It would be absurd to say one review made a positive change in the world, but after I complained about the lack of a Wikipedia entry for Babyface Ray on “Unfuckwitable,” guess what happened? You don’t have to guess — take a look for yourself. Now the entry has been flagged as having several problems including “close paraphrasing of one or more non-free copyrighted sources” but at least it’s a start. Someone can come along and make the necessary edits to improve the quality of the article, as long as it’s not Babyface Ray or someone acting on his behalf, which will quickly get you blacklisted for sockpuppetry. Let’s get away from such esoteric discussions though and get into “Summer’s Mine” — well named considering it dropped three days before this review.
SpaceTheWizard provides Ray a remarkably minimalistic track on “Donda Bag,” letting Ray’s raspy Detroit delivery take the entire focus of the song. This is going to split listeners right down the middle without exception. If you like his gravelly growl then you’re going to enjoy the song, and if it’s steel wool scraping a cast iron pan to you, you’ll probably never listen to Ray again. For me it’s appealing just because it’s authentic. Ray isn’t being modulated or pitch corrected and he’s not giving you his bars in a sing-song delivery. On the Treeze produced “Bosses Linking With Bosses” it’s the exact opposite — the booming bass is so fat you almost can’t discern the difference between him and guest star Veeze. They’re both raspy but the latter is a bit higher pitched.
Guest stars were an important part of Ray’s presentation the last time around and “Summer’s Mine” continues that trend. My personal favorite is the Top$ide produced “Fly Gods” featuring Westside Gunn. It wouldn’t be hard to mistake this for a Griselda track, or a song produced by The Alchemist, and either way that’s a high recommendation from me. The bars aren’t super superb though. “Niggaz hatin, frontin on your dog like this shit luck or somethin.” Babyface Ray has an interesting sound but could do more with it than revisit tropes of the haters jealous of his success. It’s fun to see him spend money in designer shops in the video but that too is entirely cliche.
If you give Ray a chance though and scratch beneath the surface you see he’s got a little bit more going on. “I Can’t Rap Foreva” is a refreshing level of honesty from an emcee who is currently doing quite well in the game. “Hoes still flockin, streets on lock/phone still ringin, ice still blingin/yeah, it ain’t no pressure, shoot a stack or better/planning my escape, I can’t rap forever.” It sounds like Ray is already planning his transition to owning a label instead of rapping for one. Even song titles like “Dancing With the Devil” (Part 2) imply he’s aware of the pitfalls of both the rap game and the trap game, which seem to get ever more interchangeable as the years go by.
Will Babyface Ray truly own the season on “Summer’s Mine?” Clocking in at 16 songs and 47 minutes long, he stands a better chance than most rappers. Ray doesn’t rap for eight bars and let the producer take control and carry the load for the song. He’s putting in the work and it shows in his progression from the last time we covered him to today. The gruff vocals are truly the make or break for a project like this. The late Keith Elam once it’s “Mostly Tha Voice,” a sly acknowledgment that a lot of his critics didn’t like his delivery, but for those who loved Guru’s bars he was a rap legend. Ray isn’t one just yet but if he keeps coming back summer after summer and gets better each time, he’ll own more than just one quarter of the calendar.