Album Review: DaBaby Deepens and Expands His Sound on ‘KIRK’

Unless you were living under a rock, you definitely heard a DaBaby verse at some point this year. Whether it was the hook to his inescapable “Suge,” his show-stealing verse on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Cash S**t,” or “Goin Baby.” Recently he hopped on remix of two other smash hits, Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and Lil Nas X’s “Panini.” 2019 has clearly been a successful year for DaBaby, so it is only fitting that he brings it a close with his strongest record to date.

What has set DaBaby apart from this new class of rappers is that… he raps. This isn’t to put down Auto-Tune rappers or melodic rappers, but DaBaby is an artist that prioritizes flow, diction, and cadence. He’s charismatic and fun enough to appeal to younger consumers, but his sound is still steeped in traditional rap which broadens his reach. One week before KIRK dropped, DaBaby released “INTRO,” a rich two-minute track about God, family, and his father’s passing. Most of DaBaby’s mainstream hits have been about trapping and sex, so this choice of subject matter was refreshing. Not only was it a nice change of pace, it also proved that DaBaby’s artistry was less vapid than we may have realized.

Album artwork for KIRK.

Throughout KIRK (the album’s title is a reference to DaBaby’s surname), DaBaby continues this trend of depth. He raps about the ironic racial relations in the boardroom post-fame on “There He Go” and he gets emotional on the standout Nicki Minaj-assisted “iPHONE.” Featuring production from London on da Track, DJ Clue, Kenny Beats, and CashMoney AP, KIRK could have easily sounded cluttered. Nonetheless, DaBaby’s controlled and consistent flow and the way he attacks any beat allows the album to remain incredibly cohesive. Impressively, DaBaby is also thwarts another potential threat to KIRK‘s greatness: the search for a hit single. “Suge” was such an effortlessly catchy song that the pressure to replicate it’s spontaneity and success can often result in half-baked attempts at a hit. Even on a song like “GOSPEL” which seems tailor made for streaming playlists, YK Osiris and Chance the Rapper have great chemistry with DaBaby and add their own flavor that makes the collaboration sound authentic. Earlier this year, Nicki Minaj released an unofficial remix of “Suge.” Now, her and DaBaby’s first official collaboration, the aforementioned “iPhone,” is arguably Nicki’s best verse of the year. Nicki steals the show on the song simply because of her attention to the details of arranging her verse. She switches from straight rapping, to melodic rap, then singing and back to rapping, and does it seamlessly.

KIRK is exactly the album that DaBaby needed at this point at time. This record perfectly blends his dark and humorous trap persona with the man behind that perfectly manicured image.

Key Tracks: “BOP”; “iPHONE”; “GOSPEL”; “INTRO”; “REALLY”

Score: 76

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