This image is from the official "Zaza Baby!" cover art, owned by New College Entertainment.

There have been many debates over what comprises the ethos of a truly great rap song. Various schools of thought tout qualities like lyrical depth, wordplay, production, cadence and delivery as the paramount characteristics of an exemplary track. Another quality that is especially appreciated by rap fans is authenticity. When a song feels ‘real’ or ‘human,’ it takes on a life of its own and forges an even deeper emotional connection than anticipated. While Richmond, Va. product Young Wabo’s “Zaza Baby!” lacks most of the resources poured into big-budget releases, Wabo still manages to check most all of the aforementioned boxes and create a truly organic rap song. 

The track is built around one of the catchiest samples I’ve heard in a long time, with a woman crooning “Zaza Baby!” over Wabo’s lurching, idiosyncratic flow. Wabo’s voice is a breath of fresh air, and it’s impossible not to hear a little bit of Earl Sweatshirt. While his lyrics are decidedly less abstract than Earl’s, Wabo still shows his chops as a quality lyricist with clever wordplay, as he mixes allusions to hamburger restaurants with nods to John D. Rockefeller, Jay-Z and Tupac Shakur during the track’s two-minute duration. Wabo also places the lyrical and emotional depth of the song within a more mundane setting, the movement of a joint around a group of friends. When he muses, “I heard life is a circle, let’s get this zaza circulated,” it’s impossible for a fellow child of the internet era to not both chuckle a little and appreciate the song for its authenticity. Wabo’s meandering, two-step flow is a breath of fresh air in a rap environment that is in need of innovation from industry outsiders. 

Daily Arts Writer Ryan Brace can be reached at