From humble beginnings to fame and fortune, 2KBABY is an artist with a story that needs to be told. Born Christian Michael Todd, 2KBABY grew up in the Southside of Louisville, Kentucky where his life was a constant fight for survival. At a young age, the artist had worked at multiple fast-food restaurants to help support his family. When he was 15 years old, he started rapping. 2KBABY began as an MC and was originally known as Lil Sage. In 2017, he started to upload tracks such as his collaborations with BBlasian and Lil Zayo.
In 2018, he drove to Atlanta and while on this six-hour road trip, he discovered his skill for singing. This is where he would create his single “Dirty 30’s” that would later release in 2019. Not long after, his freestyle “Old Streets” went viral later that same year. This single was the first song that his little brother, Busta Keys, ever produced. Soon enough, the freestyle caught the attention of Masked Records/Warner Bros which led to a record deal for the young artist.
“The ‘Old Streets’ acapella video came across my radar early. Ten seconds into the video, it was immediately clear that he was not only an incredibly talented singer but also had a natural knack for melody. The vibrato in his voice hooked me. When I dug deeper into his music, my intuition was confirmed. I flew to Atlanta to meet him and he played at least 25 unreleased songs, one of those being ‘Dreaming.’ We hit it off right away. We spent the entire night with him and flew him to L.A. the next morning to sign the deal” says Masked Gorilla founder, Roger Gengo, in an interview with Complex.
Once signed, they immediately made “Old Streets” into an official single with a video release. Later in 2019, 2KBABY released more successful singles such as “Dreaming”, “Betta” and “Faxts”, all leading up to his debut album, Pregame Rituals, which released in early 2020. Now, his latest single, “Like This” ft. Marshmello drops this Friday and based on 2KBABY’s top hits, fans can expect another catchy, upbeat sound from this song as well.
We, at Sidedoor, were able to speak with the artist about this new release, his family, artist inspirations and more.
Tell me something fans don’t know about you. How did you start rapping?
I started rapping when my homie got locked up when I was 14. He got locked up, so I waited 6 months. He was downtown JCYC (Jefferson County Youth Detention Center) and his sister called me and said he got sent to count. When she Facetimed me, she said he got sent away for two and a half years. I started rapping to say free my homie for real in the beginning and in the end of my songs. That’s really the whole reason I started rapping.
I know your little brother, Busta Keys, produced “Old Streets”, and is mentioned in the first line, so I can tell family is really important to you. How have they influenced your career?
They keep me motivated, honestly. Both of my little brothers and all my little sisters, they all keep me motivated because I want to be able to provide for them and take care of them. I want to make sure that whatever they want to do, their dreams and aspirations, I’m there to support it. I know that before I found my passion for music, for example, I had an interest in sports, but I didn’t follow through because I wanted to get money. I didn’t go out there and play and I didn’t have the top gear like the other kids.
I can see how important your family is through your music, it’s reflected in that. I know that your music is known for being real and authentic, is it difficult sometimes to bring out such raw emotion and vulnerability?
Yeah, it is difficult but at the same time, it’s therapeutic. For example, getting a tattoo. It’s hard and it might not feel the best but it’s therapeutic. You want to get through it because you know in the end, it’s going to look beautiful.
You know that the end result is going to be worth it.
I know you’ve been through some tough times while you were living in Louisville. How have these experiences affected your music?
It definitely helped to put out my pain into my music, but not just pain. I want to be able to make people embrace their pain and be able to turn their pain into happiness or strength. I want them to use it. Sometimes I use my pain to make myself mad to go harder in whatever it is I’m doing.
You want your fans to be able to connect to your music.
Yeah, for sure, in every way, shape or form. Everybody. Not just a certain crowd or a certain audience or a certain type of people. Everybody from every corner of the world. Everybody has different struggles. Some people’s worse life problems are with money. Some people might not have any money problems but they’re going crazy with issues with relationships and it might not even be a relationship with a significant other, it can be family relationships.
Everybody’s going through something different and you want to be able to help them in any way through your music.
Speaking of your music, your next single, “Like This” ft. Marshmello comes out this Friday. Can you tell us what it’s about?
The song is about where I’m at in life. The up times and the down times, reminiscing on everything that I’ve been through to get to this point. Getting through all that made me stronger. Sometimes I think about everything and just say damn I went through all that just to get here, like it’s good, I’m here but that shit hurt.
You can’t believe it sometimes.
Yeah, and sometimes it hurts but you got to stay positive and you got to keep your head up.
I know in the newest single, you repeat “I’ve been through too much just to live like this”, can you explain what that means?
