What happened to reliability? Kanye West admitted that “it’s been a shaky-ass year” back in 2018, and a jolty, quaking feeling of foundations faltering has continued to define popular hip-hop lately. Just this weekend, West blew off two separate release dates. This summer, Lil Nas X, a previously unfamous meme maker too young to drink, broke seemingly unbreakable chart records by donning country-western drag. Nicki Minaj retired—and then released more music. Jay-Z partnered with the sports league he’d mocked in song, and whose boycott by artists he’d reportedly supported.
But DaBaby’s rise has provided an anchor. Over the course of 2019, the 27-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, rapper has rocketed to ubiquity by guest-featuring on more than a dozen songs by other artists, enjoying a top 10 Billboard hit with the bouncy single “Suge,” and moving more than a half-million units of his March debut album, Baby on Baby. Now his follow-up album, Kirk, is likely to debut at No. 1. Goofy, talented, and distinctive, he’s hard to dislike. The biggest knock on his music is that it’s too consistent.
Indeed, listening to DaBaby is like turning on a faucet with good water pressure: You always know what’s going to happen, and you always know it’s going to be immediate. DaBaby likes to begin stringing together lyrics ahead of the beat’s arrival, and it can almost sound like he’s rambling. But when the rhythm eventually clicks in with the words, the sensation is as satisfying as a successful card trick. His voice is all round edges and solid cores; he clips his words so that they’re clean and legible, and yet they also seem to run into one another. Often, he’ll seem on the verge of laughing. Other times, he talks very fast and sounds very unbothered.