Who is DaBaby? Meet the chart-topping rapper behind 'Rockstar'
This summer is anything but normal (thanks, coronavirus) but the music industry is still churning out hits, vying for the title of song of summer.
So far, we've danced in our living rooms to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande's duet "Rain On Me" and classy, bougie, ratchet-ed to Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage" featuring Beyonce. But it's DaBaby's "Rockstar" that just might be the season's defining hit.
The rapper has been atop Billboard's Hot 100 Songs chart for five straight weeks. The collaboration with Roddy Ricch had 43.7 million US streams in the week that ended July 2, the magazine reported, citing data from Nielsen Music/MRC Data.
DaBaby's recent fame has been fueled, in part, by an appearance at this year's BET Awards on June 28, where he performed "Rockstar" complete with an actor portraying a police officer placing a knee on his neck, similar to how George Floyd died while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
At the same event, which was held virtually, Ricch won album of the year and wore a Black Lives Matter shirt while performing "High Fashion" and "The Box."
DaBaby also met with Charlotte city leaders for a "Black Lives BEEN Mattered" summit.
Here are some things to know about DaBaby, the 28-year-old rapper who is burning up the charts.
He's a Grammy-nominated rapper
DaBaby was born Jonathan Lyndale Kirk in Cleveland, but calls Charlotte, North Carolina home. Earlier in his music career, he was known as Baby Jesus.
After high school, he attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for two years, but quit, claiming he'd only gone to college to please his parents, according to Rolling Stone.
He released several mixtapes, starting in 2014, but it was his debut "Baby On Baby," which dropped in March 2019, that launched him into the mainstream. Another album, "Kirk," came out the same year. His single "Suge" earned him two nominations at the 62nd annual Grammys for best rap performance and best rap song.
His latest album, "Blame It On Baby," dropped in 2020, making it the rappers third album in a little over a year.
DaBaby has a daughter with ex-girlfriend MeMe.
All about 'Rockstar'
Released in April, the rapper's biggest hit comes from his latest album, "Blame It On Baby." A Black Lives Matter remix of "Rockstar" was released in June in the aftermath of Floyd's death.
The accompanying music video starts with DaBaby driving a fancy sports car; later he's shown shooting zombies in the woods. The song features provocative lyrics such as: "Let's go // Brand new Lamborghini, f--- a cop car // With the pistol on my hip like I'm a cop (yeah, yeah, yeah)" and "This ain't no guitar, b----, this a Glock (woo)".
When "Rockstar" hit No. 1, he posted about it on his Instagram account: "#Number 1 song in the WORLD. #ROCKSTAR ft. @roddyricch. GOD IS GREAT." along with a screenshot from Billboard's website.
Also on Instagram, he's teased that many more songs are on the way, saying, "This set ain’t even 1% of the collection."
Critics are praising DaBaby's sound
Rolling Stone called DaBaby the "Baby of the Year" in a November story.
"DaBaby won’t acknowledge it easily, but what has become his calling card is a staccato, precise, and brutal rapping style, a syllable-crushing force delivered with such forward momentum it often gives the illusion that he starts rapping before the beat begins," the article said of his 2019 projects.
“When you got a sound that don’t sound like nobody else and it’s brand new, you’ve got to feed it to ‘em,” he told the magazine. “You’ve got to force it on ‘em.”
The outlet was less enthused about this year's "Blame It On Baby," saying it was "sweeter, smoother, and designed to be more palpable to the masses... a course correction from a course that didn’t need correcting."
Pitchfork agreed, saying "Half the album is stacked with the same regurgitated phrases and flows from earlier projects, stale the third time around; for the rest, DaBaby follows formulas other than his own."
The appetite from fans seems undiminished. The album took the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Hot 200, bumping The Weeknd’s "After Hours" from the spot.
He's had some legal troubles
The rapper has run afoul of the law a few times recently.
He was arrested in Charlotte and cited with possession of marijuana.Investigative tech Holly Randall Reeves told USA TODAY he was found in possession of less than one-half ounce of marijuana and also resisted officers.
DaBaby later told reporters he was "absolutely" targeted and "unlawfully searched," according to the Charlotte Observer.
"Someone died last night while the police department wasting resources and officers to harass me in attempt to make a bad example out of me," he tweeted on Christmas Eve. "When in reality, i’m the most positive example the city of Charlotte got. Especially for anybody in the streets of Charlotte and the KIDS."
More:Rapper DaBaby arrested after concert, cited with possession of marijuana
About a month later, he was arrested on battery charges in Miami.
The police report alleges the rapper made an agreement with a music promoter to perform at Cafe Iguana Pines in Pembroke Pines, Florida, for $30,000.When the promoter and another person met up with DaBaby and gave him $20,000, the rapper reportedly got into a verbal altercation and is alleged to have attacked both people after saying he was $10,000 short.
A few days later, after the story had made national news, he said he was tempted to abandon social media.
"If social media wasn’t such a lucrative tool in the business I’m in I wouldn’t even be on it," he wrote. "Lost souls influenced by lost souls. I hate to see it."
Contributing: Bryan Alexander and Rasha Ali, USA TODAY
Follow Gary Dinges on Twitter @gdinges