VMAs 2022: Best New Artist Nominee Baby Keem Is Related to a Hip-Hop Icon

Rapper Baby Keem is among the nominees for Best New Artist at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards. The California-bred emcee may be young, but he’s risen through the ranks in the past few years to collaborate with the likes of Kanye West and Travis Scott, to name a few.

Baby Keem, Kendrick Lamar's cousin, wearing a suit
Baby Keem | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Baby Keem rose to prominence in at the turn of the decade

Baby Keem released his first mixtape, The Sound of Bad Habit, in 2018. His single “Orange Soda” from his 2019 mixtape Die For My B**** garnered him recognition — so much so that he was a part of XXL’s 2020 Freshman Class alongside the likes of Latto, Jack Harlow, and Fivio Foreign.

Reflecting on the early days of his career with Kendrick Lamar for i-D, Keem saw his sophomore mixtape as his time to shine. “Die for My B**** was a breakthrough,” he said. “It really gave me a chance to play with my sounds and open up the lane to grow in confidence.”

In 2021, he got a stamp of approval from Kanye West as he appeared on his song “Praise God” from his Donda album. The song reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was certified Platinum with over one million copies sold.

Baby Keem is Kendrick Lamar’s cousin

In September 2021, he released his debut studio album The Melodic Blue. The album’s fifth and final single, “Family Ties,” is a collaboration with Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar. The song is fittingly titled considering Keem and Kendrick are cousins. The song became Keem’s second top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned him a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. The album also included another collab with Kendrick, “Range Brothers.”

For the most part, however, you won’t find Keem talking about his relation to Kendrick. In a June 2021 interview with Apple Music, he admitted that he keeps his relation to Kung-Fu Kenny low-key — especially when he was first starting out — because he wanted to make it on his own first.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t close in real life, though; he said that their relationship “goes beyond music.”

“Whenever I need anything regarding, like, life, and if I need some wisdom, then that’s who I go to,” he said. “That’s one of the first people I look towards.”

He reconnected with Kendrick over a family tragedy

Keem spoke about how he and Kendrick connected as adults in a May 2021 episode of The Rap Pack.

“It was an unfortunate situation that happened in my family, and then I guess we kind of just connected through that,” he said.

When he was just starting out, he didn’t think to collab with his cousin. As a result, Kendrick didn’t know the depth of Keem’s music career until he had been working on it for a while. “He didn’t really know until later later,” Keem explained. “We just got cool on, like, that aspect first. On a regular aspect. He didn’t know I made music for a while. He was like, ‘What do you wanna do?’ I was just like, ‘I just wanna go to college bro.’ … I wasn’t even 100 percent sure I was even good at music.”

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