Sometimes the most impressive songs end up sounding the simplest, and Baby E’s “Finessin” is an audacious example of plain construction. The track contains a few notes on a synthesizer, a slightly more active bass and a busily programmed but not overly fussy beat, to which E adds a springy, slightly nasal vocal. The result mixes modern swagger and up-to-date production with the economy and naive charm of an early-Sixties single.
For the moment, the song also represents a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Baby E (Virginia Beach, Virginia, singer-songwriter Ethan Lowery) released it earlier this year, and the track is about climbing toward “bigger, better things/Bigger television screens.” It’s currently rising on Spotify’s U.S. Viral 50 chart, and last month, the singer finessed his way into a room with Drake. E posted a photo of himself with the star on Instagram; the caption read, “Proud stoked & grateful to be part of the Young Money family!! Time to make some history.”
Baby E’s story differs from other potential Young Money signees. He’s been working behind the scenes learning the rules of today’s pop landscape with the help of songwriting savant Dr. Luke, who signed E to a publishing deal several years ago. And if E’s artist deal is made official — over the phone, Luke says, “we’re actually finalizing that deal right now” — he will be signed by both Young Money and Luke. (Representatives of Young Money did not respond to requests for comment.)
Rolling Stone spoke with E about his musical background, his smart decision to keep “Finessin” for himself and his connection with Young Money.
Where did you grow up?
Pensacola, Florida, that whole area. I went to a new school every single year; I was always moving. I just found music at a young age. It was always my thing. I would talk my aunt or grandma or somebody into buying me a drum set or a guitar.
When did you start putting out music as Baby E?
Probably like four or five years ago? I always fucked around with a MacBook and GarageBand. One day on a whim, I sent one of the songs to one of my homies, a song called “Where’s the Party At.” And he heard it and immediately called me. He was like, “This is you? You gotta do this — this is real.” He has a studio at his crib, and he was like, “Move here. You can record all day, every day. We’ll build this shit from the ground.”
He also lives in Florida?
He’s in Virginia Beach. I grew up in Florida, but when I was 13, I started moving back and forth between Florida and Virginia.
You self-produce your music?
I produce a lot of my stuff, and almost 99.9 percent of what I do is melody-based. I always attack the songs from a songwriting prospective — I’m looking for the right verse melody that goes into the pre- that goes into the hook. I learned from Dr. Luke; I have a publishing deal with him.