How DaBaby Really Became Famous

As The Sun reports, DaBaby was born in December 1991 in Cleveland, Ohio. The baby — or rather, da baby — was named Jonathan Lyndale Kirk. It seemed clear that Kirk had aspirations in the rap arena from a young age, having always immersed himself in the music. As he told XXL in 2017, he listened to "Eminem, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne. Pretty much anything my older brothers were listening to." As he matured and ultimately became famous, he developed more of an understanding of these rap icons' words and their message, and this is what spoke to him most.

"A lot of the things that I listen to before I started rapping — I started rapping in 2014 — they were rapping about my actual life," he told XXL, explaining that he had "already been successful with the things [he] was doing on the streets," but that this wasn't fulfilling him any more. It was time for the glittering career of DaBaby to begin.

As AllMusic reports, Kirk first adopted the name Baby Jesus for his rapping, but quickly settled on DaBaby instead. Under this name, he began to release several mixtapes, and it was the 2016 single "Light Show" that really helped him gain traction.

Arnold Taylor helped DaBaby become a rap star

Per The Guardian, it was Arnold Taylor — South Coast Music president and now DaBaby's manager — who elevated the young man to the level of rap superstar. "He can really spit with the best of them, but he can also make songs," Taylor told the outlet in January 2020, "some spitters can't make songs." DaBaby continued to refine his work, gathering more faithful fans along the way, until he dazzled again with his 2018 release "Blank Blank" (per AllMusic).

The rising star's talents were in such demand that, with Taylor's help, several labels tried to put their money where their mouths were and get DaBaby under their banner. Interscope won, The Guardian reports, and so he became a major label rapper. His first Interscope releases were 2019's "Baby on Baby" and "KIRK," which were followed by "Blame It on Baby" the next year. The latter two albums, per AllMusic, both dominated the Billboard 200. Billboard also states that his 2020 single "Rockstar," a Roddy Ricch collaboration, held onto the number one spot for nine weeks.

DaBaby is known for his work ethic

Considering DaBaby only started rapping 2014 — under his early Baby Jesus moniker — he made rapid strides to the top of the heap in the rap world, thanks in large part to his considerable work ethic. 

"Sometimes these artists get signed and they get so caught up with the rah-rah like, oh they signed, they on social media, they see what the other artists is doing and you kind of get distracted when an artist signs that means there's more work to do," Caroline Diaz, Vice President at Interscope Records told Rolling Stone. "Artists like DaBaby, he don't stop working. He don't sleep."

According to Bustle, that penchant for hard work earned DaBaby a headlining spot at Lollapalooza in 2021, only for it to be taken away in light of homophobic comments he made during a performance at the 2021 Rolling Loud festival in Miami (via Variety).

DaBaby financed his own videos

It's often said that if you want something done right, then it needs to be done yourself, and DaBaby did just that when it came to financing his music videos. Over time, his over-the=top videos for songs like "Walker Texas Ranger" and "Mini Van" became one of the rapper's calling cards.

"I paid for every video I ever shot," DaBaby told Rolling Stone in 2019. "$100,000 budget, $70,000, $60,000, I've probably spent like half a million dollars on videos this year, by myself, just me. I ain't willing to settle for less. With the type of artist that I'm capable of being, the creativity I've got, it's just no way. You can't cheat it. You can't cheat the game. You can't cheat the grind. You get out what you put in at the end of the day. If you're capable of being this caliber of an artist, do I want to settle for doing s*** like this just to keep some money in my pocket and spend it on bulls*** or something?"

His videos have led to numerous MTV Video Music Awards nominations, though DaBaby was controversially snubbed at the 2021 VMAs, which some have speculated was a result of controversial comments he made leading up to the nomination announcements (via Bustle).

DaBaby is a social media virtuoso

There's no escaping social media these days, and DaBaby embraced it early in his career and leveraged his following to propel himself to stardom. He used it as a tool to showcase his on-stage persona which, according to Rolling Stone, has included viral moments like when he took to the stage wearing a diaper at South by Southwest in 2017, and dabbed with fans of his hometown Carolina Panthers in the video for his song "Dab City." The rapper has millions of followers across all of his social media accounts, though he has acknowledged both the necessity and the downsides of maintaining a strong presence online.

"If social media wasn't such a lucrative tool in the business I'm in I wouldn't even be on it," he tweeted in 2020. "Lost souls influenced by lost souls. I hate to see it. I encourage people to have the courage to find themselves without the false sense of security they search for on the internet."

For better or worse, controversy keeps him in the news

DaBaby is no stranger to controversy. According to Billboard, DaBaby has found himself at the center of a laundry list of controversies, but while they may tarnish his image in the eyes of some fans, they also keep his name in the news.

In 2018, not too long before his career really hit its stride, the rapper was accused of shooting and killing a teenager in a Huntersville, North Carolina Walmart. DaBaby found himself facing a murder charge, but security footage revealed that he had acted in self-defense. The murder charge was dropped and he instead faced a misdemeanor for illegally carrying a concealed weapon.

In 2020, authorities questioned DaBaby about his connection to the robbery of a music promoter. It was alleged that DaBaby and his crew robbed the music promoter after the latter withheld some of the money the rapper was owed following a performance. DaBaby ultimately wound up with a battery charge and spent two days in jail.