No One Man Should Have All That Power

How DaBaby ethered hisself.

Welcome to 36th issue Backseat Freestyle. This is my weekly hip-hop newsletter I send out every Friday focusing on one big thing that happened over the past seven days. I also include links (15-25 of them) to what I’ve been listening to, reading and watching. You can check out the archive, here, and read more about me, here. If you’re already a BF subscriber, thank you for your continued support. If you’re arriving to this issue by way of a forward, LinkedIn or social media, please subscribe below. And please share this newsletter with your circle so that they can enjoy it, too; personal referrals are my best path to long-term growth. With that said, let’s get into it….

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Front Seat

This is what’s driving hip-hop this week….

SYSTEMIC ISSUES IN THIS country are very real. To wit, Puerto Rico is suffering through some of them right now with their second class citizenry and global aid being handcuffed by the Jones Act in the wake of Hurricane Fiona. When we talk about "The Man" and him holding us down, that's what we mean. It's sort of like the "They" that DJ Khaled refers to often. But for DaBaby, in particular, his swell of supporters that seem to think he's on the receiving end of a systemic effort to punish him via low first-week sales over his boorish behavior, there just isn't an operator hiding behind a gilded curtain saying they aren't fucking with his movement. No one has that kind of power. Well, maybe one person does.

Back Seat

Respect my mind or die from lead shower.

LAST WEEK, DABABY RELEASED Baby On Baby 2, his first album since 2020’s Blame It on Baby and his first solo album since…a whole lotta shit went down. There’s been his tumultuous relationship with DaniLeigh, which included a public, physical altercation with her brother, in addition to claims of cruel behavior made against him by the singer. And his remarks at a July 2021 Rolling Loud appearance where he said:

“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. Ladies, if your pussy smells like water, put a cell phone light in the air. Fellas, if you ain’t suck a n—-a dick in the parking lot, put your cell phone lights in the air. Keep it fucking real.”


On stage that night, in a bout of irony, DaBaby brought out the embattled singer, Tory Lanez. Lanez had a rehabilitation the year before as his Quarantine Radio series on Instagram Live recast the entertainer as a lovable goof, which was aided in part by an appearance by Drake, who he has previously feuded with.

But this nexus of an appearance between the two resulted in the worst of both worlds.

DaBaby said what he said that night and as a result he was removed from a string of festivals, a punishing financial hit for his wayward ignorance.

That they’re both short doesn’t make that previous line a joke, no more than a clear-eyed observation.

Lanez, for his part, has embraced a heel turn following his July 2020 incident with Megan Thee Stallion, where he reportedly shot the Houston rapper in the foot. Since that event, he’s antagonized her, made vague claims and all but embraced any strategy that could sully her name even if it also brought dirt to his own. He also released a new project recently, last month’s Sorry 4 What.

What’s important to note is that both men suffer the same maladies.

From a lack of accountability and, what seems like, a sense of obsession over Megan. More than anything, however, what’s most alarming is their refusal to accept the terms over the cause of their displacement from previous heights. That they’re both short doesn’t make that previous line a joke, no more than a clear-eyed observation.

They each have an abundance of talent. DaBaby at his best draws inspiration and aspiration from Ludacris and Busta Rhymes, respectively. He may get accused of having a limited variety to his flow, though that’s an exaggerated slight, in my opinion. (David Dennis, Jr. takes on this track and more about DaBaby and Lanez’ intentions, here.) Lanez, with his airy, melodic voice and ability to sing and rap has all the tools necessary for further stardom.

The obvious memo to DaBaby: People like Meg. And Tory still hasn’t gotten that clue, either. And what’s happening to them is people are beginning to not like those two.

It’s just, they won’t take a hard look at their actions. And instead, they’re channeling their grievance into their music. For no reason beyond pettiness, DaBaby fused himself to Lanez once again on a track called “BOOGEYMAN,” from his new album, where he makes claims to have slept with Megan (one of his best collaborators in his young career) the day before “she said that Tory Lanez shot her.” And he “waited to say that shit on my next album.”


“BOOGEYMAN” goes on to make claims about unidentified people who are tying “to make me have problem with gays/Mixed up my words, made a n—-a lose a whole thirty million.”


(It's worth noting, DaBaby issued an apology after the controversy and then later deleted said apology tweet.)

The obvious memo to DaBaby: People like Meg. And Tory still hasn’t gotten that clue, either. And what’s happening to them is people are beginning to not like those two.

