DaBaby has dubbed himself the “Live Show Killa,” and he’s certainly gotten folks around the world talking about his recent set at Rolling Loud. During the performance, the Charlotte rapper born Jonathan Kirk not only brought controversial artist Tory Lanez on stage, but made some truly bizarre and offensive comments about queer people, as well as those living with HIV and AIDS.
“If you didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cell phone light in the air,” he said. “Ladies, if your pussy smells like water, put a cell phone light in the air. Fellas, if you ain’t suck a n-gga dick in the parking lot, put your cell phone lights in the air. Keep it fucking real.”
Though much of the initial scrutiny of DaBaby’s set centered around Lanez, whom Megan the Stallion accused of shooting her last year in a widely-publicized incident, discourse in the ensuing days has focused on Kirk’s homophobic comments.
His initial response came in the form of a video on Instagram, where he criticized people commenting on a concert that they did not themselves attend. “What me and my fans do at the live show, it don’t concern you n-ggas on the internet or you bitter bitches on the internet,” he said, before sharing a story about enjoying the energy of a fan in the crowd who he thought may have been gay, ostensibly to refute critics.
Eventually, Kirk offered something more in the realm of a traditional celebrity apology. In a string of tweets, he admitted the remarks about sexually transmitted diseases were “insensitive,” while also criticizing brands and companies that “profit off Black rappers’ influence on the culture,” and hyping up his own upcoming tour dates.
“Anybody who done ever been effected [sic] by AIDS/HIV y’all got the right to be upset, what I said was insensitive even though I have no intentions on offending anybody. So my apologies,” he wrote, though not without a cryptic follow-up. “But the LGBT community… I ain’t trippin on y’all, do you. Y’all business is y’all business.”
Since his rapid ascent to A-list status in 2019, DaBaby has consistently found himself amidst controversy. In 2020, he struck a female fan at a concert, something he later apologized for. He’s been arrested several times in recent years, and last summer blasted the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, calling it “unlawful.” Kirk has used his platform often to speak on the issue of police brutality, including during his performance of “Rockstar” at the 63rd Grammys in March.
Baby spoke about the controversies that have followed him on his 2020 album, the cheekily-titled Blame It On Baby: “I don’t get into politics, I just be poppin’ shit/Obviously hot as a motherfuckin’ fire/Only answer to God, I’m already convicted/If I’m havin’ you as my witness,” he raps on the opener “Can’t Stop.”
On DaBaby’s side are older rappers like T.I., who dubiously equated Baby’s speech with Lil Nas X’s freedom of expression in videos for songs like “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” and Boosie Badazz, who referred to Nas with a homophobic slur during an Instagram diatribe of his own.
Denouncing his remarks are a host of figures, from his “Levitating” remix collaborator Dua Lipa (“I’m surprised and horrified at DaBaby’s comments,” she wrote on Instagram), as well as Elton John (who stressed the danger of AIDS-related misinformation), and Demi Lovato (“HIV is not a gay disease,” their Instagram post read).
Lil Nas X, who worked with DaBaby on a remix of “Panini,” showed off his internet savvy by sharing a link that purported to be addressing the controversy, but was actually the music video to his new single “Industry Baby.” He also responded specifically to Boosie, writing, “A n-gga saying he will ‘Beat my f-ggot ass’ is not what we meant by freedom of speech.” Lil Nas X’s father even told Kirk to “sit down” in a post of his own.
After all that, DaBaby doubled down on his comments yesterday when he released his music video for “Giving What It’s Supposed to Give.” According to a lengthy Instagram caption, Kirk and his team finished the video a few hours before the Rolling Loud set. In the post, he expressed frustration at the prolonged conversation around his words and actions.
“You ever…give one of the BEST performances of the entire festival yet the most controversial and emotion provoking performance as well; due to things deemed ‘insensitive’ said during your performance even though you’re an ENTERTAINER, try to apologize and explain that you meant no harm and that you were only entertaining as you are paid to do, and have no problem with anyone’s sexual preference that is outside of yours, only to have a substantial amount of people refuse to understand your logic,” he wrote.
The song features a bar about AIDS (“Bitch, we like AIDS, I’m on your ass, we on your ass, bitch, we won’t go away”), and in the scene where he raps it, Kirk is holding up a piece of paper bearing the word. It’s unclear exactly when the song itself was recorded, though writer Zeba Blay points out online that the phrase “Giving What It’s Supposed to Give” actually has roots in Black LGBTQ+ culture.
DaBaby has also been one of the important figures orbiting Megan thee Stallion and Tory Lanez during the fallout from the alleged assault in July 2020. Baby and Megan have recorded several hit songs together, including “Cash Shit” and “Cry Baby,” so many were dismayed when he appeared on Tory Lanez’s track “Skat” this June. Following its release, Megan called out “industry men” for supporting her privately but not publicly in a June 19 post many viewed as being about Kirk.
When he responded, the two went back and forth online, with DaBaby eventually writing, “Ion even go back n forth [with] my own bitches on the net now I’m on dis mf goin back n forth [with] another n-gga woman about some shit another n-gga accused of. How [the fuck] dat work?”
Given that Megan performed on the very same stage at Rolling Loud that DaBaby shared with Lanez, it’s hard not to view his actions as a slight. He even played “Cash Shit” prior to revealing Lanez. Per TMZ, Megan and her team are incredibly angry about how the events were handled, and it’s possible that Lanez actually violated a “protective order” to keep him away from the “Savage” rapper.
In the past, DaBaby’s self-awareness has been part of his charm. He’s seen the comments about how his raps can be monotonous, so he jokes about switching his flow on “BOP.” He parodied a viral altercation with fellow North Carolina rapper Cam Coldhart in the video for “Carpet Burn.” But his actions at Rolling Loud show a more callous, harmful side of the 29-year-old superstar’s personality.