Hip-hop is excited about DaBaby. The Charlotte-born rapper has become the talk of every rap town from Raleigh to Richmond. Few newcomers have been inserted into the conversation this year like DaBaby. His name is everywhere—a Platinum single, countless features, viral headlines, and endless debates.
It’s not surprising to see DaBaby, born Jonathan Kirk, release a second project in 2019. Only six months separate Baby on Baby, his well-received, major-label debut, from this sudden follow up. With so many eyes and ears on the 27-year-old rap rookie, not releasing a new body of work while the iron is scorching hot would be a misstep.
The question is: how will DaBaby keep the fire burning?
In usual 1-Listen album review fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
DaBaby starts rapping as soon as you press play. I wasn’t ready man, sheesh. Okay, personal rhymes to begin. It’s nice to hear him dig a bit deep into his life. There’s so much heart in these lyrics. I love the beat, a soulful loop with lighthearted percussion. “We shocked the world.” His newfound fame hasn’t made DaBaby jaded or disgruntled. He has such a mature outlook on the rise of his star. DaBaby is focused. A strong second verse. An overall strong intro. Keeper.
2. “OFF THE RIP”
Hahaha, he just mentioned how he doesn’t wait for the drop. We stan a self-aware rapper. This beat is a moon bounce. I like the number of words his delivery can fit in a flow. It’s plenty, but not overly compact. “OFF THE RIP” is so swift! It’s too early to try to keep up with this man. He is as fast as Jerry escaping Tom. He is as fast as a cheetah racing a cheetah. I like it. Will revisit. “I’m still the best rapper.”
Two songs in and Baby went from being personal to talking his shit. Okay, a Jetson drop. What is that loop? It sounds like an exotic wind instrument. The bounce is good; it jumps into your shoulders. Baby is surfing, coasting with ease. Ha, a line about switching his flow. Is he reading the comments? He seems to know what the world is saying. Instead of fighting it, he’s leaning in. He’s like Jim from The Office breaking the third wall by looking into the camera. “BOP” might be the banger. In some ways, a sequel to “Suge.”
Oh yeah! “VIBEZ” is an unexpected switch. The energy is high. “Baby should run for president.” I don’t know about that, but he has charisma. Lyrically, I’m not as arrested as I want to be. His delivery is more enthralling than what he’s saying. I want to love this one, but it’s just okay. The last few lines were good. I’ll have to come back.
5. “POP STAR” ft. Kevin Gates
DaBaby doesn’t let you have a second to breathe. I’m glad “POP STAR” is a bit slower. I’m enjoying the record partially because it doesn’t seem like DaBaby is rushing to the finish line. “They gonna say I went pop.” Kevin Gates is going to push it over. Yep, his voice is cash money. Gates is going to be a feature killer if he decides to go on a run. Wouldn’t be surprised if “POP STAR” becomes the fan-favorite. The best DaBaby songs are satisfying as a good appetizer. Every song doesn’t need to be filet mignon; sometimes, you need hot wings and mozzarella sticks.
6.“GOSPEL” ft. Chance the Rapper, Gucci Mane & YK Osiris
Gospel keys. “Some of that Ghetto Gospel shit.” Oh man, his dad died the same week as Nipsey. I love this production. It’s trap gospel. DaBaby raps like he's running from the cops or running out of studio time. That verse was so fast! I have to go back and absorb everything he talked about. This is squeaky-voice Chance. He sounds good. He’s floating. Gucci! Still one of my favorite voices in rap. “Paranoia, all this money, moving cautious.” Chance and Gucci are much calmer than DaBaby. An early favorite. DaBaby put together a strong, meaningful record.
7. “iPHONE” ft. Nicki Minaj
This album is showcasing a different palette of records from Baby on Baby. The features and production pair DaBaby’s rap style with new company. “I’m a legend like Michael.” I wish rappers would wait until they start making legendary moves to claim such titles. DaBaby is special, he can very well speak that into existence, but as of late, it seems like everyone is so eager to be more than just a promising star. Nicki has done a lot of rapping this year, especially when you consider she is supposed to be retired. The double-time flow is a smooth performance. She’s doing a lot for someone who retired a few weeks ago. The hook is funny. Apple has to put some money behind this one. Some radio potential here.
