When the conversation arises for breakout hip-hop star of 2019, two names emerge, DaBaby and Lil Nas X. The latter achieved greater peaks – breaking the record for most weeks (19) in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. DaBaby, however, cemented his longevity in the rap game by dropping two entire albums in 2019 – Baby on Baby and KIRK – which were both received to strong critical acclaim. The rapper boasts a unique flow, strong hit-making ability, and confident personality that makes him one of this generation’s most impressive stars.
On December 10 at REBEL, on the 16th stop of his “KIRK Tour”, DaBaby proved why he is indeed a force to be reckoned with within the hip-hop industry.
From the jump, DaBaby made it clear that he was here to do things his way and show off what made him unique. He took a large risk and very interestingly started off with his biggest hit Suge, having smoke and fog machines immediately blasting out fumes. Rather than more traditionally building up to the climax or gradually working up the energy of the crowd, he gave it his most from the start.
After this exhilarating intro, DJ K.i.D told the crowd to be prepared for a movie. While most of the crowd took this as a memo for constant raging and moshpits, K.i.D was being quite literal. DaBaby implemented a theatrical narrative that involved scenes from jail with him in an orange uniform, him receiving a pedicure in a salon, and even him lying down flat on the stage to symbolize hitting rock bottom. While it was often unclear what the full story was – as he simultaneously switched between hit and theatrics (merging both) – it was frivolous over-the-top acting which served its purpose of being entertaining. This perhaps embodied DaBaby’s ambition; a desire to be unorthodox which inevitably makes him unique.
DaBaby very scarcely scaled back from the aggression. Just when it felt like a sense of stagnancy was about to arrive, DaBaby showed the audience that he had another ace up his sleeve. He announced a surprise was coming. The now somewhat fatigued crowd probably did not think too much of this, yet, DaBaby did one of the strongest things any musician can do in Toronto. He brought out hometown hero, Drake. The most commercially successful rapper in hip-hop and arguably the greatest hit-maker of this generation. Drake is adored by his city – who generally credits him as a catalyst for building hip-hop infrastructure in Toronto. All remnants of fatigue went out the door for Drake’s live renditions of Money In the Grave and God’s Plan. The moment was made even more historical when Drake publicly announced his next album here for the first time.
DaBaby then concluded his show with another performance of Suge. While not being as ecstatic or jaw-dropping as the first time he did this – due to the crowd now having dispersed their energy for both himself and Drake – they were still on their toes.
Ultimately, DaBaby’s uncanny concert structure, theatrics, and sheer aggression made this show a very distinctive experience. It is hard to assess whether DaBaby needs to step back a little and follow the norms of a more traditional rap concert. Less sometimes is more and simplicity is not always a bad thing. Furthermore, he definitely will not always have a surprise future – especially one of Drake’s calibre – to come in and “save the day” from fatigue. However, at the same time, it is also this aspiration and uncanniness of his that has shaped him into the distinctive star he is today. If DaBaby continues to roll out platinum records and sell-out shows as fast as this one, what merit if there to discredit his desire to elevate the standards of a rap show.
One thing is for sure, nonetheless. DaBaby certainly has a long career ahead of him.