Rapper DaBaby is the musical guest on Saturday Night Live this week, but many viewers aren't yet familiar with this rising talent. DaBaby has been releasing music for several years now, but 2019 is considered his breakout into the mainstream. There are a few things viewers may want to know before catching DaBaby on SNL this week.
DaBaby is a 27-year-old rapper whose real name is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk. The songwriter released his first studio album this year, and had some big radio and streaming hits. He also performed at some huge festivals and collaborated with other popular artists, cementing himself as a mainstream success.
This weekend, that success will be even more indisputable when DaBaby takes the stage in Studio 8H for SNL. The rapper is performing on one of the last episodes of the year, alongside this week's host Jennifer Lopez. Lopez has hosted SNL twice before, and both times she was the musical guest as well. Hopefully, DaBaby can live up to her legacy.
This SNL appearance is just one of the big indicators that DaBaby is here to stay in mainstream music. Here is what you need to know about the rapper before tonight's show.
Jonathan Lyndale Kirk was born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Vance High School in 2010 and attended The University of North Carolina at Greensboro for two years before dropping out. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Kirk said that he was never a mischievous child, despite what many people guessed about him.
"No, I wasn’t a bad kid," he said. "I was always intelligent, and strong-minded, and outgoing, like I am now."
Kirk began to rap shortly after leaving school, first under the name Baby Jesus. He changed his moniker to DaBaby, saying that the previous stage name had become "a distraction."
DaBaby had one serious run-in with the law just before he really began rising to fame. On Nov. 5, 2018, 19-year-old Jalyn Craig was shot and killed in a Walmart store in Huntersville, North Carolina, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer.
At the time, DaBaby was charged with one misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon, but the charge was dropped in March. Prosecutors said that there was "a key civilian witness" unavailable to testify.
There are other, less serious claims against DaBaby over the years, and he has been seen on camera involved in fist fights. In general, he told Rolling Stone, this does not really reflect his personality.
"I don't really like fighting, man," he said. "I've done probably been in more fights since I've been rapping in these five years. I'm 27, I’ve probably been in more fights as a rapper than I was the first 22 years in my life."
Between 2014 and 2019, DaBaby released several mixtapes and several high production value music videos. He even got one record deal and then lost it before securing his current contract with Interscope. The label released his first big studio debut, Baby on Baby, on March 1 2019.
The album took DaBaby to the next level, particularly thanks to his hit single "Suge (Yea Yeah)." The song debuted at number 87 on the Billboard Hot 100 and then rose to the top 10.
Baby on Baby also featured an impressive array of guest appearances, including rappers like Offset, Rich Homie Quan and Rich the Kid. The album earned DaBaby a spot on the XXL Freshman Class of 2019 in July.
One of the things DaBaby is best-known for is his music videos, which play like full-on skits at times. The rapper played a muscle suit-wearing executive in "Suge," and a streetwise cowboy in "Walker Texas Ranger." With any luck, he will make some kind of cameo appearance on SNL.
DaBaby told Rolling Stone that the music videos are very important to him both creatively and commercially. He described the great lengths he went to to get some of the early ones made.
"I paid for every video I ever shot," he said. "$100,000 budget, $70,000, $60,000, I've probably spent like half a million dollars on videos this year, by myself, just me. I ain't willing to settle for less. With the type of artist that I'm capable of being, the creativity I've got, it’s just no way. You can't cheat it. You can't cheat the game.
You can't cheat the grind. You get out what you put in at the end of the day. If you're capable of being this caliber of an artist, do I want to settle for doing shit like this just to keep some money in my pocket and spend it on bullshit or something?"
Another thing that helped DaBaby become a breakout success was his wildly popular features this year. Over the summer, he did guest verses on some of the biggest hits of the year by some of the biggest artists, including Chance The Rapper, Post Malone's "Enemies," Lizzo's "Truth Hurts," Lil Nas X's "Panini," and Megan Thee Stallion's "Cash S—."
This has also given DaBaby a chance to work with some of his personal favorite artists, including J. Cole. He told Rolling Stone that he worked obsessively on his verse for "Under The Sun."
"It's J. Cole. I'm in college for two years, too. I went to college, fall 2010. That’s when J. Cole popped," he said. "If you was in college, you were really listening to that n—. College b—es, that's all they was listening to was J. Cole."
Not content to rest on his laurels, DaBaby followed up his March release with yet another studio album in 2019, Kirk. The album was titled simply with his own last name, and the cover showed a photo of himself as an infant sitting on his father's lap.
In the opening track of the song, DaBaby explained the mixed feelings he had all throughout his rise to fame that year. Some time after Baby on Baby was released, his father passed away unexpectedly. He confessed that he had very little time to reckon with these feelings as he took off on tour and got to work on new music.
Still, Kirk features plenty of the irreverent, braggadocious rap fans had come to expect from DaBaby, and it has generally positive ratings all around. Kirk was released on Sept. 27.
In addition to all this writing, recording and filming, DaBaby has been on tour just about non-stop since he made it big. He is not stopping now, either. After leaving SNL, he will head to Washington, D.C. for another show on Sunday, and continue playing huge gigs from there. He is currently booked through January, with a few international dates already set for July.
You can catch DaBaby live on Saturday Night Live on Dec. 7 starting at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.