DaBaby Graduates From Kindergarten on “KIRK”

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DaBaby Graduates From Kindergarten on “KIRK”

DaBaby just released

DaBaby just released "KIRK." (Template Courtesy of Facebook/Graphic by Kieran Press-Reynolds)

DaBaby just released "KIRK." (Template Courtesy of Facebook/Graphic by Kieran Press-Reynolds)

DaBaby just released "KIRK." (Template Courtesy of Facebook/Graphic by Kieran Press-Reynolds)

Sam Hadelman, Contributing Writer

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This past Thursday, 2019’s hottest rapper, DaBaby, dropped his highly-anticipated record “KIRK.”

DaBaby has been on a complete tear since early 2018, with smash hits like “Next Song,” “Blank Blank” and “Walker Texas Ranger.” With his Missy Elliot-style music videos and braggadocios demeanor comparable to Cam’ron or Nelly, DaBaby is a model for conventional rap. In an era where septum piercings, elaborate face tattoos and colored hair reign supreme, DaBaby is in a lane of his own.

He represents the classic style of rap that previous generations have hailed, with quick-paced rhymes and a mafioso persona.

DaBaby has been grinding for years, and early on in his career he was partially known for his antics off-the-mic. At SXSW, he paraded around in a diaper while promoting his then-underground music. Following that, DaBaby had a string of incidents in his life that would only add to his musical persona, like getting in fights.

In a world where rappers are publicly announcing that the lifestyles they live are curated and fake — for example, Tekashi 6ix9ine — the fact that there is direct evidence of DaBaby living out his raps makes him resonate more with fans. Though off-mic antics shouldn’t be the marker for longevity in hip-hop, authenticity breeds success and DaBaby is a prime example.

Early on, DaBaby stuck to a specific vocal formula, which is an art in itself. The criticism that “all his songs sound the same” always seemed off base. I would rather an artist perfect their sound than try to recreate themselves into an image they are clearly not. That said, the question that “KIRK” answers is whether DaBaby can build on his established sound and create something beyond the bounds of “Baby on Baby” and “Blank Blank,” which were both phenomenal, but predictable, projects.

“KIRK” shows a side of DaBaby that is more sentimental in nature than his previous raps, which consisted of bragging about his sexual exploits in foreign locations and the car he’s driving that day. This sentimentality is a double-edged sword: while it shows a different side of his personality, it makes clear that he is at his most concise and appealing when talking about the more R-rated aspects of his life.

DaBaby does a great job balancing high-caliber rapping over stellar production from Kenny Beats and jetsonmade while making music that is accessible to the masses. This is an art that few artists have truly mastered in today’s world. Keeping your city’s sound — which is North Carolina for DaBaby — while trying to communicate it to the rest of America is a difficult task.

The album plays directly to DaBaby’s strengths with fast-paced beats and complementary features.

I was really nervous for the track “GOSPEL” with Chance the Rapper, Gucci Mane and YK Osiris, since the recent output of all these artists wouldn’t seem to flatter DaBaby’s style. However, it comes together well. Gucci Mane and YK Osiris carry the track while Chance stays consistent with his mid-life crisis raps, which we were subjected to on his lackluster debut “The Big Day.”

DaBaby shines on songs with Kevin Gates, who has also made a career of authenticity and transparency.

My favorite moments on the whole album came on two tracks: “TOES” and “REALLY.” On the latter, DaBaby emanates magnetic energy with fellow label-mate Stunna 4 Vegas that is reminiscent of hip-hop’s best recent duos, like Gunna & Lil Baby. They both bring out something in each other that makes you forget that DaBaby is the biggest new rapper in the business; it brings the roots out, displaying the talent that brought him this far.

As for “TOES,” DaBaby clicks extremely well with Lil Baby and Moneybagg Yo, two rappers who similarly rely heavily on specific vocal formulas for their success. The production from Kenny Beats lends itself fruitful for DaBaby’s punchline-heavy flow.

Though I do not think this is the best project that DaBaby could produce, it was a great reminder of how talented and necessary he is in today’s music world.

With “KIRK” predicted to sell 150,000 records in its first week, it is easy to say that DaBaby has sped up his journey to rap super-stardom.