Amongst many other things, it takes time, patience and self-belief to touch stardom. Lil Baby had all three in droves, plus talent to match, making his rise to prominence one of the bigger feel-good stories in hip-hop. The Atlanta rap star was ushered into music by a trio: Young Thug and Quality Control Music's head honchos Coach K and Pee. He got out of jail in late 2016, and commit himself to rap soon after, as an artist on the storied Quality Control Music roster. Six mixtapes and two albums since then, Lil Baby is inarguably a star, with the album sales and sold-out shows to prove it. On the heels of his first No. 1 album, My Turn, XXL is showcasing some of his most necessary songs, the tracks that explain his journey from QC upstart to one of the biggest names on the label and in rap, period.

After just six months in the booth, in 2017, Baby dropped two mixtapes (Perfect Timing and Harder Than Hard) and his hit single, the infectious "My Dawg." Whether i'ts the bounce and the early form of one of his best flows on "Dates," the reflective "Minute" or the crawling tale of dodging the cops on "Narcs," Baby's appeal was clear early on. He boasts a variety of styles and sounds comfortable in all of them. The rhymer's foundation was strong for his eventual success.

From there, Baby kept his foot on the gas, dropping 2 The Hard Way in late 2017 with his close friend and fellow QC rapper Marlo, and Too Hard, a solo mixtape that went gold. By the time the latter was released, Lil Baby was off and rolling, buoyed by his anthemic single "Freestyle" (which became one of his signature songs) and "All of a Sudden," one of the first link-ups between Baby and Moneybagg Yo—they both became friends and great collaborators.

Getting this much done in just 2017 boded well for Lil Baby's future, with his 2018 debut album, Harder Than Ever, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and eventually being certified platinum. The album was Baby at his best at the time, featuring the much-hyped Drake collab "Yes Indeed", radio-ready songs like "Life Goes On" and Baby going toe-to-toe with one of QC's best rappers, Offset, on "Transporter."

Later that year in 2018 came Drip Harder, a streaming dynamo that paired Gunna and Lil Baby and led to the biggest song of both of their careers, "Drip Too Hard." Lil Baby then closed 2018 out with his Street Gossip project, and came back with a splash with My Turn, his 2020 album that cemented him as a true star. "Woah," the dance-based single that showed off a looser, more fun-focused Lil Baby, is a certified hit, and "Heating Up," the Gunna-assisted second single, is on the same track. This is truly Lil Baby's moment in the sun, the point in his career that he's worked tirelessly for.

Check out 21 of his most essential songs below.

  • "Freestyle"

    Lil Baby
  • "My Dawg"

    Lil Baby
  • "Woah"

    Lil Baby
  • "Drip Too Hard"

    Lil Baby and Gunna
  • "Close Friends"

    Lil Baby and Gunna
  • "Pure Cocaine"

    Lil Baby
  • "All of a Sudden"

    Lil Baby Featuring Moneybagg Yo
  • "Narcs"

    Lil Baby
  • "Southside"

    Lil Baby
  • "Baby"

    Lil Baby and DaBaby
  • "Grace"

    Lil Baby Featuring 42 Dugg
  • "Heatin Up"

    Lil Baby Featuring Gunna
  • "Emotionally Scarred"

    Lil Baby
  • "Sides"

    Lil Baby
  • "Fit In"

    Lil Baby
  • "First Class"

    Lil Baby
  • "Life Goes On"

    Lil Baby Featuring Lil Uzi Vert and Gunna
  • "I'm Straight"

    Lil Baby
  • "Never Recover"

    Lil Baby, Gunna and Drake
  • "Yes Indeed"

    Lil Baby Featuring Drake
  • "Transporter"

    Lil Baby Featuring Offset