Sada Baby & His "Dance Moves" Represent a New Detroit Sound
We spent some time with rising Detroit rapper Sada Baby, who talked about getting acceptance in his hometown, the death that inspired some of his new music, and wanting to sing songs with Syd.
Detroit rapper Sada Baby doesn’t feel like a star. Especially not in New York City.
“I’ve performed out here so many times and people don’t be knowing what’s going on,” Sada Baby, real name Casada Sorrell, said. “I can still walk around in New York and not be bothered.”
On this gloomy February afternoon at the Okayplayer offices in Brooklyn, the 27-year-old Detroit native, who is rocking platinum and gold Big Squad and Skuba chains and a “Black East Money Boyz” t-shirt, is reflective — speaking on what his reality was just a couple of years ago.
“My first three years of doing music I didn’t make no money. I was wearing a lot of the same shit, in the studio every day, smoking what I could, and doing what I could when I could,” Sada Baby said. “To go from not making money for three years to making a little bit of money and having like $500 and $600 to making thousands of dollars, I’ve come a long way with the music shit.”
In March 2018, Sada and fellow Detroit rapper Drego released “Bloxk Party,” a free-flowing cipher of a record that sounds like an uninterrupted trip on the pair’s separate — but equally rambunctious — trains of thought. On the track, Sada growls “Diamonds wet, look like pee, Skuba R. Kelly,” seconds before comparing his shotgun to Chicago Bulls’ seven-foot star Lauri Markkanen. All of that Sada’s bravado is wrapped and delivered in an unorthodox flow that can go from nasal enunciations that drags words into the next line to a low grumble that can make even the innocuous sound menacing. He never stays the same for too long on a record, perfect for a generation of music fans that skips a song once every four minutes.
Part of the song’s success is the music video, which has racked up more than 60 million views on YouTube in less than two years. (WorldstarHipHop hosted the video on its YouTube channel; it’s one of WorldStar’s most-watched videos of all time.) The video features a shirtless Sada shimmying and dancing before announcing, “I will fuck the party up with my dance moves.” Sada remembers signing to Asylum a few months after the song was released. “That’s when a lot of other top tier artists took notice to what the fuck I had going on without a cosign,” Sada said. “I wouldn’t say they reached out, but some artists co-signed the record like Lil Yachty, Chris Brown, and Kevin Gates.” (Sada also had a deal with Tee Grizzley’s imprint, Grizzley Gang, that has since ended. In an interview with Pitchfork, Sada said “I wish no harm on [Tee Grizzley], but I don’t fuck with him.”)
His Skuba Sada 2 mixtape — a sequel to his 2017 mixtape — set to be released this week (Friday, March 20) was created from utilitarianism more than creativity. To Sada, Skuba Sada 2 — which will be available on all major DSPs, unlike January’s Brolik, which was a DatPiff exclusive — is simply a collection of loose songs he released disparately over time while working on his debut album. The album will have stronger content than heard on the mixtape, according to Sada, but they’re both integral in his plans to reach the elusive stardom he yearns to achieve.
Listen to a few lines from a Sada song and you’ll see he’s a bit different than what you may expect from an MC hailing from the battle-tested streets of east side Detroit. He isn’t of the traditional lyrical ilk of Detroit legends like Royce Da 5’9 or Eminem but he’s still good to get off lines like “Beyoncé with this can, get em’ bodied“ as he does on “Pimp Named Drip Dat.” His flow drags you in with cartoonish animation in his voice where he’ll admit to having sex with his friend’s sister while sounding like a maniacal comic book villain rather than a gangster rapper. That’s because while Sada is battling expectations, he’s really battling himself.
“[I’m] trying not to sound the same as any of my own records,” Sada Baby said. “I don’t give a fuck about sounding like anybody else. I feel like that’s not really in the conversation with me, so I’m trying to not sound like myself on the last song I recorded.”
