DaBaby Is a Humble Marketing Genius and, Sometimes, a Cowboy
DaBaby understands his brand, even if you do not. His most recent album is titled Baby on Baby. The project’s artwork features a big DaBaby smiling as a miniature DaBaby sits on the brim of his hat. The third song on that album is “Goin Baby.” In years past, he’s featured the Boss Baby (best known for DreamWorks’ 2017 film The Boss Baby) with a fade and face tattoo on the cover of a mixtape (Baby Talk 5), and appeared at SXSW in a diaper. The brand, for lack of any other word, is baby.
There a few things to note about DaBaby from my observations of the rising rapper: he’s a marketing genius, a music video savant and, surprisingly, humble. In 2019, rappers are lucky to have one of those qualities, but rarely possess all three. He also seems to enjoy the act of rapping in a way that makes him stand out from his peers. Often, DaBaby is so excited by a beat that he launches into a verse mere seconds after it begins. Raspy, boisterous and intricate, DaBaby’s voice is as entertaining as his physical persona. It’s the artistic anchor that allows him to convincingly play a cowboy one minute and impersonate Suge Knight the next.
During a phone conversation, the North Carolina rapper balanced unfiltered confidence with measured humility. He may feel like he’s the best rapper alive, but at 27 years old he’s been waiting longer than most for his turn. It’s potentially why he’ll pepper the conversations with thoughtful answers, compliment Rolling Stone and thank me at the conversation’s conclusion. DaBaby isn’t taking anything for granted.
For those that don’t know what does the term “Goin’ Baby” mean?
“Goin’ baby,” that’s the new wave. Rolling Stone, I like y’all articles, I like y’all magazine covers. Y’all be goin’ baby. Anything that you do [to] the best it could be done, you goin’ baby. If you hit the gym every day, you go hard, you got your body right, your body goes, you goin’ baby. Females, they goin’ baby. When she put that dress on with them heels and get her hair done, she goin’ baby. When I shoot these game-changing videos, when I chart on Billboard with my debut project with only a week of self-promotion, I’m goin’ baby. Anything that you do exceedingly well you goin’ baby.
In a recent context, most listeners know North Carolina through the eyes of J. Cole. What makes your vision of North Carolina different from his?
It’s coming from two different perspectives. No story is told exactly the same by two different people and we from two different places in North Carolina too. That’s something that can be added to it too. He’s from Fayetteville. I’m from Charlotte. We got two different upbringings. All in all though, I love J. Cole’s perspective and I love his music. I love his approach. It’s just two different things. Shout-out to Cole though.
For people who have never been there, what is it like in Charlotte?
Charlotte, it’s what somebody from New York or L.A. would say is a small town, but it isn’t. It’s right in between being a small town and a city. It’s more of a city. We still got a national basketball team, football team, all that. We still have a downtown, we still have different sides of the town that are completely different from each other. Charlotte is a place to come up, and to do what I’m doing is unheard of. It doesn’t happen like that in Charlotte.
You’re one of the few rappers bringing back that Busta Rhymes, Eminem level of humor to music videos. When did you first develop a visual signature for your videos?
I really came into the game with that. I’ve been wanting to do that from the get-go, but with some of the ideas and the concepts, I come with early on, they would’ve been too much for the viewers. They wouldn’t have been ready to receive that from me. They weren’t. I tried it. I tried to be as crazy as possible in videos, but people are slow to catching onto that, because it’s a fresh face, a new face.
With staying consistent though, that’s what changed it. That’s what shed that light on it. I kind of forced it. I pushed the envelope and now people have no choice. I stayed so consistent with it and did it so much and just grinded to where I got the platform to where I got it…. Now it’s undeniable.
Who do you see as the biggest competition of all the other Babies in rap right now?
Out of all of them right now I’d say Lil Baby, just at where he’s hot at, but I wouldn’t even call it competition. I’m more inspired than anything. Cause the way he came out and rose to the top of the game, I’m more inspired than anything, but I definitely got to take off my hat to what he got going on. But at the end of the day, what’s going to set me apart from anybody else is the fact I’m coming with some different. Through time it’s going to shine through whatever.
“Walker Texas Ranger” was such a breakout moment. It’s one of the best music videos of the year. What inspired that Western theme and for you to commit so much to the character of playing a cowboy?
First and foremost, the production of the track. Shoutout to 20 on the Beat, a producer from right here in Charlotte where I’m from. He sent the beat through and it really just took me on that ride. As far as creating the song, my video concepts they always gon’ tie into the song. So I got to start off with the creation of the song first. It took me on that ride.
I made an analogy comparing myself to Walker, Texas Ranger and I went with it. I got with my video production team the Reel Goats, and I’m like “How dope would it be if I played a cowboy like Walker, Texas Ranger.” I went bought the hat, bought the lil’ uniform. They scouted out locations. We up in the mountains, in the damn desert somewhere, and once we turn the cameras and the music on: “Boom.” I hit a switch and I take it there.
You have a tendency on record to get so excited you’ll start rapping the first second the beat drops.
Where did that come from?
I don’t know. It’s just a testament to my hunger. I can’t even wait for the beat to drop to start eating. It’s all about how I’m feeling and more often than not, especially before I just dropped this project, I feel like it’s time. Anything that’s not given, what’s worked for, I’m gonna take it. That’s what I’m doing. I’m taking your head off before the song play. Some songs I rap before the beat even play and I enjoy doing that. I like walking the beat down.
What was Arnold Taylor’s pitch to you for partnering with him at South Coast Music Group two years ago?
He’s such an important staple to music in the Carolina, period. Not only in Carolina, but nationwide. He’s real lowkey and real modest and real humble about what he does. He’s worked with some of the greats and contributed to their careers. Anybody that is trying to go into business with me, of course, I’m gon’ do my research on them. I was trying to figure out how to get radio play. I ended up in his office anyways before even linking up with him, to work on the radio campaign. It ended up talking with him about him wanting to sign me and I think King Carter brought me to his attention. From that point on, I guess he liked what I had going on. He came, hollered at me. He let me know what it was.
Even with Interscope now, I make it real easy on the label. I come with way more than the average artist is gon’ come with. I’m hands-on when it comes to marketing, when it comes to everything.
In 20 years, who would play you in a biopic, who would direct, and what would the name of the movie be?
We’d call the movie, Baby Jesus. I don’t know who would direct it. We might need Denzel [Washington] to play me. Might need Denzel to go back in a time machine. Prolly have John Singleton to direct it. We might go Hype Williams. It’s no telling.
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