Editors’ Notes “That aint DaBaby, that’s MY baby,” goes the sultry female voice at the beginning of “Blank Blank.” Then begins a short diatribe from the artist himself: “That muthafucka sound like a muthafuckin’ alarm clock or some shit, you know?” DaBaby says. “It's alerting you bitch-ass n*ggas that I'm the muthafuckin' best, the prettiest chocolate n*gga alive.” When “Blank Blank” was released at end of 2018, this was all posturing, the stuff rap dreams are made of. But after a year in which the North Carolina MC was one of the most in-demand feature artists—having released two wildly successful albums, capped off with a headline-grabbing SNL performance—we have to admit that DaBaby was onto something.
Few voices in 2019 were as prevalent or impactful as DaBaby’s. Rap Life listeners were out for bars this year and DaBaby obliged, especially on collaborations with Nicki Minaj, Lil Baby, Chance the Rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, and the Dreamville crew. His voice, husky and warm, is as recognizable now as any we hear blaring from car and club speakers alike. And though being handsome is hardly a requirement for rap stardom, clear brown skin, a consistently sharp lineup, and his signature million-dollar smile (all of DaBaby’s visible teeth are covered in diamonds) have, too, assisted in his meteoric ascent. What kept our attention, though, is his rapping, and DaBaby does nothing if not flow in a dependably traditional mold, eschewing the studio-enhanced sung rap melodies of the day for out-and-out bars—the kind that might draw oohs and ahhs over a lunch table at school. The difference now is that DaBaby isn’t a student anymore. In fact, after the year he’s had, he’s something closer to a teacher.