Exactly two months before the release of DaBaby’s Baby on Baby—his major label debut—the Charlotte-born rapper popped up with a video for a track called “Walker Texas Ranger.” The video is classic blaxploitation meets John Wayne remixed by Cole Bennett. It’s all fur coats and finger guns in the mountains. It’s easy to imagine the rapper born Jonathan Kirk hiding out in this dusty paradise like Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra, but instead of a climactic police shootout we get DaBaby bouncing with joy in the driver’s seat, looking at butts on his phone and using the blur function to suggest he’s packing...well, much more than a baby would.
It’s not a particularly funny song, but the video is unrelentingly comical. It’s absurd and over-the-top but Baby’s personality on-screen is inimitable. For how straight-laced the rapper can sound on record, this video is the beginning of another side of DaBaby, one somewhat unavailable while listening to his records. His charisma and unending charm radiate in the context of his recent videos, framing Kirk as the funniest rapper who doesn’t rely on punchlines to execute this style.
DaBaby may not be the most technically gifted rapper, but the MC does prove himself as a first-rate songwriter on his Baby on Baby. He spends the album’s duration jamming as many ideas as he can into songs that rarely last more than three minutes. The ideas don’t span too much territory. Kirk is focused on smelling nice, debating the merits of wearing a grill, and taking his whole gang to Ruth’s Chris. Okay, so he is pretty funny, but this side of him isn’t revealed as fully in his raps as it is in his videos, which are consistent masterstrokes of satire and absurdism.
At some point after the seven mixtapes DaBaby put out between January 2017 and November 2018, the rapper decided to turn his videos into a comedic artform. A scan at the hits from his mixtapes reveals traditional rap video fodder: lots of cuts, women, porches, and blunts. Though those trappings are presented a little more strangely, the video for“21” findsDaBaby slowly feeding his girl breakfast cereal.
In the clip for “Walker Texas Ranger,” DaBaby employs horrible CGI graphics and undergrad-senior-thesis green screens, eventually surviving a harrowing car tumble down the mountainside before running into some bandits that he didn’t see coming because he was once again looking at butts on his iPhone. Whether or not Baby has service in the mountains or has these videos saved for later is up for debate, but if anyone could conjure wireless data in an isolated forest, it’s DaBaby. The video ends in black and white, stealing his would-be attacker’s sunglasses and hiking up his pants. He’s got an axe, because...why not?
From here, Baby made the strategic choice to release a video for “Suge,” one of the album’s best singles and a restless mess of lines about smelling good, being like Suge Knight, and also being a mailman? DaBaby free associates in a way that feels like Young Thug, but Baby strings together these non-sequiturs in a way that makes you consider what reality they’re tethered to. Thugger lives in space, melody and charisma, but Baby’s doing something slightly different, slightly more cocky. Thug works with magic, DaBaby with showmanship.
In the “Suge” video, Baby uses this line about ‘packing the mail’ to become a wreckless mailman, dressed in top-to-bottom almost-Carolina blue, dancing and strutting from delivery to delivery. The video occasionally cuts to studio time, where Baby signs away his life to an anonymous label boss and to a pedestrian office where Baby teaches his co-workers to dance. This is also where I’m now working 9-5. Thanks, Baby.
The album’s third video, “Baby on Baby,” was released three weeks after the album (which peaked at 25 on the Billboard charts). It’s arguably the records’s best song and the video is ridiculous without losing entertainment value in favor of absurdism. It’s DaBaby on a private jet, explaining how, exactly, he came to be on said plane. He was on a commercial flight from Milwaukee—a municipality most famous America’s least favorite beer—when the person sitting next to him ended up being a woman with “an ugly ass dog.” The dog was allowed to stay in its owner’s seat but Baby’s Louis Vuitton bag had to be stowed away beneath his. He concludes that he isn’t fit for coach: “Bitch....Let us off in the next city. We gonna fly private.” This is the world Baby’s videos occupy. They’re ludicrous, but entirely believable. They’re from the perspective of someone naïve enough to believe that the world is exactly as they see it for everyone they encounter, but talented enough to convince you that this vision is worth following.
After this intro, it’s all private jet antics and dances in Times Square with big inflatable babies. It’s like the scene in Knocked Up when Seth Rogen and still-baby-faced Paul Rudd go to Cirque du Soleil and the mushrooms turn bad and everything becomes horrifying. Except with DaBaby, the mushrooms never turn. This is a good trip.
The album’s latest video is for Baby’s collaborative track with Offset, “Baby Sitter.” It’s about having sex with a babysitter, which is kind of weird if Da Baby is a baby, but then again, as his anonymous female companion says throughout the album, “That ain’t the baby, that’s my baby.” There’s a difference, I think.
The video begins with a Step Brothers-style skit with a laugh track pumped in, except instead of two white dudes with afros it’s Baby and Offset, high on a couch being yelled at by their step dad for not cleaning up and not being grateful. He hires a babysitter and you can fill in the rest. There are outdoor basketball games, matching watches, Cheeto dinners, and Baby and Offset racing in miniature cars. It’s preposterous, surreal, and a fascinating departure from a typical music video.
In DaBaby’s world, the visuals don’t mimic the songs but highlight another side of his personality. On Baby on Baby, his words are often witty but never as slapstick and hilarious as he comes across in the videos. On record, DaBaby is the sort of person you wish you could be—the travel, the money, etc.—but his videos portray a dude you’d want to hang out with, if you’re into mansions and mountainside escapes and throwing people’s mail all over the streets. He’s a sketch artist stuck in a rapper’s body, but the rapper is pretty phenomenal, too. After watching these videos, the mantra that runs throughout Baby On Baby makes even more sense. That ain’t the baby that’s my baby.