That leads to the idea of consequences for one’s actions.

Meek Mill and Boosie have attempted to come to the aid of DaBaby over his low first-week album sales. There’s been a tiring discourse about whether DaBaby is being legitimately blackballed by the music industry and, in particular, how the streaming platforms have relinquished their support of him.

To be clear: DaBaby is playlisted on RapCaviar (the most powerful playlist in hip-hop), and Tory Lanez made it onto Spotify’s new releases tab (that features all genres), and they each were slotted across various editorial verticals on Apple Music.

Let me tell you about blackballing. There just isn't an efficient, systemic wide network that is coordinated enough to pull it off. Labels can throw the house at a project to promote it, but they aren’t sophisticated or incentivized enough to tank a project. And the outside, ecosystem of media and streamers, although there’s a lot of networked connections, there’s also a lot of people who don’t know one another to be able to pull off a stunt like that. At MTV, earlier in my career, there would be wary decisions made, wondering if some higher up may not approve of a Janet Jackson interview, yet there never was such a dictum like that mandated.

Again, there’s just not a system to put that kind of play in motion.

This also applies toward Kodak Black’s gripe over not winning Song of the Year at the BET Hip-Hop Awards for “Super Gremlin.” He has a justifiable case that his record was the jam. But Latto’s “Big Energy” was a massive streaming juggernaut too and a number one on the Hot 100. There was no “women’s empowerment” conspiracy that held him down, as he claimed.

The reality for these men, if they're looking for an answer is that there’s only one man who has the kind of power to stifle DaBaby and Tory Lanez (and Kodak, if he’s not careful): the one in the mirror.


Music, news, reads, podcasts and videos that I’m checking for.

  • There’s a lot of “messy” going on with the Migos right now that may or may not come to the light, but the music they’re making separately, Offset’s solo material and guest verses, and this new project, Only Built For Infinity Links, by Quavo and Takeoff, is strong. [Listen]

  • There’s more lyrical rappers, or tougher rappers, but G Herbo is first in his class in earnestness. His latest, Survivor’s Remorse: Side A, is another collection of his wistful Chicago memories. Check out “Flashbacks” with a “Flashing Lights” flip and Jeremih on the hook. [Listen]

  • Sometimes I wonder if NBA YounBoy’s prolific release pace is beneficial or not. He doesn’t show exponential growth on each, but he has a baseline level that’s hard for a lot of artist to reach on such a consistent basis considering the sheer volume of his work. His FIFTH project of the year, 3800 Degrees, just arrived. [Listen]

  • I thought the pandemic was a confusing time for A Boogie Wit da Hoodie. He was really delivering as a guest act before dropping an album just a month before the world changed. He’s heating back up again now and I hope he has a better ride this time. “B.R.O. (Better Ride Out)” featuring Roddy Ricch is a smooth offering, though, maybe too smooth for the combination of the two together. [Listen]

  • I like LaRussell’s live performances so much that sometimes I’m let down by his recorded material, but his latest, a collaborative project with Deaf Heff, I Hate When Life’s Going Great, is worth the time. [Listen]

  • Rap lyrics will be restricted in the use against artists in criminal trials in California after the state’s governor signed a new bill. [Info]

  • The homie Donna Gryn levels up at Republic to lead marketing efforts domestically and abroad. [Info]

  • A good read on the ladies in rap who got next, courtesy of Andscape. [Read]

  • Quando Rondo is someone who doesn’t get a lot of ink and doesn’t do a lot of interviews, but Andre Gee did well with the rare encounter in this piece. [Read]

  • Black Thought and ?uestlove continue to make moves in the media space. [Read]

  • Quavo and Takeoff are making the rounds ahead of their new project, and there’s a lot of good material, but start here: their appearance on the Big Facts podcast. [Listen]

  • Beyonce teamed with Tiffany again, this time for a Lose Yourself In Love “film.” Shouts to DJ Moma for his co-starring role. [Watch]

  • Puff is still the straw that stirs the drink in hip-hop. His sit-down with The Breakfast Club is a must-see TV. [Watch]

Backseat Freestyle is written and produced by me, Jayson Rodriguez, for Smarty Art. If you have any comments, feedback or questions, feel free to email me: [email protected]. If you would like to discuss sponsoring an issue of the newsletter, contact: [email protected] and check out the rates, here. And follow me elsewhere:

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