If a global pandemic can’t stop DaBaby, what can? The Charlotte, North Carolina rapper isn’t allowing the coronavirus outbreak to dampen his status as one of rap’s hottest new properties; his show-must-go-on approach typified by the protective face mask he dons on the ‘Blame It On Baby’ cover.
Marking his third album in 13 months (following ‘Baby On Baby’ and ‘Kirk’), the charismatic rapper born Jonathan Kirk takes the tireless energy he exhibits on record and applies it to his release schedule. It’s the productive streak of someone who abhors time-wasting, which may account for ‘Blame It On Baby’’s compact 33-minute run time. “I just can’t motherfuckin’ stop, man,” he grinningly quips on the animated opener ‘Can’t Stop’ before the bouncing ‘Jump’ offers an insight as to how rapidly the DaBaby hit-making machine can operate: “Made a song in 10 minutes, went platinum”.
DaBaby isn’t so single-minded that he refuses to share the mic, though. ‘Blame It On Baby’ welcomes a sizeable supporting cast, with Roddy Ricch, Future and Quavo all dropping in with quick cameos (the latter on the Migos-lite ‘Pick Up’). Megan Thee Stallion steals the crown for best supporting feature as she and DaBaby trade X-rated verses on the definitely not-safe-for-radio ‘Nasty’, which also sees the lesser-spotted Ashanti embellishing a sample of her 2002 track ‘Baby’.
As stunning as it has been, DaBaby’s rise does contain some troubling footnotes: last month he apologised to a woman he allegedly struck during a Tampa gig. DaBaby’s frustrations at negative press are evidently building. “Finger fuck allegations, keep hatin’,” he counters on ‘Can’t Stop’. “I’m patiently waiting on n****s to prove it.”
On ‘Rockstar’ he addresses the infamous 2018 incident that left a man dead after an altercation in a supermarket (prosecutors later dropped the rapper’s concealed weapon charge): “PTSD, I’m always waking up in cold sweats like I got the flu,” he admits. “My daughter a G, she saw me kill a n***a in front of her before the age of two.”
This unflinching and largely unapologetic narrative style is a key trope of DaBaby’s tried-and-trusted formula, though his hit-making blueprint has faced derision as his music continues to saturate the market. ‘Blame It On Baby’ does begin to fight back against these one-trick-pony accusations – see the trips down the song-rap avenues of ‘Champion’ and obvious single ‘Find My Way’. The title track, though, is the most successful left-turn: over four beat changes, DaBaby hints at some much-needed versatility. “They be like: ‘Why you switched the beat?’ / Because my flow neat,” he winks. “‘I thought he couldn’t switch the flow, how the hell he switching the beat up?’”
DaBaby’s detractors might not be defeated with ‘Blame It On Baby’, but this latest project succeeds by further propelling the rapper’s soaring momentum even while in lockdown. Once this pandemic ends, expect DaBaby to be one of the first out of the blocks.
- Release date: April 17
- Record label: Interscope / South Coast Music Group