Cowboy hat NATIONAL THEATRE and jewellery DaBaby's own

DaBa­by: North Carolina’s finest

Volume 4 Issue 001: The outlandish rapper bringing rhymes out of the nursery.

Arti­cle tak­en from from The Face Vol­ume 4 Issue 001. Order your copy here.

Every­one in the world wants to be a rap­per,” declares DaBa­by, his set of $20,000 dia­mond teeth widen­ing into a Cheshire cat grin. The North Car­oli­na native is a walk­ing advert for his cho­sen career path. Equal­ly as daz­zling as his gril­lz are the super-sized rings weigh­ing down his fin­gers. They’re the result of a mil­lion-dol­lar spree at John­ny Dang, the Texas jew­ellers respon­si­ble for lin­ing the mouths of every­one from Travis Scott to Olympic cham­pi­on swim­mer Ryan Lochte.

The 27-year-old (born Jonathan Lyn­dale Kirk) is in Lon­don for the first time. But it’s not all the five-star hotel flex­ing his Insta­gram would have you believe. DaBaby’s eye­ing this as a busi­ness trip. He’s paid vis­its to the YouTube and Spo­ti­fy offices (“I’ve been net­­working”), and blames his late­ness for our shoot on drink­ing the wrong type” of Hen­nessey dur­ing an appear­ance on BBC 1Xtra last night. That cheap shit will fuck you up!”

DaBaby’s break­out hit Suge has had hun­dreds of mil­lions of YouTube views and Spo­ti­fy streams. His Ins­ta fol­low­ing is almost four mil­lion. He’s con­sid­ered the break­out rap­per of 2019, but he’s been grind­ing for a while, drop­ping his first mix­tape under the name Baby Jesus in 2015. Hav­ing recent­ly signed a deal with Inter­scope, his major label debut, Baby On Baby, arrived in March, with Suge catch­ing fire thanks to DaBaby’s husky tone emit­ting tight, pre­cise triplet flows.

He’s also devel­oped a dis­tinc­tive per­sona, a blend of machis­mo, intense ener­gy and sur­re­al humour. When he arrives for The Face shoot, DaBa­by is wear­ing a neon Stone Island sweat­suit and bright blue cow­boy hat. He’s always on”, too, turn­ing up sur­round­ed by a cam­era crew, Reel Goats, who fol­low him every­where. He intro­duces the direc­tor, James Rico, as the mas­ter goat. Call him Billy”.

Reel Goats are the brains behind eccen­tric videos such as the one for Baby Sit­ter. Fea­tur­ing Migos rap­per Off­set, it’s halfway between Step Broth­ers and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. They speak to the rapper’s visu­al tastes, which recall the era of MTV TRL and the gold­en age of absur­dist music videos by the likes of Ludacris and Eminem. In Suge he riffs on the line pack in the mail, it’s gone” to act out the part of a crooked post­man, drop-kick­ing parcels and piss­ing on a guy’s porch.

Jacket SUPREME and sunglasses ACE AND TATE

In June, DaBa­by rolled out a mem­o­rable per­for­mance of Suge at the Black Enter­tain­ment Tele­vi­sion (BET) Awards in Los Ange­les. Sport­ing a Janet Jack­son face mic and flanked by dancers dressed as inflat­able pink infants, he strut­ted through the crowd in a mus­cle suit and red roll­neck, a bold homage to Death Row Records’ fear­some (and incar­cer­at­ed) CEO Suge Knight. As he left the cer­e­mo­ny in LA that night, he learned that the track had gone plat­inum. They had a plaque wait­ing for me,” he grins of the sales discs tra­di­tion­al­ly pre­sent­ed to big-sell­ing artists.

Not unlike Knight, DaBa­by has had his share of legal issues. Last year he was involved in an alter­ca­tion in a North Car­oli­na Wal­mart, which led to the fatal shoot­ing of a 19-year-old man. DaBa­by took to social media to claim that he was with his two tod­dlers and their moth­er, and that he had no choice but to act in self-defence. He was found guilty of car­ry­ing a con­cealed weapon, but pros­e­cu­tors chose not to pur­sue any oth­er charges.

