Steven Holiday-Wilson Jr., aka Babby, is part of the long list of crooners who grew up in the church tradition of choral singing. It’s hard not to feel like you’re at a Sunday service when his voice crescendos. Yet, surprisingly so, Babby was prohibited from singing to congregations as his voice matured. “I wasn’t allowed to sing because they felt like I was taking people from the presence of God,” he said in between his performance for Uptown Art House’s live music series at Eaton Hotel. The word “Lamb” is tattooed down Babby’s neck in the font of early scripture like it was written with a quill pen. A sacrifice to the holy hymns, Babby is called to the masses.
The Maryland-based vocalist had just wrapped the brief 25-minute set, when one of the listeners asked me, “Where did you find him?” I hesitated before answering as if I had much to do with cultivating that ethereal experience. Babby’s talent is a gift from God. His voice would uplift spirits even if he were humming along the sidewalk. The stage is irrelevant when you hear him.
Babby’s latest offering, Pleasure, is the first grouping of tracks published since releasing “Mother” on his SoundCloud in 2017. A demo tape created from studio sessions recorded that same year, Pleasure explores themes of love loss and gained.
“The way we relate to the world around us is of a dark nature,” he said.
Babby’s interpretations of love are brooding. “Haunted by the need to love; the need to pleasure,” he speaks over a lost transmission on the opening narrative piece “Labyrinth.” There’s a palpable sense of hurt as Babby flexes his vocal chords on the remaining two tracks “Pound” and “Wound.” “My heart is blue and tender. I’ll bleed from the center,” he sings on the latter—vulnerable to the fear of loneliness while reconciling self-worth with being in the company of someone he loves.
For day-one fans, Pleasure ameliorates the few Babby records circulating the internet. The artist’s output is intentionally restrained as he transitions from production-backed tracks to live instrumentation. Hear more depth in his sound now, with backing bass, guitar, and cello accents added to his performances. Until newer tracks drop, it’s imperative you catch a show.
The Pleasure demo is now available for listening on YouTube. We’ve pulled the audio for you below.