DaBaby and Ludacris have frequently faced comparisons, so why not look a little deeper as to why that might be?
It’s alarming how little people tend to acknowledge Ludacris’ presence in hip-hop’s pantheon of greats. Modern-day discourse surrounding Luda’s overall contributions to the game is all but non-existent. Though it has been approximately five years since he dropped off his last studio project in Ludaversal, prior to that he was responsible for eight studio albums -- many of which have gone multi-platinum. A case could even be made that projects like 2002’s Word Of Mouf and 2003’s Chicken-n-Beer are classics, with the latter going on to spawn a delicious Atlanta-based restaurant; speaking from first-hand experience, the titular dish is delicious.
Tempting though it may be to wax poetic about Luda’s artistic accomplishments, it would require a far deeper stroll down memory lane to do such a process justice. Instead the aim is to focus on the impact of his influence, most recently channeled by a recent breakout star: North Carolina’s own DaBaby, the charismatic and mischievous mind behind Baby On Baby and Kirk. During Baby’s seemingly overnight rise, it wasn’t uncommon to hear the rapper draw comparisons to Ludacris, which in itself was enough to pique an old head’s interest. For many, the comparison seemed to derive from a similar approach to music videos, in which comedy was given ample space to flourish. Yet if given a second glance, there are a few more stylistic parallels that go beyond that of visual aesthetic.
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Hilarious though Ludacris may be, both through his unparalleled punchlines and his eye for cartoonishly grotesque visuals, his debut album Back For The First Time highlighted a more formidable side of his persona. That of a man prone to violence, ready and willing to throw his elbows if provoked. Songs like the threatening “Stick Em Up” found Luda flexing his menacing bravado, spitting bars like “it's mighty strange how your peephole is my fuckin gauge, catch you in concert and then wipe you off the fuckin stage.” On his sophomore drop Word Of Mouf, “Get The Fuck Back” painted a picture of a man on the edge, one who enjoyed disturbing the peace through gunfire and a deftly-swung Louisville slugger. Never once was it forced, the idle talk of a funnyman. There was credibility there, much in the same way DaBaby’s similarly-issued threats have come to resonate.
In Baby’s case, his actions have served as a megaphone for his words. Whether he’s defending himself from a gunman or administering knockout blows in a jewelry store, DaBaby has proven he’s willing to take it there if need be; some have even forewarned that his explosive temper might ultimately prove to be his undoing, if only from a legal standpoint. From a musical standpoint, his past has proven beneficial in injecting his more violent bars with gravitas; after all, one does not simply become “Suge” through paperwork alone. “You disrespect me and I'll beat your ass up, all in front of your partner and children,” he warns, juxtaposed against the video’s playful aesthetic.
Like Ludacris, Baby found a way to inject genuine comedy into his music without making it the focal point of. That’s not to say they’re alone in that accomplishment -- artists like Redman, DJ Quik, Busta Rhymes, and Eminem were but a few hilarious pre-millennium emcees-- but Luda and DaBaby both managed the feat with their charisma maxed out at all times. Not to mention their shared ability to craft simple yet effective hip-hop hits. Unlike some of the more notable hitmakers of his era, Ludacris never quite dabbled in chasing crossover success. From “What’s Your Fantasy” to “Area Codes,” “Saturday” to “Stand Up,” Luda’s lyrically-heavy formula remained unchanged, his bars never falling by the wayside. Though he did switch the style up as the years progressed, Luda’s first four years found him winning fans without lowering his personal bar. Consider that a song like “Saturday,” arguably one of his defining singles, kept pace on the charts without the slightest whiff of a melodic structure. Even “Area Codes,” which featured a massive hook from the late great Nate Dogg, largely flourished through Luda’s lyricism and confident presence.
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The same can be said of DaBaby’s own key singles like the aforementioned “Suge,” which managed to stand out as something wholly original. Why? Because he just rapped. No trap-drums or autotune, only personality-fueled bars. Though some have taken to criticizing his flow as repetitive, the fact that he made a name for himself off the strength of his bars should be commended. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Baby verse where he’s not commanding the same presence, whether it’s the Lil Baby-assisted “Baby,” the Chance The Rapper locker room anthem “Hot Shower,” or his dexterous duet with Offset “Baby Sitter.” If that wasn’t enough, DaBaby’s flow even earned him high praise from the “Rap God” himself, Eminem, who shouted him out on Crook’s Corner. “I never know where his rhymes are gonna land,” praised Em. “That shit is so interesting to me cause he does it so well.”
Though both men largely thrive while delivering exuberant and intense punchline-heavy raps, that’s not to say they don’t share a willingness to get personal. For DaBaby, Kirk’s “Intro” opened eyes to the man behind the moniker, earning him respect for switching up his style without selling out his sound. Though Ludacris has covered similar thematic ground on songs like “Cold Outside,” which elicited emotion without veering too far into autobiographical territory, he seldom spends too much time perusing his own life story. One quality the pair do share, however, is an insatiable appetite for lusty females. Had they both come out in the same era, you can all but guarantee the pair would have concocted a hedonistic smut banger. DaBaby might not be as dexterous with the double-time as Luda on “Freaky Thangs,” but he’s never been washed on a track thus far. Though the timing might be a few years too late, perhaps we’ll see such a union manifest on Luda’s upcoming tenth studio album. Think of the pandemonium that might ensue.