On Saturday June 11th Tribeca Film Festival hosted the world premiere of Lil Baby’s documentary Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby at the Beacon Theatre in New York City following a star-studded red carpet. The cast graced the carpet including Lil Baby and his sons, producers P & Coach K from Quality Control, director/producer Karam Gill and industry tastemakers and artists alike came out to show their support including MTV’s Jamila Mustafa and superstar Shensea. We briefly spoke with Forbes 30 under 30 director Karam about his favorite part of the documentary, “The documentary captures Lil Baby and where he’s at right now, but my favorite part of the documentary was going to the West End and really just spending time with him and really organically being with him in his community, it’s not contrived, it’s real, that was just an incredible highlight.” After wrapping the carpet guests headed inside to view the screening followed by a Q+A and intimate performance by Baby who performed unreleased music.
Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby, directed by Karam Gil, centers on Baby’s journey and rise to fame, but it also paints a larger picture of circumstance, environment, oppression and opportunity. Before we as an audience learn about the Lil Baby we know today, we’re first introduced to Dominique Armani Jones, his family, his hometown of West Atlanta and the history that contributed to the environment in which Dominique/Baby grew up in. Baby was raised by a single mother in poverty in an area faced with decades of racial injustice, but even in the face of adversity Baby was making millions before ever entering the booth. Baby came to prominence in West Atlanta originally as a drug dealer and was well-known and well-respected in the streets. While hustling he befriended Young Thug and P who believed in his greatness early on. Young Thug speaks on his intentions to protect Lil Baby at all costs, “if he asked for a million dollars I’d give him a million dollars, I told him you don’t have to go to the studio, just take this money and go home and spend time with your kids” says Young Thug in the documentary. After being released from Jail, Baby officially inked a deal with Quality Control and his artist development began. Over time Baby improved, but it was never a childhood dream nor something he sought, he was fortunate enough to have people like P who saw his potential and push him towards greatness. The documentary shows both lows and highs in Baby’s career, but he is virtually unfazed and keeps an optimistic outlook even when the industry fails to recognize his achievements. Stars like Drake also make an appearance to speak on Baby’s success, “He had the biggest rap project of the year” says Drake about Baby’s My Turn. Gunna and Charlamagne Tha God also spoke on Baby’s talents and his impact on the music industry.
The documentary sees a turning point both in America as whole and Lil Baby as an artist after the tragic killing of George Floyd. This becomes the catalyst for Lil Baby shifting focus and using his voice as a platform against social injustice. He even pays for and makes a special appearance during Gianna Floyd’s birthday. Lil Baby says, “ I feel like I have a responsibility to leave the Earth a better place for the next generation,” when speaking on his current mindset. Baby gets another sad wake up call when his close friend and fellow rapper Marlo is killed. Baby is more focused now more than ever and hopes to uplift his community through his music. Chairman/CEO of Motown Ethiopia Habtemariam says “Lil Baby represents the American dream” and it becomes apparent throughout the documentary that Lil Baby’s success is not only his family’s success, but all of Atlanta’s as well. Drake highlights that, “Baby has already cemented himself as an important figure from this generation.” Baby’s Grammy snub the subsequent performance reflect where Baby is at today and how even at the height of his career he still continues to face systemic oppression within the industry even though he had the largest selling album of all genre of music in 2020. Ironically, the Grammy snub hits his team harder than him and Baby sees the Grammy performance as an opportunity to reach larger audiences and is still grateful for the opportunity. Overall this documentary tells the triumphant tale of Lil Baby in his prime and celebrates the talented artist at the beginning and height of his career, Baby ends the documentary on a poignant note stating “I’m just getting started and I’ll never be trapped again.”
Following the world premiere, Lil Baby, P, Coach K and Karam Gill took the stage to answer questions about documentary, moderated by Pitchfork’s Alphonse Pierre. Highlights from the conversation include P saying that capturing content was a priority while developing Baby because he wanted to be able to showcase his legacy and the work that went into his career. Baby reveled during the Q+A that he still isn’t fully comfortable today with the role of an artist as it wasn’t something he aspired to since childhood, “a lot of people been waiting for this moment their whole life, so when that moment arrived it was bigger than I was ready for.” Karam Gill also highlights that the documentary depicts what a great father Baby is and how present he is in his children’s lives which you seldom see when reflecting on artist’s legacies. Coach K explained that transitioning to music was all about budding confidence in Baby because he was already well-respected, he just needed time to hone in on his craft and focus himself on the music. After the Q+A Baby gave the audience an exclusive performance with fan favorites as well as unreleased tracks.