How DaBaby Made 'Blame It on Baby' - Rolling Stone
×
Home Music Music Features

How DaBaby Made ‘Blame It on Baby’

DaBaby is the most productive superstar in rap — despite wearing a mask on its cover, his latest album was recorded on the road right before the world went into lockdown

DaBabyWGCI Big Jam concert, United Center, Chicago, USA - 20 Dec 2019

DaBaby

RMV/Shutterstock

Early in January, DJ K.i.D. put out a call for beats on Instagram. K.i.D. works with the rapper DaBaby, who was a fountain of hits in 2019, so the response to the producer’s post was overwhelming. “I sent out that message online, and 5,000 people hit me,” K.i.D. recalls. “My DMs are on smash.” 

Several of the producers who responded to that Instagram announcement made it onto Blame It On Baby, which came out on Friday and immediately stormed the charts on Apple Music (nine of the Top Ten songs in the U.S. on Sunday) and Spotify (four of the Top Ten). The album, which is all but guaranteed to debut at Number One, mainly sticks to the succinct, punishing formula DaBaby has perfected on his last four releases: roughly a dozen tracks, most of them less than three minutes long, full of emphatic, slugging rapping and vicious yet melodic bass lines. 

But DaBaby also makes a pointed effort to vary his sound on Blame It On Baby, trying his hand at crooning on tracks like “Sad Sh*t” and “Drop.” “He’s like, ‘y’all thought this is all I can do?'” K.i.D. explains. “‘Y’all saying my sound one-dimensional? Nigga, if y’all only knew.'” 

K.i.D. started working with DaBaby as a road DJ and engineer not long after the two met during a performance at East Carolina University in 2018. He has gradually become a more prominent presence in the credits of DaBaby’s albums, earning his first credit producing for the rapper on Kirk‘s “Intro” and then helming six of the 13 tracks on Blame It on Baby. “I’m a team player — anything we need, I’m willing to step in and do that for bruh,” K.i.D. says. “Engineering. Producing. Shit, if I’ve gotta cut up a video real quick, I’ll do that.”  

He’s also started to take on something like an A&R role for DaBaby. K.i.D. has “a pretty direct relationship with DaBaby for the last year-and-a-half or two, and he understands the direction that DaBaby wants to take his music,” explains Tom French, who answered K.i.D.’s call for beats and ended up as a co-producer on “Sad Sh*t” and “Champion.” “It’s important for me to work with other young producers,” K.i.D. adds. “I want people to see that these are also the guys behind the scenes making it happen with me.” 

When K.i.D. finds an instrumental idea he likes, he usually adds what he calls “crazy sauce.” The beat for “Jump,” which is fizzy and forceful, came from Rocco Did It Again, who reached out to K.i.D. because he admired “Intro.” “Rocco had a looped hi-hat on there that I cleaned up a little bit,” K.i.D. says. “The 808 he had was sounding a little weird on the speakers, so I added mine.” 

Some of the beats on Blame It on Baby came together in a similar way, except with different producers in K.i.D.’s role. Two German musicians, Mario Petersen and L.N.K., are responsible for the skeleton of “Drop.” “We wanted to make something R&B-sounding, so we were working with a guitar loop and a vocal chop,” L.N.K. says. “We thought, ‘Who could we send it to?’ Summer Walker or Roddy Ricch came up. So we sent it to London [on da Track], because we knew he works with those people.” London passed the song to DaBaby instead, and it ended up becoming a shimmering, melancholy collaboration with A Boogie wit da Hoodie

Another German producer and multi-instrumentalist who goes by Nils sent a chirpy riff to Wheezy (Meek Mill, Future), which eventually turned into “Talk About It.” “For a lot of U.S. producers, getting sounds and sample ideas is a source of inspiration to get a lot of records done,” says Marcello Pagin, who manages Petersen and L.N.K. “It helps everybody.” 

Not every song was a remote collaboration between producers based in different zip codes — or on different continents. The immediate fan-favorite from Blame It on Baby is “Rockstar.” That’s the sole work of SethInTheKitchen, a beatmaker who has known DaBaby since he was a local talent in Charlotte. 

“When I first started working with him, we were going to Chick-fil-A or something,” Seth remembers. “At the time I was trying to mix my beats so clean, have the 808 hit perfectly. I was saying, ‘I like this, but you hear how it’s making the back of the car rattle?’ He’s like, ‘bro, I want to make the back of the thing rattle!'” Seth took the lesson to heart — “Rockstar” merges delicate acoustic guitar with a thundering bass line and a deft verse from Roddy Ricch. This weekend, it was the most popular song in the country on both Apple Music and Spotify. 

While many beats were put together in the comfort of home studios, K.i.D. says DaBaby recorded many of his Blame It on Baby verses on the road. “We set up in hotel rooms, venue rooms before the show,” K.i.D. explains. “Usually I play some loops, and he’ll start rapping to the melody. I’ll lay down a clap, hi-hats, probably a kick, sequence it to the point where it’s a good enough loop, let him rap over it. There will be times where we’ll be recording a verse and then I’ve gotta run on stage and do the opening set.” 

DaBaby works spontaneously but with precision. When he’s rapping, “he’s goin’ off the [top of his] head,” K.i.D. says. “That’s why everything is so in the moment, especially if something is going on with him at the time. And usually it’s one take.”

But unlike some rappers, DaBaby doesn’t toss off hundreds of ideas and then whittle those down into an album. “There is no storing songs,” K.i.D. continues. “There are two records we did that we’re holding for another situation. Other than that, every song we did we polished, made that shit picture perfect, put that bitch on the album.”

Even when DaBaby was singing, K.i.D. tried to keep some of his first-take energy. “I don’t even really put on much autotune — light autotune and he’ll do the rest,” the producer says. “The [vocal] run on ‘Sad Sh*t’ was really a mistake that we did somewhere else. I caught it and held on to it and then placed it at the beginning of that track. I want to keep my brain growing, try things out.”

Fans aren’t always interested in growing with the artists they love. Now that Blame It on Baby is out, K.i.D. is keeping a close eye on listeners’ reactions, especially for songs which depart from the sound of DaBaby’s best-known hits. “Some people are going crazy for it — ‘Damn, we never heard Baby on some shit like this,'” K.i.D. says. “Then I heard some fans where it’s catching them by surprise and they don’t really know how to react.” 

“I’ll give them a little time for that shit to settle in,” K.i.D. adds, “and let that shit become their favorite song.” 

Newswire

Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.