New rappers have gained the reputation of providing quantity over quality when it comes to releasing new projects on the come-up. Saturating the musical market with seasonal albums seems to be the only way a new artist can get their 15 minutes of fame, but this sonic overload usually ends up leaving the listener with more to be desired.
Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, rapper Jonathan “DaBaby” Kirk has been releasing music since 2015. DaBaby’s rap career gained national traction in November 2018 after he fatally shot a man in a Walmart out of self defense. Kirk often makes reference in his interviews and music to how he only received probation for ending another man’s life.
Released on Sept. 27, “KIRK” is DaBaby’s second studio album. It was launched just seven months after his last full-length album, “Baby on Baby.”
Opening his album with the reflective and introspective track “INTRO,” DaBaby deviates from his usual combative flow. Rather, he uses this track to pay homage to his late father and grandmother.
In the lyrics of the track, DaBaby focuses on his child and on his own role as a father. “Just lookin' at my daughter/Thinkin' to myself like, ‘Damn, my baby look just like my daddy,’” DaBaby raps. While the emotion and mourning feels genuine, it’s not a banger, which is what many DaBaby fans expect due to his usual aggressive flow and gritty lyricism.
DaBaby will scratch any trap-banger itch with “BOP,” which contains resounding 808s sandwiched between airy flutes, a combination that’s more representative of the album’s cold-blooded sound. While the lyrical content of this song doesn’t seem to have any specific direction, rapid fire lines about drug use and women are found throughout. Beginning the chorus, DaBaby raps, “I needed some sh— with some bop in it,” confirming the track’s main purpose is purely surface level, trying to get people dancing around, not to win a Grammy.
“iPHONE,” featuring Nicki Minaj, is a fiery, energetic track with the two rappers giving praise to relationships they have outside of their significant other. While it’s not a good song to use as a guide for personal relationships trying to pursue monogamy, the contentious energy that DaBaby and Minaj pull from each other makes the song too catchy to skip.
Fierce bass drums contrasted with a whistling melody give “TOES” an almost hypnotizing sound. Featuring rappers Lil Baby and Moneybagg Yo, the song outputs three boastful verses in just over two minutes. Another song in a list of tracks that comes across as a flex of wealth and status more than anything else, “TOES” further enforces DaBaby’s zealous sound of the album.
To conclude his record, DaBaby pulls from his catalog, releasing his 2019 XXL Freshman Cypher as a full length track with a new beat, titled “XXL.” In the original cypher, DaBaby proceeds to outperform all his peers. Megan Thee Stallion, who had the only verse that could rival the Charlotte rapper, lasted only 30 seconds compared to DaBaby’s full two minutes and change.
However, the Freshman Cypher wasn’t the first time DaBaby had displayed these lyrics. In an Instagram video uploaded on April 10, DaBaby shows himself rapping the same lines. Regardless of when the track’s original conception was, it surely captures the epitome of DaBaby. The rapper exudes an undeniable swagger during the uninterrupted 150 seconds of carefully crafted bars.
DaBaby exceeds expectations with “KIRK.” Every song has a unique beat but maintains the overall theme of hard, Southern trap-rap. Matching the intensity of his last project and then some, DaBaby takes the crown amongst up-and-coming 2019 rappers, as his verses and tenacity are unmatched.