8. “TOES” ft. Lil Baby & Moneybagg Yo
I’m feeling good about this one. It’s colder than the freezer that holds all Gucci Mane’s diamonds. DaBaby is walking on water. The beat is a perfect contrast to his voice. It’s so light. Wow, I wasn’t ready for the Kenny drop. He’s so versatile. He is reaching that next level as a go-to producer. Lil Baby! Man, this is the Lil Baby and DaBaby collab I dreamed of. He is surprisingly calmer here. Oh, man, the verse ended before he caught the stride. Moneybagg Yo. Another great rap voice. Southern voices just sound better over trap drums. He ate this. Another banger. The album has a great middle.
9. “REALLY” ft. Stunna 4 Vegas
“REALLY” sounds like a Saturday night after all you pay all your invoices. It’s a party. What’s that sample in the back? It’s a nice texture. DaBaby is tap dancing. I can’t see how DaBaby could skip class; he’s the kind of person you instantly recognize is missing from the room. He is so entertaining. Stunna's voice is so funny. You can tell he is a riot in person. I like this verse. There’s a certain energy to it. A perfect hook.
10. “PROLLY HEARD”
Bounce! “Probably heard I’m broke from a broke nigga.” He’s rapping with rap star confidence. He knows he’s the man. The bars are scattered across this one. Every line is a caption. Production is hitting harder than Thor’s hammer. “I’m from Charlotte, you die when its beef.” Man, that’s big dog energy. Keeper
11. “RAW SHIT” ft. Migos
Keys! The production on this album is incredible. Each song gets better. DaBaby isn’t letting a moment go by without reminding the naysayers that he made it. Rumble, young man rumble. Hahaha. I’m glad to hear a rapper proud to be on BET. Quavo! He sounds good. I’m ready for some new Migos. I wish Takeoff or Offset would’ve started as his verse ended. Takeoff! He just rhymed Actavis and activist. How is he not the best Migo? Oh yes, this beat is perfect for the Migos. Offset! “RAW SHIT” might be the best Migos song I’ve heard in a minute. His verse was short, but it was good to hear him. Keeper.
12. “THERE HE GO”
Two more records to go. London production. He’s killing these keys. DaBaby is levitating. “I’m going to buy a Lambo before the fans buy this album, bitch.” When was this album recorded? He has quite a few mentions of going Platinum. I have no idea what this hook is; it sounds like Oompa-Loompas speaking in tongue. Okay, well, whatever. The second verse keeps the momentum going. I’m almost certain KIRK was made for stunting on his haters. Well, motivation is motivation. I’ll come back to it.
There’s not a bad beat on this album. DaBaby sounds like a human torch. A man on fire. This is really good. Oh man, that 2Pac bar. He’s in a zone. Does he get a fade every week? This is incredible. Lyrically, my favorite performance. There’s so much self-awareness. He knows people don’t know him, so he gives slices of life and slices of persona. “I’m the best rapper.”
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on DaBaby's KIRK:
DaBaby knows who he is, and sense of self is apparent all throughout KIRK. He raps with the confidence of a Platinum rapper, the charisma of a ladies man, and the tough exterior of a soldier. All these different sides of his public persona have a voice on his second album of 2019, carefully mixed in with features from his life that are more personal.
DaBaby’s famous flow finds a few new pockets (“BOP”) on KIRK, but his wordy delivery isn’t changed substantially. Some performances (“XXL”) are stronger than others (“VIBEZ”), but his token wrestling move never burns out or feels stale.
Although DaBaby is the star of his own show, the stellar production and robust features help keep KIRK sounding fresh. It’s a fast album, moving as fast as his flow, but there’s plenty of material to return to. KIRK isn’t the album that makes DaBaby a legend or helps him to rise in ranks of the best rappers alive, but it does feel like the beginning of a career that will be quite entertaining.
By Yoh, aka YOH, aka @Yoh31