Rules: One play only of the full album, all the way through in one sitting. Must be listened to in order. No repeats, or re-listens before the review. No other reviews of the album can be read before the review is written/given.
Rating System: 6 categories each rated out of 6 possible points for 36 total points aka ‘36 Chambers.’
Album: BLAME IT ON BABY
Release Date: April 17, 2020
Review Date: May 1, 2020
Full disclosure, I’m not really a new rap guy. I know, I know, how original; a crusty old head music reviewer who thinks music was better in the ‘good old days.’ Hear me out: while it is not my main musical genre of interest, I still appreciate a good deal of music that is classed as new rap, and as a musician myself, I try to listen to ALL music as objectively as possible. I can appreciate things for what they are.
It’s like this: I don’t eat meat but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand why folks go crazy for a big juicy steak or some hot wings. I get it, meat is good, I just think animals are our friends. I’m not attracted to men, but I can acknowledge that Tom Hardy is a fucking dude. If your girl came home one day and was like, “I’m so sorry sweetie, I had sex with Anton from accounting,” you’d be livid. “Anton? That lame ass sweater-vest rocking, ham sandwich-eating dink? What the hell, babe?” But, if your girl was working a red carpet event at a film festival and accidentally hooked up with Tom Hardy in a Porta Potty, could you blame her? He’s Bane with a British accent, bro.
Basically, despite not being the target demographic for radio-friendly club bangers, DaBaby is actually one of the new generation of artists I haven’t written off as ‘not for me. His track “BOP” was not a misnomer and is objectively a ‘bop.’ The music video features DaBaby looking tough rocking a throwback Larry Johnson Charlotte Hornets jersey with matching track pants while doing a Bollywood-meets-Broadway-style dance routine. You know how hard it is to look tough while dancing? Fat Joe wrote a whole song about it if you’re unaware. All this to say, despite thinking mid-‘90s East Coast hoodies and Timbs rap is the epitome of hip-hop culture, I’ve kept an open mind with DaBaby. His latest release is likely to dethrone The Weeknd on the Billboard charts by the time I hit save on this review, so who am I to question its musical validity? Well, I’m glad you asked: I’m a jaded hater with a good vocabulary and a platform, so here’s my hot take.
1. Head Nodability: Does it, in fact, slap?
This is music designed to get people moving and it does its job adequately. Nothing super standout in terms of a certified banger, but it moves along at a reasonable clip. It doesn’t feel plodding or difficult to listen to and DaBaby’s delivery is the star of the show. I thought the title track, “BLAME IT ON BABY” was going to be my favorite beat, but the switch mid-track ruined it for me. As such, there are no standout beats, and the hooks aren’t enough to push the project into classic album range. I didn’t want to jump up and start vibing and I wouldn’t throw it on in the car if I wanted to amp up on the way to a heavy lift session at the gym; but it’s serviceable.
2. Quotent Quotables: Do the lyrics make you laugh, cry, think, or go damn?
Listen, I didn’t go into this thinking I was going to be blown away by the lyrical magnitude. DaBaby isn’t trying to battle rap Royce Da 5’9 anytime soon. This isn’t backpacker, storytelling shit; and that’s cool. There’s a time and a place. The time is 2020 and the place this music is designed for is a party. Unfortunately, with stay home orders in effect, we’re all at home wearing our jimmy jams drinking warm Bud Light because our fridges are full of stockpiled groceries. This is radio jam, club music. It isn’t designed to make you come to terms with unresolved childhood issues or question the meaning of life. That said, I still want one or two bars that make me screw up my face out of something other than confusion or embarrassment. On “TALK ABOUT IT,” he raps, “My mama taught me how to use a rubber” as a part of the most catchy choruses on the entire record, and that’s the only time I really put any thought into what he was spitting. The thought was unfortunately, ‘what the fuck?’ He also starts the closing track “AMAZING GRACE” with the line, “barely read the scripture but I’m spiritual” and unless that’s his criticism of American Politics, I would say it’s better served as a commentary on his own lyrical prowess. Is he a rapper. Sure. Is he spitting bars? Meh. Is that the intention? Probably not.
