Lil Baby and Lil Durk build off their consistency as solo and feature artists to achieve what few rappers of their stature have done effectively on a collaborative project -- complement each other.
The title The Voice Of The Heroes isn’t simply a convergence of Lil Baby and Lil Durk’s respective universes; it acts as a statement, echoing the success of the past 12-plus months of their individual careers. Lil Baby and Lil Durk build off of their consistency as solo and feature artists to achieve what few rappers of their stature have done effectively on a collaborative project -- complement each other.
The Voice Of The Heroes is, undoubtedly, a product of supply-and-demand, but fortunately, it didn’t succumb to its would-be fate as an easy money-grab consisting of a bloated tracklist full of throwaways and mailed-in verses. A fan’s request manifested itself from a tweet to an 18-song album that upholds the standard the artists have set for themselves on songs like “3 Headed Goat” and “Finesse Out The Gang Way”; a balance of gut-wrenching ballads filled with vivid flashbacks of trauma, carousels of wealth, status, fame, and the perils that come with it.
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Despite the generation gap between their respective come-ups, The Voice Of The Heroes is an hour-long display of their synchronicity -- a celebration of shared morals and ethics that have carried their success from the trenches to the charts, strip clubs to frequent radio rotation. Durk and Baby haven’t lost sight of the experiences that made them. Hence, why the collab project can be summed up by calls for Larry Hoover and Big Meech’s releases -- two individuals whose value and contributions to their communities in Chicago and Atlanta, respectively, turned them into beacons of hope. Similarly, Durk and Baby carry that same ethos in their execution of TVOTH. “Durk’s the voice ‘cause he knows what to say/ I’m the hero, I come through, save the day,” Baby raps on the title track through his lean-induced vocoder-tinged delivery. Ultimately, it’s their understanding of the bigger picture (no pun intended) that allows their egos and looming presence in rap to co-exist harmoniously across the project.
Durk sounds revitalized here, even after releasing a solo album and the OTF compilation tape in the months prior. The rapper pulls back the auto-tune even further on several occasions, like on “Still Runnin” featuring Meek Mill. His raw, unadulterated flow is a timely reminder of his emergence as a frontrunner of the drill scene and his evident influence on today’s sound.
Baby, on the other hand, might not be outperforming Durk on every single track but, much like his ascent to stardom, there’s a firm understanding of his lane. Unfortunately, there are fewer stand-out moments from Baby on the project in comparison to Durk. Baby’s execution as a collaborator is his best quality on The Voice Of The Heroes. Durk’s rapping with a chip on his shoulder on nearly every track while Baby isn’t consistently exuding the same level of hunger. In those instances, Baby’s earworm hooks and riveting cadences serve to elevate Durk’s performance.
What Baby does best, though, is offer a glimpse into his next move. His consistency has made him a fixture in hip-hop, but there’s bound to be a moment where it runs its course. By finding new pockets of melodies, even if done subtly like on DJ Khaled’s “EVERY CHANCE I GET,” there’s a peek into a potential evolution of his sound.
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The Voice Of The Heroes doesn’t exceed the artists' solo efforts by any means. Baby and Durk’s best qualities as artists are their ear for production, but they fail to truly identify a common sound that plays into their respective strengths. Instead, the album bounces between songs that sound like Lil Durk featuring Lil Baby and vice versa; production that either fits into the atmospheric and opulent sounds of Atlanta, like on “Please,” or the menacing tones of drill on “Lying.” It’s a safety net that allowed little room for failure. A proven formula that stirred up the demand for a collaborative album in the first place.
The rise of Lil Baby and Lil Durk in 2020 coincided with what will historically be known as the worst year in modern history. And perhaps, that’s why their presence was so necessary over the course of the year. “Rich Off Pain” with Rod Wave is the thesis statement to the album in that sense. Over shredding electric guitars, Durk and Baby reflect on their own traumas and experiences that have informed their music and made it so compelling. More importantly, they’ve remained hopeful throughout these times, inspiring others to do the same in their own journey. The Voice Of The Heroes is a celebration of triumph yet a reflection of pain. The riches and extravagance earned through hard work and the survivor’s remorse of losing friends on the way. The power that comes with wealth and fame, and the responsibilities that it’s accompanied by.