The world premiere of Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby took place inside New York City’s Beacon Theatre on Saturday night (June 11), the fourth day of the 2022 Tribeca Festival, followed by a special six-song set.
Directed by Karam Gill and produced by Amazon Studios, as well as Gill’s MGX Creative and Quality Films, Untrapped demands dissection. The 90-minute documentary is a raw glimpse into why Lil Baby (real name Dominique Jones) has grown to resonate so deeply since his 2017 debut mixtape, Perfect Timing.
Archival footage chronicling the Atlanta rapper’s boyhood, adolescence as a revered drug dealer, and his already-historic, Quality Control-backed rise contrasts with real-time reflection from Baby and an impressive cast of interviewees. Untrapped paints the portrait of a multi-dimensional young man who, against all odds, is thriving in a world programmed to diminish and oppress the Black man. In the end, it’s clear that if anybody can convince the masses to humanize the idolized, it’s Baby.
“I’ll never be trapped again,” Baby says in the film’s closing line. “This is only the beginning.”
Here are five thought-provoking takeaways from what’s captured of Baby’s journey so far.
Young Thug, Gunna, and Drake make cameos
The audience of nearly 3,000 erupted during on-screen appearances by Drake, Gunna and Young Thug. Young Thug and Gunna’s sit-downs hit harder in light of their recent RICO indictments. Young Thug spoke on the advice he used to give Baby, his childhood friend, and about the consequences of being so entrenched in the streets. “Nothing’s gonna come out of what you’re doing but prison or death,” he says. “There’s no such thing as ‘you made it’ the way you’re going.”
I talked to @youngthug , He in great spirits 🙏🏽
— Lil Baby (@lilbaby4PF) June 7, 2022
Drake, meanwhile, showered his “Yes Indeed” collaborator with praise. “I think he’s already cemented himself as a super important part of this time, this generation,” the Toronto icon said, separately noting he and Baby were set to tour the festival circuit and clubs following My Turn’s release before the pandemic struck. “This guy’s just in a zone that you have to respect.”
Baby being snubbed by the Recording Academy is fully addressed
Lil Baby’s chart-topping album My Turn was not nominated at all for the 63rd Grammys, which Motown CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam compared to Michael Jackson and DMX getting snubbed, in the 1980s and ‘90s, respectively. Because of this, Quality Control co-founders Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “P” Thomas didn’t feel the Recording Academy deserved for Baby to perform at the 2021 ceremony.
Footage from a meeting between the three at Quality Control Studios is shown, during which Baby expressed his desire to go on. “I feel like performing is bigger than an award,” Baby told them, citing all the people — including his peers in prison — who would be encouraged by hearing “The Bigger Picture” on a universal stage. He didn’t want his message, his power, to be muted. (“The Bigger Picture,” a June 2020 protest anthem in response to police brutality and racism, received two nominations.)
To Lil Baby, fame has nothing on fatherhood
Untrapped opened with Baby in the private moments before a performance, which we later saw was the Grammys, voicing over his lifelong vision of becoming a millionaire and a leader. (“I ain’t know how … but I was gonna get there.”) Moments later, we’re taken to Baby’s home around Christmas 2020, where 6-year-old Jason asked his dad for two of everything. Baby voiced he “didn’t want to be a holiday dad” to his Jason and Loyal, 3, and let history repeat itself, as he never had a relationship with his father. In one scene, Jason counted $200,000 in cash with Baby. Later, he dropped a belonging down a staircase while leaving for the 63rd Grammys and adorably proclaimed, “It’s OK; you’re rich!” Baby revealed that Jason often asked him, “Did you used to do this with your daddy?” And while Baby has been a devoted, doting father so far, he knows the job is far from finished: “I could f— up, and he could be like me.”
Baby mirrors the good, bad and ugly of America
At one point, Motown’s Habtemariam said, “Baby represents the American dream.” Nobody can question the validity of that statement, and nobody can question Baby’s awareness that he’s the exception. The 27-year-old’s multi-platinum discography is his activism, but he doesn’t stop there. Untrapped poignantly underscored Baby’s commitment to using his platform for social good, including the decision to pay for the 7th birthday party of George Floyd’s daughter. The documentary also illuminated systemic racism, including displacement that occurred around the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, now-President Joe Biden’s infamous 1993 crime bill speech, and Baby’s own time in prison. “We’ve been going through the same s—, decade after decade,” Baby said, as the doc touches on the makings of “The Bigger Picture.” “I’m just [the] new generation to experience it.”
It all goes back to Atlanta
While Baby escaped his perilous Atlanta’s West End neighborhood — despite his initial hesitancy to give up fast, drug-stained cash to try his hand in hip-hop — he never removed himself. In the film, a 62-year-old West End resident named Joe labeled Baby the best rapper in the world, dripping with pride. And in one particularly heartwarming scene, Baby ran into the mother of a former friend at a local convenience store. She told Baby that her son grew up to join the Navy. “Tell him Dominique asked about him,” Baby insisted. She asked for his last name. Baby smiled. “Dominique Jones. He’s gonna know who I am, though.” Last June’s joint album with Lil Durk may have been titled The Voice of the Heroes, but Baby is the voice of the people.