KIRK (released September 27, 2019)
Today – well, actually, the day I’m banging my fingers on this keyboard, not necessarily the day you’re reading this review – hip-hop fans have been celebrating the 37th birthday of New Orleans’ own Lil Wayne.
Most longtime readers know how critical I’ve been of Wayne’s inconsistency over the years (three or four stellar years of a 20 year career does not a GOAT make) but even the biggest critics can’t deny his massive influence. When he was hot, he was untouchable.
Best rapper alive? Ehh, I don’t know bout that, playa. But most famous rapper alive? Probably so.
So I guess it’s no shock that DaBaby, who is similarly taking the game by storm at the moment, would hitch his wagon to Wayne. He recently proclaimed that KIRK, his sophomore album and second LP this calendar year, would be as big as Wayne’s landmark Tha Carter III.
Comparing himself to Weezy is pretty presumptuous at this point, but you’ve gotta admit, there are similarities.
Both have a distinct Southern swag, with DaBaby representing Charlotte, NC. Both have a noteworthy rap style that stands out among their peers. You can, gasp, actually HEAR what DaBaby is saying in his raps, making his verses an oasis in 2019’s sea of mumbling garbage. And, like Wayne, he’s been stealing show after show in each of his guest verses.
KIRK comes in with a ton of hype. And if it’s one thing DaBaby is known for
well, other than constantly showing his teeth like a third-grader on school picture day
is that he’s brimming with potential.
The first half of Kirk has a surprising amount of introspection.
My last name K-I-R-K, Kirk
You know how I rock behind my daddy
You know I never gave a f*** about the world, just about my family
How the f*** I make it to the top same day I lost the n**** that had me?
How a n**** perform on BET and a year ago couldn’t afford a sandwich?
Despite his seemingly instant fame, DaBaby keeps his eyes on his family on “Intro,” which adds lots of layers to an artists known more his unshakable aura than vulnerability.
But it doesn’t take long for him to unleash his motormouthed flow, rambling over the bouncy “Off the Rip” while adding necessary grit to the breezy “Bop” and glossy “Pop Star.” The latter seems tailor-made for the radio, even when he’s threatening to “beat a n**** up like The Rock.”
DaBaby has made his name by standing alongside some of rap’s current stars, so it’s no surprise that many of them return the favors here. “Gospel”sounds like a page ripped from Chance the Rapper’s playbook so I guess you shouldn’t be shocked that the man shows up here too, weird vocal pitch and all.
“Toes” is a perfect example of DaBaby’s appeal. Over a beat that’s little more than some hi-hats and someone’s grandaddy whistling the background, DaBaby has such a commanding presence, especially when teamed with a mumbling Lil Baby and unimpressive Moneybagg Yo.
But here’s the big problem – lyrically he’s just not bringing much to the table.
It’s the same deal with “Raw S***” – the beat is catchy and he’s light-years ahead of the Migos (who are basically sound-effect generators at this point, like the black dude from Police Academy) so sure, he sounds like a beast. But outside of a couple of eyebrow-raising bars (like comparing his thick women to Norbit or spitting on his enemies’ CDs on “Prolly Heard”) it’s a whole lotta style and little substance.
Oh and shoutout to Nicki Minaj for returning after her loooooooooong “retirement” to grace us with her presence on “iPhone.”
I assume somebody probably missed you during the four days you weren’t yelling at someone on Twitter.
But back to DaBaby – lines like “I’m a legend just like Michael/My b**** is ungrateful” are delivered with his trademark growl but just don’t have any bite behind them.
DaBaby’s fans will likely eat up KIRK. The moments of introspection are appreciated, and the beloved BANGERZ are certainly here too. And there’s no question that DaBaby does have that unteachable X-factor that makes you take notice when he’s in the booth. But what CAN be taught is more attention and detail to his wordplay and themes. KIRK is a little too by-the-numbers and lacks the depth of a truly great album.
But he’s got time. It took Lil Wayne quite a few albums before he found his groove, too.
Best tracks: “Intro,” “Pop Star,” “Bop”
3 stars out of 5