DaBaby admits that he slow-played the biggest hit of his career, the same way a poker ace might linger before betting big on a winning hand. “When I made ‘Rockstar,’ I knew it was a monster record,” the Charlotte, N.C., rapper says of his collaboration with Roddy Ricch that was featured on this year’s Blame It on Baby. DaBaby previewed the April LP with lead single “Find My Way,” which introduced a more melodic approach following his 2019 album, Kirk; the track peaked at No. 22 on the Hot 100, but primed fans for his warbled hook on “Rockstar” — his first No. 1 single. “What I tend to do when I drop a project, the first song I throw out is not the one that I want to stick,” says DaBaby. “That’s just to get the fans ready.”
“Rockstar” (which reigned atop the Hot 100 for seven weeks) is the result of over a year of nonstop planning and recording, arriving two years after DaBaby finalized a joint deal with Interscope and longtime label home South Coast Music Group. “He doesn’t sleep,” says Interscope executive vp Joie Manda of the quick-witted MC’s work ethic. “It was obvious that DaBaby was an absolute star and personally driven to be successful.” (Post-publication, Manda announced he’d be leaving Interscope at the end of 2020 “to pursue new endeavors.”)
DaBaby, 28, had spent years developing locally as the flagship artist of Charlotte-based South Coast, which released over a dozen of his mixtapes beginning in 2015. Those years of preparation under the tutelage of South Coast founder Arnold Taylor prepared him for a much bigger stage and allowed for his quick takeoff in 2019, says Nicole Wyskoarko, Interscope’s executive vp/co-head of A&R. “Arnold recognized that we could come in and do what we do, which is add the rocket fuel to what he had started,” she says.
So far, that has added up to three top 10 entries on the Billboard 200 that have earned a combined 3.7 million equivalent album units (according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data); dozens of guest verses, including on rap hits by Jack Harlow and Pop Smoke, as well as pop tracks with Camila Cabello and Dua Lipa; and a North American headlining tour. As Taylor puts it, the partnership has taken DaBaby to a global audience: “Interscope is built for that — they’re a machine. If we have something that has legs on it, I feel like they can take it from 50 to 100.”