen interview, Detroit rapper Baby Smoove‘s phone rings abruptly.

On the other end of the line is a collect call from the Department of Corrections. Smoove picks up as the cameras keep rolling — quickly catching up with his friend and letting him listen in live. Within that brief moment, it’s evident that Smoove is as real as it gets, keeping his friends close and his roots closer.

Emerging as one of the most promising Detroit-based artists today, Smoove earned his commercial respect off of hits in “Why so serious,” “Akorn,” “Flawless,” “Purple Heart” and “Tings,” allowing the 24-year-old rapper to disregard label contracts and corporate deals for full independence. His acclaim, however, is earned through not only hard work, but his dedicated fan base. With little to no feature appearances — or any plans for guest spots — Smoove seems at his best working on his own accord.

Listening to Detroit’s legendary emcee Eminem at only four-years-old, chasing his dreams in music ultimately came with age — putting his academics and other distractions to the side in high school. He’s always been focused, as the music seemed to come naturally, attributing his freestyle sessions with his friends as the start of it all.

Smoove is not only entertaining, but talented through and through. Channeling that classic Detroit bounce, his sound is one not to be taken lightly. Inspired by mixtape Lil Wayne and peak-era Gucci Mane, he’s intrinsically smooth in the booth — freestyling most, if not all of his songs to date.

On top of heading up his new label FRANCHISE, he’s coming off an insane 2020 run, dropping three albums over the course of six months. He stays on brand throughout each project, as Dirty Faygo, Hardwood Classic and I’m Still Perfect all remain featureless. Smoove also mentioned he’d think about dropping his highly-anticipated tape Purple Heart 2 on his birthday (Dec. 3) this year.

As a lone wolf dominating his independence, Baby Smoove caught up with OGM host Hakeem Rowe, discussing his unreleased music, his early career, working with Lil Yachty on Michigan Boy Boat, Ian Connor and much more in this Our Generation Exclusive.

HR: How did the Baby Smoove name come up? How did you think of it?

BS: “They’re really two separate names, I just put them together. I had ‘Smoove’ first, though. My friend gave it to me in the ninth grade. It was like our first couple days of high school, and we’re walking through the halls one day and he was like, ‘Why the fuck you walk so smooth?’ His exact words. ‘N***a, you walk so smooth, your name should be Smoove’ and that’s how it started. I HATED it when I first was called that. Like Smoove? Where does that come from? But after three months, motherf*ckers didn’t want to give it up and in high school, in ninth grade, they’ll never stop calling you that.”

“Yeah, you know, and then the ‘Baby’ is like, I’m the baby. So it’s like, my n***a Baby Smoove. Like how a baby is smooth, you know?”

HR: When did you know you wanted to make music? When was the first time you recorded?

BS: “I made that around seven, eight years old. I call my mom right now and she’ll tell you I told her as a kid that I am not working a job. Like I’m not working a job like you. Why would I set myself up to do something that I don’t like? I hate to say what [I first recorded], but I’m in this position today because it was on the ‘Rack City [Tyga]’ beat. It was hard though! I got in there. That was when I wrote my first verse, but I found out I could rap when you and your friends be in the car smoking. With me, I always overachieved and shit. I felt like reading and english always came easy to me in school, and when I heard a song, I could do it.”

HR: What was your earliest memories of music and who were you inspired by? What were you listening to?

BS: “I know it’s gonna sound crazy, because you ain’t never really heard nobody from Detroit say this: Eminem. But not like that though, my mom had CD cases that folded over and when I moved to Memphis with my grandparents when I was four or five, I had a CD player — and with my grandparents, they was playing gospel going 55 on the interstate so I played the Marshall Mathers for like, probably a week. It fucked with my head because that’s how I thought life was like, you know? Eminem had some issues. So for me, being four years old playing this? You know what I’m saying? My sister had just died then and I was seeing my mama cry a lot. So it was like, I thought life was really like that. It was just so much. I couldn’t even take it all in, so I just let it grow with me.”

HR: Where do you get your style rapping from? It seems like you’re not even trying!

BS: “That’s how it really sounds, bro. You can hear it through my old music — It’s like my voice was developing to this dry, Lil Wayne-ish type. But I feel like my Gucci Mane inspiration comes out more in my beats because of the 808s. But Gucci when he was crazy, that ‘not giving a fuck about anything’ era he had.

HR: What do you think about the success of [Akorn]?