At the time when I wrote it, it was before my life had changed. This was always a long shot, like a n***a was always chasing this lifestyle, but it’s not even about the fame, but being successful, being able to provide for me and my family. Coming from where I come from it’s not what we’re born into, it’s not what we’re given. It’s not easy. It almost felt like I was cursed, as if I was going to be down forever. All these years, I felt as if I was always down, but I didn’t know what was to come.
You didn’t know the life you were about to embark in.
In terms of the single, what was it like to work with Marshmello?
Working with Marshmello was fun. It was fun, but the most important part of it all was that it was genuine and authentic. Me and Marshmello are dawgs. I call and he answers, and we can talk about anything, not even just music. It’s been like that since the first time we linked up.
So, it was really natural, and he was easy to work with.
Yeah, we don’t even just link in the studio, we just chill at the crib, hooping, and chilling. So, shooting a video was like shooting a video with my friends.
Who else would you like to work with in the future? Who are you inspired by?
Fortunately, I’ve already been able to work with G Herbo, one of my favourite artists. RIP Michael Jackson, I love his work, so I miss that. I’d love to work with Lil Wayne, for sure. I would also love to work with Post Malone. I still want to get some tracks in with Southside. Me and Southside are already locked in. We’re cool and we talk about non-music as well, but we’re definitely going to make music down the road. I want to work with Mustard, who else…I got some other people. Travis Scott. My list is long.
On the opposite end of things, when it comes to new, up and coming rappers, what do you think sets you apart from them? What makes you different?
Honestly, I can’t speak on what they got going on in comparison to what’s going on over here. I can just say I’m not in competition with nobody, I’m in my own lane. Tunnel vision. I’m perfecting my craft every day. There’s days where I be in the studio and I don’t even rap. The same way a basketball player can be a student at a game and they just watch the footage. There’s days where I’m just studying the art of music. I don’t even consider myself a rapper, I consider myself a musician, an artist. I want to be able to do every genre, not just hip hop. I’m trying to take over pop, rock, jazz, everything. I love music. I’ve been playing instruments since I was 11. I played alto saxophone, tuba, xylophone, and piano. That’s all I have to say about myself.
You want to be a versatile artist. You want to be able to explore different genres and be more multifaceted in your work.
How would you describe your music style to new listeners? How would you describe your sound?
My sound can come off graceful at times, and then other times, it can come off bouncy with a bop. Other times, it can come off a little bit more aggressive. Overall, my voice can cut through the beat and it’s going to speak to you. Even if you’re not listening to my words and you’re just listening to my melodies, I’m not going to say you’re going to like my melodies, but I’m pretty sure you’re going to like my melodies. On top of that if you listen to my words, I’m saying shit that you can relate to, your parents, your mom, your dad, everyone.
This relates to your new single, “Like This” too because it has a catchy beat and melody. I enjoyed it because it showcased a mix of your rapping skills and your vocal skills too.
I like how you pointed out my vocal skills because that’s definitely a song where I sticked to my signature high octave and with the low octaves, it builds up and you feel the momentum. It showed my range.
Yeah, it showed your range, and it was a good blend of both.
When it comes to the future, what are your goals in music? What can fans expect?
Fans can expect a lot more entertainment. I feel like, I don’t want to say anti-social because that’s what everybody says, but I feel like I’m just in my own world. I feel like I don’t actually live with my phone on me. When I’m at a restaurant, I don’t think to pull out my phone and take a picture of the food. I don’t tell my n****s to link me up every day. My fans can expect a lot more of me connecting with them, giving them an inside scoop of my life and my personality. I’m going to try to get out there more because I really just be in my own world, perfecting my craft. In my head, it’s all about the music. I want to be putting my music out, my songs, my videos and shit. I’ll definitely try to entertain y’all a whole lot more on every platform with different avenues, not even just songs, but with music videos, and put out other content as well. I want to entertain my fans. I’m trying to learn how to work TikTok and Twitter, you know what I mean.
I know what you mean, you want to live in the moment sometimes.
I am just so focussed. I feel like I don’t do the average young teen shit. You don’t just see me on social media wilding every day.
You said you haven’t figured out how to work TikTok, but I think you’re doing pretty well on that platform with over a million followers.
I did build up my TikTok with my music and other videos from fans. Now, I want to make my own TikToks and show them more of me.
When it comes to social media, I think you’ve done a great job at covering all platforms.
Yeah, I try to, I try to stay on top of it, but I want to do better.
What is a message you’d like to say to your fans right now?
I want to tell all my fans to stay true to yourself and stay focused. Watch who you keep around you and I appreciate your love. Always remember who was down for you.
“Like This” ft. Marshmello comes out this Friday on all streaming platforms. Make sure to stay tuned and watch out for more music to come from 2KBABY.