DaBaby – ‘Kirk’ review: the spirited rapper sounds all grown up on his coming-of-age album

The Carolina rapper has long been admired for his cockiness, but here he dials down the braggadocio, reflecting on the hardship and loss of family life

Rap’s dark horse DaBaby – real name Jonathan Lyndale Kirk – hasn’t come to play with his new album. He’s renowned for his absurd cockiness, and his performances and madcap music videos prove his sense sharp of humour. But the rapper’s second album, ‘KIRK’, is more serious in tone than his previous output, showing us how he’s grown since his debut studio album ‘Baby On Baby’ was certified Gold in America.

That debut was only released in March, yet the Carolina musician has already diversified his sound with the symphonic piano keys on the moving ‘GOSPEL’, which explores his journey to fame. Collaborating with Chance the Rapper, Gucci Mane, and YK Osiris, he explores the death of father earlier this year.

Doing the joyous beat justice, Kirk goes back and forth with YK Osiris as he struggles to suppress his woes in the chorus: “I lost my daddy the same week that they lost Nipsey / Ain’t got no love left in my heart; my shit be empty”. The JetsonMade-produced beat is hypnotising, its soulful feel softening the difficult subject matter.

‘GOSPEL’ isn’t the only track dedicated to his father. Lead single ‘INTRO’ alludes to Kirk’s relationships with his father, as well as his family and DaBaby’s bittersweet success. While the rapper has been in the spotlight, his father has passed and his mother’s fought cancer. The rapper, known for his larger-than-life demeanour, here show us another side of himself – that of the family man who doesn’t “give a fuck about the world, just ’bout my people”.

Yet DaBaby isn’t a cookie-cutter representation of the everyday family man. This is perfectly presented in ‘OFF THE RIP’, a song full of satiricals, which is interrupted by his frequently mentioned daughter. His two-year-old tells her daddy “I wanna watch YouTube” when the beat cuts. But that doesn’t stop him from stuffing it with tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “Ayy, when you gon’ stop? / Whenever the fat lady sing, I don’t listen to opera“.

Although this record is often emotional, Kirk also races over snappy hit-hats and repetitive synths, showing off his giddy flow. ‘RAW SHIT’ is a perfect example of his irrepressible persona. Previous collaborator Offset joins DaBaby with his other Migos members over repetitive piano notes and deafening 808 drums. Talking about the colossal success and lavish lifestyles, the quarter’s splashy lyrics show that cocky side DaBaby has become well-known for: “Walkin’ ’round in my drawers / Talking shit in my castle”.

DaBaby has emotionally matured over the last six months, a fact that is reflected in his lyrics. Even if he has the superfluous style of the old DaBaby, there’s greater depth here than there was before. He once referred to himself as ‘Lil Jon Jon’, but that’s impossible now; this baby is not so little any more.