At the top of September this year, a packed crowd in Islington got to witness an intriguing phenomenon on stage. At the heart of it was a young man who was unaware of his surroundings from his London fan base to even the time of day (sometimes). The bubbly and eccentric character/rapper/artist in question is SahBabii, the 20 year old Atlanta via Chicago sensation who has seen his star rise since his 2016 breakout smash ‘Pull Up Wit Ah Stick’. Despite features from the likes of 21 Savage and R&B legend R. Kelly, he is still unheard of in some quarters over here. Rocking the stage with such ease and conviction, it seems that the gravity of what he has achieved doesn’t faze him one bit.
The day after an exciting debut headline show in London, I’m scheduled to meet the fun loving rapper and his entourage in a secret location in East London. His DJ lets me know that Sah is running a little late due to fatigue from the night before, which makes sense after what I witnessed on that stage. His performance the previous night had been seamless and alongside his older brother T3, who features on ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘Sunny Days’, they shone in a harmony that is atypical of brothers in the music industry.
After a little wait, I see a tall dreadlocked figure emerge from the foyer of the rented apartment that they call their London base. As I get up to greet the young rapper, I notice a timid and tired 20 year old kitted out in a denim DSQUARED jacket with leather sleeves and braces on his teeth. His appearance confirms to me that only someone who comes across as gentle as Sah, would be able to make such a feel good, sensual banger in ‘Sunny Days’.
Despite his low eyes from lack of sleep, SahBabii insists “I’m all good” as we sit down looking out over the River Thames on a windy Friday afternoon. We kick off reminiscing about the show the night before, and he tells me in the tone of a young man who can’t quite believe it – “that shit was turnt up; I didn’t know I had that many fans out here”. As his eyes start opening up Sah begins to relay his observations about his London fans, “London they ain’t scared, one thing I like about London is they ain’t scared to show love. You know how some people don’t wanna act like groupies, London just wanna have fun. I like that. America do too but I like London a lot”
The first time SahBabii was in the UK, he was flown out here by none other than Young Thug in 2016. It was around that time that his fans learned about how he refers to himself in the first person, “Yeah, yeah I still do that” he tells me. Given his age, it’s not a surprise to hear that SahBabii is an avid gamer so we go back and forth on some recommendations before we get into meatier topics.“Uh I’ve been playing Naruto: Shinobi Strikers, I’ve been playing Fortnite”, he says as I tell him I’m planning to pick up the new Spider-Man game, “I’ma get that when I get back”, he replies. I drop in another tip about God of War –“Uh I ain’t played God of War yet, that shit looks hard though. I’m more of an online player though” he says, which probably explains why he’s taken to Fortnite and I can’t say that I share the same enthusiasm!
We move on to talk about the creative process behind ‘Squidtastic’ and when I flag up how fans had been left a little frustrated with the lack of clarity on the release, he contemplates for a second before responding, “it wasn’t frustrating, I was just picking and choosing what songs I wanted on there and getting it right for the fans.” Even though ‘S.A.N.D.A.S’ only dropped last year, there’s been growth between then and the release of his latest project. “I’ve been drawing from different things; I had a son [Sasuke], just different things and situations that influence your music”. While SahBabii remains the same artist who likes sex, video games, and animals, recent changes, including leaving his label situation with Warner, have seen him gain a new sense of focus as he tries to navigate the music scene independently.
Many fans wondered why songs like ‘Outstanding’ and ‘7 Squids’ featuring 21 Savage and R. Kelly respectively were left off of ‘Squidtastic’, with one of the arguments being that they would have further enhanced the project. “That’s owned by my [former] label, and them songs are old” he says. After asking him to elaborate, he adds a little more context, “I wanted to give my fans whole new songs. I didn’t want to put any old songs on the project because that would’ve taken up 3 or 4 slots when I could have put some new music on it”.