More recent­ly, in May 2019 a video sur­faced of fel­low North Car­oli­na rap­per Cam Cold­heart, who’d been feud­ing with DaBa­by on social media, approach­ing and taunt­ing DaBa­by at a Louis Vuit­ton store in a mall in Char­lotte, NC. A fol­low-up video with the cap­tion when bul­ly­ing Baby on the inter­net goes wrong” depict­ed Cold­heart on the floor with a blood­ied nose and his trousers around his ankles.

My next album’s going plat­inum in less than 30 days. Num­ber One off the roof! Fo’ sho’!”

You got­ta bring it back to the music, right back to the busi­ness,” a defi­ant DaBa­by says, smil­ing, when I men­tion this. Make every­thing work out in a lucra­tive way.” And he means it quite lit­er­al­ly: DaBa­by turned the inci­dent into a merch line, sell­ing T-shirts with a car­toon depic­tion of the events and a shop assis­tant say­ing: Sir, your belt!”

He’s always been this fly, albeit with a bit less argy-bar­gy involved. In his ear­ly days, DaBaby’s team would employ guer­ril­la mar­ket­ing tac­tics like slap­ping stick­ers on real estate signs and hold­ing up the giant baby images to pro­mote his work. At SXSW in 2017, he walked around wear­ing only a nap­py. I can put on a dia­per and they girl­friend still lis­tens to my music,” he told The Break­fast Club radio show, shrug­ging off the ridicule he received. You might say his tac­tics are divi­sive, but in the atten­tion econ­o­my that is the cur­rent music busi­ness, there’s no doubt that DaBa­by is some­thing of a mar­ket­ing genius.

Cape NATIONAL THEATRE

It’s not just the PR stunts that have got him this far. DaBa­by has a robust, agile rap­ping style and a pref­er­ence for hard-as-nails, no-non­sense beats. In an era dom­i­nat­ed com­mer­cial­ly by melod­i­cal­ly-dri­ven, Auto-Tuned rap­pers, his sound stands out. 

You could com­pare his career tra­jec­to­ry to that of Megan Thee Stal­lion, the Hous­ton rap­per who’s stormed through 2019 thanks to a com­bo of tech­ni­cal abil­i­ty and her Hot Girl Sum­mer con­cept going viral. DaBa­by showed up to deliv­er a raunchy guest verse on her recent album Fever, and both caught a buzz with their vers­es for XXL magazine’s Fresh­man freestyle cypher. She’s dope,” DaBa­by says of Megan. She’s one of the hottest females in rap right now.”

In per­son DaBa­by radi­ates an intense ener­gy he can bare­ly con­tain. Dit­to his cre­ativ­i­ty. He tells me he’s about to drop anoth­er album, ad-lib­bing gang!” for empha­sis. It’s going plat­inum in less than 30 days,” he insists. Promise. Num­ber One off the roof! Fo’ sho’!

You got­ta be self-suf­fi­cient, you know?” DaBa­by says of his hunger for suc­cess. Not get signed and sit on your ass and wait for [the record label] to tell you what’s next.”

He cred­its his aspi­ra­tional atti­tude to his uncle, who helped raise him – his father was in the army and often away. He told young Jonathan to always want more and to reach for what­ev­er you think is unat­tain­able.” So, from the age of five, he decid­ed he want­ed to live in a man­sion and nev­er work a nine-to-five.

My mom said that when I was a kid I was claim­ing that by the time I was an adult I’d be some­thing spec­tac­u­lar,” he says, flash­ing that smile again. I always felt like I was spe­cial. Always.”

Groom­ing Mari­na Rose, Pro­duc­tion Rosan­na Gould­man, Pho­tog­ra­phy assis­tance Víc­tor Paré, Andre Jacques, Styling assis­tance Wisam Mas­ri and Aman­da Jiang, Pro­duc­tion Man­age­ment Kather­ine Bamp­ton. Thanks to Street Stu­dios, Nicole Ojo and Mit­su­mi Reh-Van


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