It all happened so fast.
After inking a deal with Interscope in January 2019, DaBaby began a full-on sprint that he still hasn’t eased up from. He released two albums, toured constantly, weathered multiple legal controversies stemming from physical altercations, graced magazine covers, and dished out dozens of guest verses. By the end of the year, he had more total entries on the Billboard Hot 100 chart than any other artist in the world.
DaBaby wasn’t just 2019’s Rookie of the Year. He was the Best Rapper Alive.
When you climb to the mountaintop so quickly, though, the wind tends to turn against you. In DaBaby’s case, he started to get bombarded by online commenters telling him all his songs sounded the same and that he needed to switch his flow up. By the time he released April 2020’s Blame It on Baby, his third album in a year, DaBaby fatigue had set in and it wasn’t received with as much critical praise as his first two. Meanwhile, legal issues mounted, and he wasn’t as universally adored by the public as he was just a few months before.
In DaBaby’s mind, misconceptions were piling up. He laughed along with the “same flow” criticism in Lil Yachty’s “Oprah’s Bank Account” video, but he knew he had a vault full of songs that strayed far from the “Suge” formula. Despite the complaints of oversaturation, he understood that his frequent release habits were the exact same as they had been for years. And any public perception of him as a destructive person didn’t match the true character he knew he possessed. As he explains now, he also felt targeted by police.
That’s when he learned a lesson that every superstar must internalize: it’s a waste of time to try and make everyone happy.
“When you reach a certain level, people don’t got nothing left to do but find a reason not to like you,” he tells Complex. “At the end of the day, somebody’s got to not like you. Somebody’s got to not like Baby.”
They say success is the best form of revenge, so DaBaby put his head down and decided to let the Billboard charts do the talking. Inspired by a conversation with Diddy, he began the year by switching up the way he was moving and staying clear of legal issues. Then, as he was about to release Blame It on Baby, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Trusting his gut, he released the album anyway. “I’m like, fuck it, I’m just going to drop it anyway, whether the world is ready for it or not,” he says now. “I really went against the grain.”
It worked. Blame It on Baby debuted at No. 1. Six weeks later, “Rockstar” topped the Hot 100, and it stayed there for seven weeks, becoming his most successful song to date. DaBaby’s strategy paid off, regardless of what online commenters had to say.
Now, even during quarantine, DaBaby can’t help but stay in motion. Known for his studio rat tendencies, he says, “If it was up to me, I’d drop music every damn day.” On August 4, he dropped a deluxe version of Blame It on Baby that he describes as a “whole new album” full of songs recorded after the original was made.
Before this interview was supposed to take place, I received an email from his publicist, asking if the start time could change. The reason? “Baby be working.”
When we finally got on the line together, DaBaby discussed misconceptions, being targeted by police, fan criticism, and releasing the deluxe album. The interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
What is the biggest misconception people have about you right now?
People think I’m more rowdy than I actually am. Just based on certain events and things, people think I walk around looking for trouble. But really, I’m one of the most laid-back, coolest people you’ll ever meet.
Complex named you the Best Rapper Alive in 2019. Heading into 2020, what new goals did you set for yourself?
The goal was to be the hottest artist on the planet, and I think I’ve done that. For the past seven weeks, I’ve had the No. 1 song on Billboard. My album debuted at No. 1, and after that, a single ended up going No. 1. A lot of people are calling it the song of the summer, and a lot of people are calling it the song of 2020.
I think at one point, I had like three different songs in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Then I just dropped the deluxe, which is a whole other body of work. That’s going to have another track on there that’s going to end up on the Hot 100, too. I’m going down my list of goals that I set for 2020, and I’m knocking them all down, one by one.
After meeting with Diddy in January, you said he inspired you to turn over a new leaf. How did that conversation change things for you?
He was making sure that I changed the way I was moving, because he was somebody who had been there and done that. So he reached out to me and we had the conversation. It was about identifying who I am in my career, the amount of influence that I have, and the things that come with being who I am.
It started off with Diddy trying to put me in a headlock. Then he sat me down and asked me what I liked to eat. He had his chef whip us up something, and he gave me real deal advice. It was advice that I couldn’t have got from anybody else, just with him being through the controversy he had been through in his career, and coming up out of it. He had probably seen me on the way to make some mistakes that he made himself in the past. It was an OG giving me some game that he saw I needed.
“From my life experience, I don’t look at police as police anymore. I think they prey on people. Actually, I know they prey on people.”
“Rockstar” is the biggest song in the world right now, and you chose to record a Black Lives Matter remix for it. Why did you want to use that moment to speak on social issues?
With the amount of influence artists have nowadays, it’s important to do that any time something like that happens, especially if it’s something that impacts you directly. I’ve been a victim of these kinds of things. So how could I not speak out? It’s something that I’ve actually been trying to speak out on for years. But if a certain event takes place, and it catches global attention, I’d be a failure to not use my platform and voice my opinion.
From your perspective, what’s the biggest thing that needs to change about policing in America?
The overall structure that police operate on needs to change. It all needs to be changed from the inside out. From my life experience, I don’t look at police as police anymore. I think they prey on people. Actually, I know they prey on people. So I think that has to change. It has to start there. Just the whole criteria and how they operate, that shit has to change from the inside out. It needs to be about protecting and serving people, not about arming people to arrest people. It should be about protecting people.
There have been lots of instances where rappers feel targeted by police, because they’re successful. Have you felt the same?
Yes. For sure. Especially early on in my career when I was coming up out of Charlotte.
When you announced this deluxe album, you told your fans it’s basically a whole other album. Why do you think of it like that?
