“I definitely am the best rapper alive, mark my words. Me and Billboard are going to have a great relationship,” DaBaby repeatedly insists over the phone.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more confident figure in hip-hop right now than the 27-year-old NC rapper. Baby checked off another box in continuing his rapid ascension last week (Jan. 23), when he announced a joint venture between South Coast Music Group and Interscope Records.
The Charlotte native closed out 2018 with his impressive Blank Blank mixtape, but the release came draped in controversy: DaBaby was involved in a fatal encounter in a North Carolina Walmart shooting that left a 19-year-old dead. The candid rapper was quickly cleared of any wrongdoing, but some still labeled the incident as some form of a publicity stunt.
DaBaby — formerly known as Baby Jesus — carried his buzz into the new year, where he’s created waves in the industry with his cinematic visuals, which are equally frightening and hilarious. The simplistic videos tinged with comic relief have started to compile millions of views within weeks of being released.
The Billion Dollar Entertainment CEO doesn’t plan to rest on his laurels. Next up, putting the finishing touches on his anticipated major label debut. DaBaby tells Billboard that the effort is titled Baby on Baby, and slated to be a star-studded affair. The project, which holds a tentative release date of mid-February, features Baby sharing the stage with the likes of Rich The Kid, Offset, Lil Durk, Famous Dex, and YG, to name a few.
Below, you’ll find the rest of our conversation with the brash MC, as he touches on why Interscope was the right fit for him, his hopes to be known as “Billboard Baby” by the end of the year, the importance of putting Charlotte rap on the map, his creative process when it comes to shooting videos, and much more.
Billboard: Walk me through what your childhood was like growing up in Charlotte. Who were some of your musical influences?
DaBaby: I’ve been in Charlotte since I was six years old, I’m 27 now. Anybody [for] my age really, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Eminem, Nelly, and those kind of people in the know. The list goes on. With my childhood, there was such a mixture of music that was hot. I really pulled from all of that. I only know that now because I can look back on it. Years ago, I would’ve only named a couple people, but when I think about it, I realize everyone [who influenced me] because of where I’m at with my career.
What was the music scene like rising through the ranks in Charlotte?
There really wasn’t one. I didn’t know of any rappers in Charlotte. Not to sound like I’m bragging, but I brought the music scene alive and shed the proper light on it. I took it to a whole other level when I started rapping. That was only four years ago, but I just jumped out there fast. My plan from the start was to take it there. It wasn’t to get bitches and be cool like a lot of people do — my plan was to take over, not just my city, but the game from the beginning. I want to get where Drake and them are at. I’m competing with the big names.
With you starting to make some serious noise and break through to the mainstream at 27, do you feel that gives you an advantage, being more mature compared to kids coming into the game as teenagers?
I’ve been through a lot on both ends of the fence. With me being mature, there’s a lot of shit I caught onto that may have gone over a young person’s head. I always saw what was going on, and it definitely gives you an upper hand when it comes to maneuvering in the industry. You have to know what you’re doing because people in the industry know what they’re doing. Also, just being mature enough to not be blown away by all of this going on.
Congrats on the new deal with Interscope Records. Why did you sign with Interscope and what do you think they can do for your career?
It was a joint venture deal with South Coast Music Group and Interscope. I got with the big homie Arnold Taylor two years ago. He’s a real strong name on the radio side and ever since I got with him, he put the business with the grind, hustle, and talent that I had all together. All gas. We were blessed enough to get a real good deal done. They’re giving me way more creative control than artists get from other record labels. They really just want me to do me and change nothing. That’s the perfect fit for us. We plan on shedding light on the Carolinas as a whole. It’s time for us to be recognized nationally. We easily get blended with other cities in the South.
I’ve been impressed with your visuals lately. I like how you add some comedic relief and they’re well-thought-out. What’s your creative process with those, and how involved are you?
I’m all the way hands-on when it comes to my videos. I got a few directors I work with. They just meet my vision eye-to-eye. I make it real easy. It’s just me being me. I like to have fun with my videos and performances, that’s the most fun part when it comes to the music. I get to show off my character.
Were there any movies or directors that really inspired you over the years?
I like any movie from the Friday [series]. We had so many legendary movies growing up, but they’re not the same anymore. The kids from my time had movies like Training Day. We were five-years-old running around the house acting like Denzel Washington, or O Dog from Menace II Society. They definitely played a part in my videos. I’m not scared to take it there, I don’t give a fuck. I’m telling you, me and Billboard are going to have a great relationship.
Let’s get into one of your most recent videos. How did you link up with Blocboy JB for “Minivan?”
I was out in L.A. working about a month ago. He was out there working too, then he pulled up on me at the studio. We met back up in Atlanta and knocked out the video, like last week. James Rico shot the video. Just creative minds and an old-ass minivan and a pretty girl for the video. It was well-thought-out and put together. We wanted to take you on a ride. I can talk for 30 minutes about how good that video is.
A lot of people were introduced to you when you popped up at SXSW in 2017 walking the streets with a diaper on. I’ve heard you talk about things like that as marketing versus trolling. What’s the difference between the two and how has that helped your career?
When it comes to trolling, I think it’s the people. It always has something to do with another person reacting to you. Then you continue it by reacting to them in order to attract more attention. With the diaper situation… my name is Baby. [Laughs.] I looked real good with my clothes off and I got a baby face already. I can put on a diaper and look like a real life baby. Boom, I make the whole world stop.
Then the media ran with it. I did it and let it do what it do, but then I got back to the music. With trolling, your career is really just based off the Internet shit. I make better music. My music and creativity outweighs all of that when it comes to trolling. I do it all.
On tracks like “Blank Blank,” you refer to yourself as “the best rapper.” Have you had this type of irrational confidence since you were a kid?
From day one, I’m the best. Y’all haven’t even heard my best work yet either, but you will. I definitely am the best rapper alive, mark my words. Me and Billboard are going to have a great relationship.
I noticed you interpolated the chorus to XXXTentacion’s “Sad” on “Best Friend.” Was that an artist that inspired you?
Shout-out to X, man. Rest in peace. He was different, his music touched people. It could turn me up all crazy. I definitely liked his music and borrowed from his greatness with that one in a creative way.
What can we expect from you the rest of the year?
We got a new project coming out in the middle of February. The [“Best Friend”] remix with Rich The Kid is definitely going to be on there. We got Offset, Lil Durk, Famous Dex, Money Man, and a track with YG that’s going to be on there. It’s called Baby on Baby. We got a lot of big things coming.
I always see you wearing NBA jerseys, are you a fan of the league?
I’m definitely a big fan of the NBA and the NFL. My Patriots going to win the Super Bowl this weekend. I’m willing to bet anybody on that.
Why don’t you bet with YG? He’s a Rams fan and has already taken Birdman and Post Malone’s money.
You know what, I’m about to hit his phone. I’m really going to do that.
Do you have any goals for 2019?
Yeah, making the Billboard charts. I’m trying to have them change my name to “Billboard Baby” by the end of 2019. I’m definitely bringing something different to the table. I’m more than excited for what’s to come. I’m going to have a great year. We’ve brought it this far and it ain’t stopping now.