An artist seeking constant reinvention is one unencumbered by the limitations of conventions. The days of the late 1980s and Big Daddy Kane’s dance routines are such a distant memory in hip-hop that Offset synchronizing a few dance steps — like he did at the 2019 BET Awards — had the internet in a frenzy, with people shocked to see a rapper with choreography. That explains why Sada’s shoulders dipping and swerving like they’re independent of his body took some time for his hometown to get used to.
“They fucked with the flow. They weren’t used to niggas dancing,” Sada said. “I took a lot of internet heat. Niggas were cracking a lot of jokes. But, in person, nobody tried anything or did anything and that’s why I’m still dancing to this day. Now, I look up and everybody dancing in Detroit.”
You could argue Sada Baby represents a new era of Detroit, one built less on the grit and grind of the automotive industry that defined it in years past and more of the sort of joyful optimism you’ll find in videos like Sada’s energetic “Slide.” That bright future looked bleak during summer 2013 when Detroit became the most populous city in the history of theUnited States to file for bankruptcy. For many, going through bankruptcy irrevocably changed their relationship with Detroit. Not for Sada.
“All the jobs I used to have weren’t high enough up the work ladder for me to be affected by the city. I was a chef, dishwasher, barback. I worked at a carwash for a day and then got fired. I still was trying to figure out life, for real,” Sada said. “From the outside looking in, if you were to come there and be on some tourist type shit, the downtown is very appealing. It hasn’t changed what the city is, what goes on and what type of motherfuckers are from there. I feel like it got the potential to be way better than what it was when I was a kid.”
Real Life On The Way
True stars can shed light on almost anything, and that’s what Sada is preparing to do with his upcoming album (which doesn’t have a title yet.) He wants people to know the party won’t stop but the introspection will deepen. His city falling dire financial straits may not have inspired many bars from Sada, but the same can not be said about the death of one of the biggest cultural figures of Sada’s life.
“The last real-life event that inspired a song was Kobe [Bryant] dying. I got a song that would be in his temperament and could fit with a montage of his highlights if somebody was to put it with it together,” Sada said. “For example, the ruptured Achilles situation, when he walked to the free-throw line, I put that in the song and compared it to the situation that I was going through.”
He said he recorded the song a few days after Kobe’s passing. He also recorded a feature verse touching on the late Los Angeles Laker legends’ passing on the day he died. Expect a bit more of this sort of content from Sada.
“It’s heavier. It’s more of a buildup. It’s gonna be more of a push. It’s gonna be more of a thing in itself instead of it just being a project,” Sada said. “There’s a stronger effort put into the CD for it to be considered an album and not just a mixtape.”
Sada confirmed the album will feature Lil Yachty, Skooly, Calboy, and his artist Skilla Baby. He also hit the studio with Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee a day before our interview; the two recorded a track together, although it was still unclear whose project the song would eventually end up on. Give him enough time and Sada’s star might expand into genres few modern hip-hop artists have ventured into, like collaborating with neo-soul band The Internet.
“[Syd’s] vocal tone is so calming. The song would be in the vibe of ‘Girl’ [from Ego Death] and ‘Next Time/Humble Pie’ (from Hive Mind),” Sada said. “I want it to be some shit that I can sing with Syd because it will be singing shit.”
By the end of 2020, Sada wants to feel like a star everywhere, whether it’s Alaska, New Mexico, Canada, Norway, or Australia — all territories he told me he was surprised to know he had fans in. By the time December 2020 rolls around, Sada plans for his star to be established and the blessings to be imminent.
“We’re about to get Grammy, getting a call about Coachella or the next Rolling Loud in Portugal,” Sada said. “I want to be way more than a little bit further than where I am right now. There’s going to be big progress by December 2020. Hopefully.”
Keith Nelson Jr. is a journalist who has covered hip-hop, technology, and movies/TV for VIBE, Revolt, Digital Trends, Flaunt Magazine, and more. Follow him @JusAire