Because I just recorded everything on the deluxe after I recorded the other album. For a lot of other people, the deluxe is full of songs they got in the cut that didn’t make the original album. They’re just throwing them on there, but I recorded a whole new set of songs and put it out.
Why did you decide to package it as a deluxe instead of putting out a whole new album?
Because at the time, I still had a No. 1 song from the previous album, so there was no point stepping on my own toes. I might as well just add to what I’ve already got going on.
“I’ll let the game tell me when to drop music. If it was up to me, I’d drop music every damn day.”
Do you plan on keeping up this pace? Can we expect multiple albums from you each year?
Yeah, absolutely. And if not, I just love making music, regardless. When I get bored with music, that’s when I drop music. Don’t nobody else got nothing going on. When I have nothing to listen to, that’s when I say, all right, somebody needs to drop some music. I’m about to do it.
I’ll let the game tell me when to drop music. If it was up to me, I’d drop music every damn day. But that ain’t really the way it go.
Now that you’re a few months removed from its release, what are your thoughts on Blame It on Baby? How does it compare to your other albums?
I think it was its own thing. I dropped it after we were, like, a week into this whole pandemic thing. So the whole world was in a place where we had never been before in history. Like, the entire world. A lot of people didn’t know what the hell was going on. We didn’t know if everybody was about to die tomorrow. We ain’t know nothing. When it first hit, they were saying, “Go buy food. Go do this. Go do that.” The world was in a frenzy.
So at the same time I’m planning on dropping my album, I’m trying to go to the store. I can’t even get toilet paper, paper towels, and shit. So I don’t really compare it to none of the other albums, just because of everything that was going on around the time that I dropped it. I mean, look at the damn cover. I got one of them N95 masks on.
I had been planning to put out an album regardless, though. Right when people started talking about it, I was already planning to drop, but I actually pushed it back a couple of weeks. I was like, fuck it, I’m just going to drop it anyway, whether the world is ready for it or not. I really went against the grain.
At first, a lot of people were scared to drop. I was the first person to drop during the pandemic. Nobody dropped anything. That’s how we planned releases anyway. You know, you watch to see who else is coming out, just so you make sure you play the game the right away. But I jumped out there, regardless of how it would affect sales and the numbers.
A lot of people couldn’t go to work. Everybody was canceling their Apple Music subscriptions and all that. I was in on all of that. I was affected by everything across the board. I mean, I couldn’t go on a press run right after I dropped it. I would have been on tour, but I couldn’t go on the tour immediately. I had the Blame It on Baby tour already scheduled. Sold out shows. 8,000 plus, every single show. [I missed out on] performing those songs and showing the world how people react, singing word-for-word, on my social media platforms. That type of shit alone drives it so much. The way you push music just changed completely. It even changed the way people consume music.
So I don’t really put that up against none of the other releases. But if I were to compare it, I had to go through tougher shit dropping Blame It on Baby, and I still ended up having the biggest song of my career with “Rockstar.”
You played around with new sounds on that album and used melody more. Was your main goal to try new things musically?
Trying new things musically is always a goal of mine. I always do that. I was trying new things on Kirk that I didn’t do on the Baby on Baby album. I’ve always had a wide range with my sound. I just popped with a song called “Suge.” You get what I’m saying? That’s the song I popped with, but I was never in a box with the type of music that I can make, even if other people may have thought I was. I’ve got songs I made five years ago that are similar to “Rockstar,” which can be considered a pop record. I just go with my mood, really. I don’t overthink it. I hear a certain production, I hear the beat, and I make the music. I package them into a body of work, and I let it fly.
“At the end of the day, somebody’s got to not like you. Somebody’s got to not like Baby.”
You acknowledged the criticism about songs sounding the same during your cameo in Lil Yachty’s “Oprah’s Bank Account” video, which was great. Why did you want to address the criticism in that way?
That really wasn’t even my idea to do that skit. That was Yachty’s idea. That was just a joke Yachty made. He didn’t warn me about it or nothing. Everything we did in the skits was just off the top of the head. It was all improv. Really, the funniest shit we did ended up not making the final video. I need to call him and tell him he needs to post it or something, because it was hilarious. Everybody on set was dying. I couldn’t even keep a straight face.
That was dope, though. I don’t ever run away from addressing shit like that. It was just funny as hell when he did it in the skit, so I just kept going. It was all the natural. Wasn’t none of that planned out. That was fresh to me when I heard it.
The other day on Instagram, you wrote, “I’m the best. You’re not supposed to like me.” Do you think some people have turned on you since you became successful?
I don’t think nobody turned on me. It’s just, when you reach a certain level, people don’t got nothing left to do but find a reason not to like you. It gets to that point. Anybody who has been great at anything has to learn that, if they want to stay great. If you don’t learn that, you can let it knock you off the tip. But I’m aware.
It’s just like that. It’s like that with everybody else. A lot of people don’t like you. I mean, everybody’s going to love you, but at the end of the day, somebody’s got to not like you. Somebody’s got to not like Baby.
Is “Rockstar” the song of the summer?
What do you remember about the making of the song?
I was going through my phone, looking for beats, and I came across that one. Immediately, it just caught me. That’s how I do music. I hear the production and I just go from there.
What made you want to get Roddy on it?
He was the perfect fit for the song. It was only, like, one or two people I had in mind for that song, but Roddy was definitely the perfect fit for it. I did the song before I put Roddy on it. We were supposed to get some work in on a couple different occasions. So then I was back out in L.A., I got with him. I played a few other joints first, then I played “Rockstar” last, because I knew it was the one. We actually documented it when he heard it. He was like, “Yeah, now that shit hard. That’s the one.” So he hopped on it.
What’s the most important thing you want people to know about you right now?
I’m the best and nobody’s fucking with me. Seriously.