3. Liquid Swords: Can they flow, though?
DaBaby’s schtick is definitely a vibe. His vocal tone is pleasant to listen to, and his voice is unique enough to stand out. He has a smoked-out nonchalance that feels natural, and can get in the pocket and make you nod your head. His charisma comes through in his delivery. His North Carolina accent exudes Southern Charm and his drawl lends itself to being the MC of your party. It’s all there on paper. Apparently he’s been told he’s a one trick pony before, because on the title track “BLAME IT ON BABY,’’ the beat switches back-and-forth between two completely different instrumentals so he can flex his flowability. Unfortunately, half of it is the best beat on the album and the other half ruins the vibe, so the net result is that his flow is interrupted. Megan Thee Stallion sounds like Bun B as compared to a lackluster performance by DaBaby on “NASTY” and represents the most standout verse on the album because it breaks up the monotony. Flow wise, DaBaby is firmly in his lane, and can ride a beat, but I feel like he would have benefited from better production.
4. Production Value: How many tin cans did they string together to record this shit? Are the beats innovative or stock?
The beats are as stock as you can possibly get, so much so that I recognized loops from online loop subscription services stock. Every track essentially follows the same formula: 808 sub-kick, clap, and as many hi-hats as you can fit in a bar. Maybe a detuned flute or synth thrown in for good measure. Is it vibey? Sure. You can put it on in the background at the party and no one is going to slap the Doritos bowl off the table and walk out, but if I played the same preset drum loop and got ten different 8th graders to blow out their favorite recorder ditty over the top of it for an hour, we’d invariably come up with a beat worthy of this album. 10,000 monkeys on 10,000 typewriters may not be cobbling together War and Peace but they could bang out Curious George, feel me? I mean, London on The Track got top-billing as a featured producer and came through with a beat that sounds like an entry-level Casio keyboard powered by a Marshall Stack through a dorm-room wall while the room is spinning because you drank too many Thug Passions. Maybe get Berlin or Rome on the track, next time, bruh.
5. Vibe Check: Is it a cohesive album, with some sort of discernible artistic theme? Is the song structure recognizable and appealing?
You can throw it on and listen to it start to finish without skipping tracks or getting frustrated with obvious ploys to produce ‘one for the ladies’ which is my main gripe with Drake and his imitators. Despite being a ubiquitous new rap pop star, DaBaby isn’t trying to be Drake, and as such he is consistent if nothing else. He raps about hustling over kick drums that will rattle your trunk if given the opportunity. It’s that simple. Is there a theme? It very well may be ‘hustling over beats to rattle your trunk is a tough job but somebody has to do it. So BLAME IT ON BABY.’ Like I said, it’s not a classic album and I honestly don’t think that was the intention. Artistic integrity feels less important than making an album that appeals to the majority of the pop rap segment and it will undoubtedly get a few Club Quarantine spins.
6. Intangibles: Points given for: cultural relevance, timelessness, promotional innovation, packaging, novelty, features.
As I mentioned, he has Megan Thee Stallion drop in for a verse, and also features fellow Southern Rappers, Future and Quavo. He’s wearing a surgical mask on the album cover so I guess that’s culturally relevant at the moment? I am not the target demographic, but I didn’t see anything in terms of marketing leading up to the release of this album. I understand it is a weird time, but the roll-out was nonexistent as far as I know. The only reason I knew the album was dropping was because Westside Gunn dropped an album on the same day and had an amazing rollout complete with a curated capsule collection drop and an album cover designed by Virgil Abloh. There was a meme circulating pitting the two albums against each other, but there’s really no comparison in my opinion. They are two very different albums catering to two very different audiences. Am I the intended audience of ‘BLAME IT ON BABY’? Definitely not, but I didn’t hate it either. If it’s your cup of tea, you probably think it goes hard, and that’s just fine.
Total Score: 17 out of 36 Chambers
Nothing to write home about, but not an abomination. I would probably throw it on for a second listen just in case, but at this stage I wouldn’t add any tracks to my library. I don’t mind him as a rapper and at his best, I genuinely like his flow. Where this release is really lacking for me is the beats, so honestly, I don’t blame it on Dababy. It’s not proper trash though, so give it a go and make your own decision.