INTERVIEW: DaBaby details his comedic rap style and attitude, talks Ludacris comparisons and fellow "baby" colleagues.
DaBaby's comedic rap style doesn't hearken back to any one person. But I hardly knew that at the start of our exchange. DaBaby's appeal in the Gullah states tricked me into believing he was something he is not. When in fact, the new Interscope signee is actually somewhat of an unprecedented workhorse in his native Charlotte, North Carolina.
Off the top, the first thing that strikes me about DaBaby after speaking to him is his self-discipline. Appearances can be deceiving, even the image we've all seen of him strapped in a diaper, dating back to an SXSW showing in the year 2017. It's a gag he will gladly speak about to this day, though I reckon the remnants are totally insignificant. DaBaby and I took time to chop it up during a maniacal promotional run in New York. The weeklong festivities landed him in the Breakfast Club hot seat, their concerns differing from ours rather substantially.
Of interest to us is the lore behind his big label debut Baby on Baby, released only a week ago under the SCMG venture he signed with Interscope. Not only is he ready and willing to upstage the other "babies" in the game, but he wants to do it at an all-time level. Let me preface this by saying: the toddler motif is something he likens to the "Slim Shady" persona exhibited by Eminem, and as per my suggestion, the version of Ludacris we all know and love.
DaBaby is ready to be crowned the new king of comedy in hip-hop, and if you've seen the antics he displayed in the "Suge" music video, you'd be hard-pressed to disagree. But on a more profound level, the sparkling debutant is actually something of a visionary. The Carolinas are now his for the taking.
DaBaby at the HNHH office, March 7 2019
HNHH: How you doing man?
DaBaby: Devin what's going on, what's going on?
I'm doing well, how about yourself?
Great, great, great.
First off, congratulations on the new record.
Appreciate it. Which one are we talking about?
The whole LP.
Oh yeah, Baby on Baby. Appreciate you.
For sure, for sure, it's a real solid record. Where do I begin? It doesn’t take a total genius to figure out the comedic role you’re playing. You used poop as a prop in the "Suge" music video. You wore muscle padding too. There’s no point in naming all the gags, just listing them off doesn’t really do you justice. All in all, your comedic act really elicits memories of Ludacris popping steroids in the "Get Back" video, or the rap persona he popularized, plain and simple. Does the Luda comparison ring true for you?
Yeah, just for people to say 'you do videos like Ludacris' or Busta Rhymes for that matter, is crazy. I do realize those were the folks doing the important video work when I was a child. Everybody watched music videos back then. It was a big deal. I remember the crazy videos Eminem put out, even Lil Wayne to an extent, but that was later on. Nelly too. You hear what I’m saying?
As you mention Nelly, does "Batter Up" video come to mind?
Yeah videos like that. That's what a lot of people are saying I’m bringing back to the game.
Missy Elliott with that bubble coat!
Plus, you're from North Carolina, it must mean something to you.
That brings up the question, are you hoping to break rapper stereotypes through your video exploits, or perhaps cut through all the mean mugging in rap?
I really just do me. I'm not afraid to be creative and push the envelope when it comes to creating a vision for my music. I'm not doing [comedy] so much to break stereotypes, it just happens naturally. Every rapper doesn't need to be a tough guy in the video, with guns, staring into the camera like they're going to scare somebody. It doesn't need to go down like that anymore. I'm making it okay to have fun with your content.
I see a parallel with Migos here, in the way they shoot their videos in costume, yeah? But more specifically, does this inclination towards comedy come from a darker place too?
Yeah, it's a day to day thing. People need to laugh. I know personally, I find humor in any situation, good or bad. Once you make a joke about [hardship] you feel a whole lot better. Laughter is good for the soul, so I try to have fun with whatever I do and things I do for others. It'll all come around.
I think you're right.
Music makes you feel a certain way, especially when you’re watching videos. I'd like that feeling to be a good feeling, Know what I mean?
I do. It seems to be working thus far. When I look at your contemporaries, someone like Ski Mask The Slump God comes to mind. His comedic style is totally anchored by short ending puns, whereas yours has a whole lot more poise to it. To my previous point, would you say a fair number of your contemporaries are guilty of taking themselves too seriously, maybe even from the commercial side of things?