BS: “To be honest, bro. I didn’t even pay attention to it. Sound crazy, right? I make music, but numbers don’t move me. Even people don’t move me. Like, I don’t care about that. What if 40 million people see it and they didn’t like it? But what if 10 million people see it and they love it? It’s music… but then I got older with it. I’m independent, so it’s like the numbers I’ve done, how much more can I gas my hand up? Going number one on Billboard as an independent artist — that’s the only thing that would make me say ‘you can’t fuck with me.’ I’m 24 and have never had a fucking feature. I didn’t do that shit because I needed it, I did it because I make my music.”

HR: Would you ever have features on your next project or do more features in the future?

BS: “Never in my fucking life. I gotta love a n***a music like that. It’s not about the feature. I don’t give a fuck about who you are, or how many gold, platinum and diamond shit you got. I don’t care about how much money you got. I don’t care about your jewelry. I don’t care about your bitch. I don’t care about what you drive. It’s about your music and who you are as a person. If I meet you I don’t like you, we’re never doing a song. I don’t care who the f*ck you is. If you don’t take care of your kids, who the f*ck is you? If your momma still working and you got all this money, why would I do a song with you? I had a chance to meet some of my favorite artists, and I walked straight past because it’s like, if you not who you say your are, it’s gonna break my heart.”

HR: So who would you want to work with?

BS: “I don’t even want that to be out there because people would expect me to do songs with them then. Then it’d be like ‘he never did that’ because it’s gonna be my shit not theirs, you know? So many people reached out and all that, but I’m very selective.”

HR: You have Purple Heart on the cover of your latest album– How much of an influence did the legend Prince have on you?

BS: “A lot. It was just him and how he carried himself. That’s what attracted me to Young Thug too, like, people don’t think how they think. They just be so out there, but Prince was different. He had a sense of elegance to himself, he was breathless. He was just Prince.”

HR: Where is Purple Heart 2 at? The people need it! When is that dropping?

BS: “In my phone…. *laughs* — No, no. But I really see how that shit is now, you’d be waiting for somebody to drop something and you’d be livid when they don’t. I been making so much music. If I’m feeling myself, I’ll probably make three or four songs in a session. But I’ve been working for so long, bro. And it’s like, once you unlock a new level, it’s like, oh, I gotta sit on this for a little bit. I probably pick a couple out there. It’s just not ready, the world isn’t ready. But I’ll probably drop it on my birthday.”

HR: The Detroit rap scene is going crazy right now with you, 42 Dugg, BabyFace and Sada Baby — What do you think about the sound and how it represents Detroit and all that encompasses it?

BS: “There ain’t many artists that sound too different from back in the day. If you listen to our old shit, you can hear it. It’s such a long timeline because people really just finding out about Detroit. But, there’s so much before us. Blade Icewood, Doughboy Roc and all them, we got Millenniums in Detroit music. This shit been good.”

HR: You collaborated with Lil Yachty on Michigan Boy Boat — How were the studio sessions and did you get any insight from him about the music industry?

BS: “I didn’t end up going because I like making my own music, you know? I didn’t feel like it was like a mainly music-prioritized session. So then, Yachty hit me up to spit and make some songs, I thought he was crazy. And I said, ‘fuck it, let’s go’ and we got a couple songs in. That’s it. I wouldn’t say I avoided it, but I didn’t try to participate. All I can say is, that some shit is just meant to happen to you and I just think Yachty understood where I was coming from.”

HR: You’re independent and you’re staying independent. How do you like the indie route compared to a corporate one based on what you’ve seen from the outside?

BS: “I mean, a lot of people sign fucked up deals because they be broke. If I wasn’t doing what I was doing, I probably would have signed a deal, but I don’t have to. A lot of shit be like playlists and features, but when I do feel like I want to stunt on a label, it’s gonna be like I’m cheating. You can’t tell me shit, I know me. When I didn’t have to write no more, it was over, it was easy. I can’t explain it.”

HR: Where did you get this independent mindset from? What keeps you motivated?

“The music — and it’s always gonna be the music. I’m always gonna do that. That’s just me. If I needed help, I’d go get it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been debating because I’ve been bored — and I’m talking about as far as achievements and accolades. But I feel like I have those [accolades] already. I feel like it’s going to come, so why am I rushing to it?”

HR: Talk about your relationship with Ian Connor? I saw him tweet a while back saying ‘Baby Smoove should drop a song every day.’

BS: “Sometimes I be sending him certain shit. I’ll send it if I know I’m never gonna put it out. I’m at the point where if it gets leaked earlier, I don’t care. I was gonna do nothing with it anyway, bro. If you want to take it, I feel like its old enough.”

HR: What’s your message for Our Generation?

BS: “Do what the fuck you want to do. Be happy. Don’t live for nobody else. Don’t do what your mama wants you to do. Don’t do what your daddy wants you to do. You’re not living to make them happy, you living to make YOU happy. So don’t be stupid.”