Sah famously records in his brother T3’s bedroom studio, having stated previously that it’s the only place where he can really get comfortable. “If it was up to me, I wouldn’t stop recording in there. If I have to I would record elsewhere but for now naw man.” His preference to record in T3’s bedroom is apparent in his music as his eccentric nature is expressed through ad-libs and vividly placed similes and metaphors. “We used to make up a whole bunch of lingo, me and my friends. Using different types of words… that shit just became an everyday part of life.” With admissions like this, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that being a fan of SahBabii is like being in a secret cult.
SahBabii’s penchant for animal sounding ad-libs on tracks, has also found him avid fans in London. I wonder what his favourite animal to reference is – other than the obvious answer of squid. “Apes, I love gorillas” he answers with a slight reference to ‘Purple Ape’ the trap ballad that sounds like a power play out of Young Thug’s book. To date, the song has almost 7 million plays on Spotify, and given it’s propensity for melody and his colourful similes, it’s no surprise that the crowd knew it word for word the night before. I ask if he’s ever been on any wildlife expeditions given his love of animals, and he candidly states “I ain’t ever been to nothing like that. The closest I’ve been to that is the zoo but you know they be putting animals in cages,” Sah’s dread heavy head shakes as he expresses his disgust at the treatment that the animals face in zoos.
You could be the most positive person in the world and people will still have something to say
A common motif you can take from his music is his positive nature, SahBabii doesn’t speak on negative things or perpetuate that mentality in his music. Asked if it’s tiring being so positive, he refrains before answering “nah it don’t get hard trying to be positive. I just surround myself with positive people. I don’t have no phone, I don’t be looking at negative shit that be on the internet. I just stay positive, play games…”.
Given that SahBabii himself stated that “I used to be seeing Thug at the grocery store and shit”, it is no surprise that people refer to Atlanta in the same way they refer to London. Smaller in proximity than it actually is due to the connections people have with one another, means that breakout acts in Atlanta will always be reduced to being the second coming of Gucci Mane/Jeezy/Young Thug or a SoundCloud rapper. For an artist like SahBabii, his style takes point from the foundations that Young Thug has laid, and subsequently invites many comparisons to his idol. “Nah I don’t really pay attention to all that. It is what it is. People are always gonna have something to say. You could be the most positive person in the world and people will still have something to say. I most definitely fuck with Thug though. I grew up listening to Thug.” I don’t doubt this, it’s still crazy to hear people say this given that their age difference is about six or seven years (Chief Keef is another example of this).
UK Fans have gravitated in droves to the sounds of Atlanta from artists like Migos to Gunna, Playboi Carti to the aforementioned Young Thug and SahBabii openly gives props to everybody doing their thing,“All the artists from Atlanta, everybody is getting on so that inspires you to go hard. I think 21 Savage inspires me the most, I ain’t even gonna lie. When I see him blow up I said I can definitely do this.” It’s been almost unreal seeing the rapid rise of SahBabbi and 21 Savage as the former has only been known to UK listeners for a little over two years, while the latter has been rapping since 2015. It’s also no surprise they linked up on 2018’s ‘Outstanding’, a catchy, flute backed track that combines the best of their talents. On the topics of collaborations and inspirations, he tells me “I hit him up on Instagram because I heard he liked one of my songs. My fans reached out to him and then it just happened like that.” That exchange over socials, just proves that sometimes getting that feature from a chosen artists may not be as hard as you think. Sah only names one person when asked about dream collaborations and it’s surprising considering I’d expect him to name another artist from Atlanta. “I like Kodak Black, yeah I like Kodak Black.”
As the sun emerges in it’s full glory, SahBabii’s energy also comes back to his body like the prodigal son returned to his parents after days of frittering. With the ‘Squidtastic’ project expected to keep him busy for sometime to come, he drops a hint about what may be in the pipeline, “we doing a lot of videos right now and I’m gonna come out with another project. Music gon’ be coming constantly. I ain’t finna be letting the fans wait.” Trying to pry a release date from him for this upcoming project, SahBabbi simply answers with silence and the wryest smile possible.
‘Squidtastic’ can be streamed on all major digital platforms.