Absolutely. I don't see the point of being overly serious. You're more marketable when you're willing to do whatever. People think it makes you less of a man, but in reality, it makes you more of a man. More of an individual, the more you try new things, instead of trying to impress the crowd. You don't need to put a frown on your face to get your point across. There's something to gain from not being like everybody else, less angry, and less serious than you’d be under normal circumstances. More power to you, but that [mean mugging] ain't the way I want to live, personally-speaking.
Sounds like you are very much willing to explore the peculiar side of your personality.
I've got to give you credit for that. I'm big on your album. I think the whole office is digging on it as we speak. I was talking to my colleague in Atlanta, and she was saying your come-up hasn't gone the traditional route. Is there any truth to that statement?
Yeah, I think so. I didn't pop because of a hot song, or a viral video. At the end of the day, I popped because of my music, and the movement behind it: by being unique at every opportunity. It definitely separates me from the pack, off the rip. I followed it all up with a project like Baby on Baby. That’s it!
Baby on Baby is for the majority of rap listeners, a formal introduction to your work and your personality, truthfully speaking. If you’re willing to spill the details, how did the Interscope signing come to be, and who were the main players involved?
I signed with SCMG and we went in. We were dealing with Joie Manda from Interscope, and finally, we put together a joint venture situation. It's basically a 50/50 partnership with South Coast Music Group and Interscope. They make great partners. They let me be myself. They just add fuel to fire, give me the green light, etc. It's really coming together great.
Does that include you taking on A&R responsibilities either now or down the road?
I already do have an independent label.
Can you shed some light on that?
I really just got done focusing on that, out of respect for the people that helped me get up. The label is called Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment. We’ve got Stunna4Vegas, we've got...
True, Stunna is featured on the new album right?
Yep, yep. He was one of the four features on the album, nahmean? He was the only feature on my previous project. The kid's a superstar. Hottest young'n in the streets. We've also got 704Chop on the team, super talented, both of them are from North Carolina. I'm already two steps ahead in that sense, in bringing more talent to the mainstream immediately. I'm trying to shed a light on what we got going on in the area where I'm from.
You know I've got to bring up Petey Pablo right about now.
Petey Pablo definitely held it down for the Carolinas for a long time. Everywhere I go they bring his name up. In fact, a lot of people know the Carolinas thanks to Petey Pablo. Now I'm bringing a whole new wave to the world.
Good on you. You sure as hell aren't the only "baby" in the game, but you're really honing in on the toddler theme like nobody else. Where does the "baby" thing come from, was it a nickname?
Coming into the game my name was Baby Jesus but I switched it up to keep from stepping on any toes. I didn't want to break it down for every single person I ran into, know what I'm saying? In the end, we went with DaBaby, but that was like three or four years ago. I knew no other name would be as unique as Baby Jesus.
Is there another "Baby Jesus" in the game?
It is what it is, we switched it up. To be quite honest with you, I like the fact there are other people with similar names because it puts more pressure on every last one of us to show why we different. I like the pressure.
Especially if you're willing to answer the call. It's not as if the other "babies" are small fish. Birdman, Lil Baby, you're in good company.
You had Offset, Rich Homie Quan and Rich the Kid feature on Baby on Baby, a pretty impressive haul for a debut record, if I might say so myself. With that said, who's on your radar, both past, and present, if I were to ask you to build a dream album right here right now, who would you feature on it?
Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, basically anybody considered a great or a legend. Jay-Z, all the elites, I would put ‘em on there to show 'I'm the fucking best.'
Okay, last question. Very simple: who's in your Top 5 of All-Time? No pressure…
No pressure! In order or not?
No order, course not.
I’ll go with Eminem, Lil Wayne, 2Pac, Jay-Z, and ughhhh DaBaby.
I’ll let you get away with that one. Honestly, I do hope you reach the pantheon next to the guys you just listed.
For sure, appreciate you.
Appreciate you too. Thanks for taking the time.