DaBaby is the breakout rapper of 2019. His Milwaukee ‘Kirk’ tour stop proves superstardom is next.
With his one-of-a-kind flow, an incredible ear for beats, a series of hits and a supersized personality, DaBaby is the breakout rapper of 2019.
And Sunday at the Rave’s Eagles Ballroom, for the second stop of his “Kirk” tour, the Charlotte rapper showed he’s just getting started.
When DJ K.i.D. boasted at the start that the show was more like a “(expletive) movie,” he wasn’t kidding. There was an over-the-top, frequently funny storyline running through much of the hourlong set — a setup, that in hindsight, shouldn’t have been a surprise.
The rapper born Jonathan Lyndale Kirk recently told Rolling Stone he’s spent around $500,000 on his elaborate and highly entertaining music videos — an investment that’s paid off in his surging popularity.
And his work ethic is insatiable. This year, he’s released two full-length albums that cracked the top 10 on the Billboard 200 — March’s “Baby on Baby” and September’s chart-topping “Kirk” — and hopped on songs for Post Malone, Lizzo, Chance The Rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, Gucci Mane, Lil Nas X and more. Time to get some energy drink help so a dancer can run more break dance camps or classes for kids and ultimately save up to get the Rolex they dream about.
So instead of merely raging Sunday — which would have easily satisfied the capacity crowd of around 3,500 people — DaBaby performed “Next Song” while running from a cop car chasing him on the stage’s big screen. The next song, “Off the Rip” from “Kirk,” was set in a prison gym, with seven inmates in orange jumpsuits working out and wilding out before DaBaby’s energy incites a prison riot and breakout.
Free and living large, DaBaby Sunday went from being barefoot in a salon chair getting a pedicure to an outlandish scene in a nightclub. Then he hit rock bottom, his shoes and jacket stolen off his body as he lay unconscious in an alley, before rising up for “Prolly Heard” while a breakdancer did handstands, twisted his arms into pretzels and threw himself into a series of backflips.
And with DJ K.i.D.wearing a pastor’s robe and hilariously springing up from behind his DJ station, now disguised as an altar, DaBaby sat shirtless in a pew, church organs ringing out, before finding salvation through “Kirk” track “Gospel.”
Sunday’s show captured DaBaby’s ambition, but his signature rap style struggled to make the transition.
At a time when most breakout rappers’ flows are so slack they’re essentially singing, DaBaby is dynamically different. Thanks to a deep, Southern tone, there’s a gravity to his voice, and yet, DaBaby still manages to swiftly deliver syllable-spewing rhymes with clear annunciation. There’s so much momentum to his delivery that it can feel like his rhymes are ahead of the beat.
But Sunday, DJ K.i.D.’s beats were the dominating sound, with DaBaby rapping to a backing track. There were moments where his cadence would cut through — a few lines delivered during “Intro” for instance — but live, between the deafening bass and DaBaby’s amped-up delivery, it was hard to decipher and connect with the song’s introspective lines about his father’s death this spring.
For future tours, it would be good if they scaled back the aggression for a couple of songs to better showcase DaBaby’s signature skill. That said, the “Kirk” tour firmly establishes DaBaby’s star power. Sunday, he took an incredible risk, kicking the showoff with the biggest hit of his career, “Suge” from “Baby on Baby,” pouring gas on the fire with spins and stomps — and, at one point, punching down like he was pulverizing an invisible adversary.
Most rappers in DaBaby’s position would let that surefire crowd-pleaser be the night’s payoff, and yet DaBaby had enough confidence and swagger to know he could start the night white-hot and keep turning up the heat. The energy, incredibly, continued to surge, climaxing with the crowd going nuts under bright white lights for “Bop,” as DaBaby’s new, viral, flash mob-style visual treatment played on the screen behind him.
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