Music

Every Twist and Turn of This Week’s DaBaby Saga

A man dressed in all white and wearing a red hat throws water across a stage as he holds a microphone.
Rich Fury/Getty Images

It’s been a banner week for questionable decision-making by DaBaby, the Grammy-nominated rapper known for smash hits like “Rockstar” and a remix of Dua Lipa’s “Levitating.” On Sunday night at Rolling Loud Festival in Miami the rapper (née Jonathan Kirk) told his audience to hold their phones up if they “didn’t show up today with HIV [or] AIDS” and if they were “fellas” who “ain’t sucking dick in the parking lot.” The quite eventful week (thus far) rolled on from there, on the internet and now on the music charts. You would be forgiven for missing some or all of it—that’s what we’re here for.

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So: DaBaby really said all that? In public? In 2021?

That’s not all he said. During his set at Rolling Loud, DaBaby referred to HIV and AIDS as “them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two to three weeks”—which is not only false, but feeds into dangerous and outdated myths about the virus and disease. Spreading that misinformation during a concert, even as attention-baiting trollery, can be fairly described as homophobic.

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But we should note that those statements weren’t the first questionable thing DaBaby did that night: Earlier in the set, DaBaby brought his friend and fellow rapper Tory Lanez on stage. Considering that rap superstar Megan Thee Stallion, who performed at the event earlier in the night, has a restraining order against Lanez for shooting her last summer, the fact that Lanez was there at all was … not great.

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The guy who shot Megan Thee Stallion? Remind me about this again?

If you somehow missed that news cycle last summer (quarantining from the internet sure sounds nice), here’s the gist: Last July, following a party at Kylie Jenner’s house, Lanez was charged with concealing a weapon in his car. One month later, Megan Thee Stallion called out Lanez on Instagram Live, accusing Lanez of having shot at her with said weapon, hitting her in the foot. Megan now has a restraining order against Lanez, and he is facing possible prison time for both assault and gun charges. But while Lanez awaits a trial and sentencing, he’s still making music; he released an entire album about the shooting, denying Megan’s allegations not long after it all went down. And he and DaBaby are clearly still pals. It’s a mess!

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OK, whew. But back to the homophobia. Is this something we already knew about DaBaby, or was it new?

The explicit homophobia is shocking, but not the fact that DaBaby would be brazenly offensive. During a concert in March of 2020, he slapped a female fan who was trying to film the show with her phone. The rapper said later that he would have slapped the person for encroaching on his personal space, no matter if it were a man or a woman.

This past February, he also drummed up some controversy for releasing a freestyle in which he called 18-year-old Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa “a bitch.” He later claimed he had no beef with the uber-positive, ponytailed teen—”All love on my end”—and that critics couldn’t properly comprehend his “wordplay.”

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Oof. So it seems safe to assume that people did not take his Rolling Loud remarks about HIV/AIDS kindly. 

Nope! A clip that went viral Sunday night showed someone throwing a shoe at DaBaby in protest after he brought Tory Lanez on stage. That was followed by both jokes about him getting pelted by a sneaker and scrutiny over whether DaBaby helped Lanez violate Megan’s restraining order. Not longer after, footage of his homophobic comments made their way online, and the backlash moved in that direction. There was plenty of anger, but also, of course, plenty of memes—though we have yet to see a joke that tops calling for DaBaby to keep using DaPacifier.

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Groan.

Sorry. The point is, the backlash was, understandably, big. On Tuesday the singer Dua Lipa posted an Instagram story distancing herself from DaBaby. This was notable because Lipa’s collaboration with DaBaby on a remix of her song “Levitating” has been climbing the charts. “I know my fans know where my heart lies and that I stand 100% with the LGTBQ community,” she wrote. “We need to come together to fight the stigma and ignorance around HIV/AIDS.”

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Elton John, the beloved boomer defender of millennial musicians, also spoke out against DaBaby’s comments. In a thread, John explained the inaccuracy of DaBaby’s views on AIDS and HIV. “Homophobic and HIV mistruths have no place in our society and industry and as musicians, we must spread compassion and love for the most marginalised people in our communities,” John wrote Wednesday.

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Others that have chimed in over the course of the week include GLAAD; Laverne Cox, who posted about the links between homophobia, misogyny, and transphobia without mentioning DaBaby by name; and Demi Lovato, who implored fans to listen to the original, Baby-free version of “Levitating.”

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Did DaBaby apologize? 

Barely. After the first burst of outrage, he posted a multi-part Instagram story on Tuesday, in which he clapped back at critics. “All the lights went up, gay or straight,” he said, referencing his request that fans put their phone flashlights on if they didn’t have an STD. “You wanna know why? ‘Cause even my gay fans don’t got fucking AIDS. … My gay fans, they take care of themselves. They ain’t no nasty gay ni–ers. See what I’m saying? They ain’t no junkies.” He did follow this up with a slightly less galling tweet that same night, acknowledging that his comments were “insensitive.”

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I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess it doesn’t end there. 

Pretty safe limb. One day after DaBaby conceded that his homophobic comments weren’t great, he dropped a new single, “Giving What It’s Supposed to Give.” In the video, DaBaby is seen receiving oral sex in a parking lot from a woman, much like those unwelcome “fellas” that he mocked during his Rolling Loud set. He even references AIDS explicitly in the video: First, he raps, “Bitch, we like AIDS, I’m on your ass, we on your ass, bitch we don’t go away.” He also holds up a sign that says “AIDS” and, at the end of the video, writes “Don’t Fight Hate With Hate” in rainbow colors, along with “My apologies for being me the same way you want the freedom to be you.”

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DaBaby noted on Instagram that this video was “COINCIDENTALLY” filmed the night before his Sunday performance. Of the decision to release the video despite his Rolling Loud controversy, he described it as a question of whether to “go against the grain in the opposite direction of every scared person around you & stay true to yourself & DROP DAT BITCH in the height of the commotion & show the world once again that you CANT BE FUCKED WIT?” A more conspiratorial mind might wonder if his rant about AIDS was then not so coincidentally related to his upcoming single: “It never seizes [sic] to amaze me the way God put me in situations I’m already equipped to handle,” he wrote in a separate Instagram post.

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Well that’s certainly a lot. So where does this all leave DaBaby now? Is this going to hurt his career? 

It seems like it. Not only have powerful members of the music and entertainment industry called him out, but some have already taken action. Dua Lipa’s team has reportedly removed her remix of “Levitating” from several popular playlists on Apple Music, replacing it with her DaBaby-less version. Some radio stations are also allegedly not playing the remix anymore; the original cut is now rocketing up the charts in its stead.

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There may be more to come, as DaBaby is no longer slated to perform at the upcoming Parklife Music Festival in the U.K. He is, however, still playing Lollapalooza this weekend as of publication time.

The rap scene has historically been socially conservative about homosexuality, though there are signs that may be slowly changing. DaBaby’s behavior may not be shocking in the context of rap culture—but it’s getting increasingly hard to get away with it.

[Update, August 1, 2021, at 12:52 p.m.: The organizers of Lollapalooza have now dropped DaBaby from the festival lineup—just hours before he was set to perform.“Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love,” they stated. “With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing at Grant Park tonight.”]

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