After a highly impressive run of singles and features – one that now seems like a career speedrun, looking back on it – during 2019 and 2020, DaBaby’s seemingly monthly scandals finally hit a tipping point with some homophobic remarks made during a show at a summer festival. His verse removed from what was the biggest song in the world at the time, he doubled down with some singles addressing the controversy and began to draw the ire of the internet for his whimsical beat selection and insistence on little more than triplet flows. While DaBaby’s music was often brought back to a point of enjoyability through his charisma, court jester attitude reminiscent of a Ludacris figure and percussive flows, his latest album Baby on Baby 2 is devoid of any of these things. DaBaby himself erroneously claims that his lower sales figures are a result of being blackballed from the industry. The complete 180 in terms of his musicality, rhythm, and likeability, plus a drop in the effort level that was only there minimally to begin with, says otherwise. This has to be one of the most staggering falls from grace in the last decade.
The opening track “GO AGAIN” almost makes it seem like DaBaby took his musical criticisms to heart. He tries out a couple different flows on the front and back ends of the track, and switches things up with a cold-hearted and icy beat instead. The only thing is that it seems DaBaby stuck to a single sound because it was the only one that he was decent at. The track’s second half finds him completely off beat, punctuating his flows with some random honks, bizarre ad-libs and some gross mouth noises that I think were supposed to resemble a cash machine. The bottom line is that DaBaby blew up with a goofy and fun-loving persona that doesn’t reflect who he really is, and now that he’s been exposed, his music reflects his distasteful real one. “DROP DAT DISS” is only 83 seconds in length, joining a handful of painfully underwritten and unfinished tracks here, and is mixed so that his calling card of a gleeful, flute-like synth is so far in the back it sounds like an echo behind the dominating trap beat. Over before it begins, we hear the first time of many that he decides pitching his voice down for his most outrageous bars is a good idea – it just makes him sound like a comedic rapper satirizing the genre. “BOOGEYMAN” finds him continuing to address his role in the Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanez incident, as well as his Rolling Loud comments, saying that they “mixed up his words,” and now he’s going to say what he says. Really, it’s on video for all to see. The chorus sounds like an afterthought, as if he forgot it was coming and made something up on the spot while coming in a half-second late.
The track “SOCKS is the only one that’s getting any kind of attention, and with somewhat of a reason – it’s the closest to his old sound, but there are still some awkward moments of botched rhythms and pitched-down hilarity. The eerie, plucked guitar riff makes for a great instrumental, and DaBaby’s triplet flows are the most on beat of the project for the most part. Still, it’s difficult to fully celebrate a track where the artist makes an ad-lib that’s just a fart noise. The back-to-back sub-2-minute tracks “NO CONDOM” and “SUMMA DAT” plunge us back into the depths, the former containing some of the album’s most toxic and despicable lyrics with a misogynistic bent and the latter featuring an obnoxious droning synth beat. Most of the album feels like you’re trying to listen to two songs at the same time – the DaBaby flow is such a recognizable, specific sound at this point, that hearing it without all of the right elements that really make it click just makes it feel copy-and-pasted in somewhere it doesn’t belong. It makes for a truly grating listening experience. “STILL” is a bright, Lil Uzi-esque track that might be the only new sound he attempts here that isn’t a dismal failure. The beat carries, and the melodic hook is passable, breaking up the monotony, but the track is still highly repetitive as DaBaby mumbles his way through worse versions of bars and flows that we’ve heard from him before.
For just how much of his personality shone through in his older music, you never would have expected DaBaby to make a track where he sounds like NAV. “ACT THAT HARD” is that track. With a stilted and repetitive melodic hook, the verses are actually decent but that refrain truly brings things all the way down. “KEEP IT CUTE” is almost indistinguishable musically from its predecessor – really, it almost sounds like a combination of the two prior tracks – and intersperses an annoying chipmunked vocal wailing away in the background while DaBaby continues to deliver some melodic tracks that barely find him wavering from a single note. I’ve used the term “autopilot” to describe a lot of projects, but it feels like DaBaby is truly defining that term here, grasping at straws to strike it big again. “ONE MAN ARMY” is an instance where the beat should have carried things, but DaBaby is mixed horribly, faded away into the back with a weird Auto-Tune filter on his voice that takes away his naturally percussive cadence, making his voice jump all over the place when he’s not even doing anything melodic.
Things don’t look up much by the end. “CALL OF DUTY” is the shortest track here, where DaBaby awkwardly juxtaposes two lines of a singsongy playground chant with a rambling, arrhythmic stream-of-consciousness flow, while “THAT’S WHY I CREEP” finds him threatening physical violence against me as he vows to hit any bloggers he comes across. The track’s contemplative guitars signal that it’s meant to be the one where he speaks about learning and growing after finding himself at the bottom, but he still throws in a bar like that even after he’s previously been criticized for punching anyone who causes him a mild inconvenience. “BLANK” brings the melodramatic soul of Anthony Hamilton onto the track for a strange matchup with a version of DaBaby who sounds like he’s trying even less than usual, while the closing track “DON’T LET EM LIE” hits listeners with a final, annoying siren beat. At least this time when he gets so into what he’s saying that he loses track of the beat, he’s sending out dedications to his kids.
If DaBaby’s antics didn’t kill his career before, putting out a project like this one for the few that still care to listen is almost certain to do so. And just like that, the necessary Ludacris role in hip-hop that he stepped in to fill is once again vacant – we’ll see who takes the mantle next.
Favourite Tracks: SOCKS, STILL
Least Favourite Track: SUMMA DAT