DaBaby: consequences of controversial behavior

They say that in the world of advertising, there is no such thing as bad publicity. While this notion could somewhat be applied to the past, in today’s social media era, every action has its consequence. Words aren’t just words, and everyone is held accountable for what they say in the public space, and this is especially true for public figures such as actors and musicians.

It has recently been the case for the 29-year-old American rapper Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, aka DaBaby. Over the years he has become a controversial artist, but 2021 seems to be the year his actions catch up with his career (and his radio airplay).

DaBaby's 2021 timeline

From top left to bottom right: Tory Lanez, Megan Thee Stallion, JoJo Siwa, Demi Lovato, Elton John & Dua Lipa

In January, he was criticized for collaborating with Tory Lanez - an artist who was (and still is) charged with felony assault for allegedly shooting Megan Thee Stallion the previous year.

In February, following the release of his track “Beatbox Freestyle”, he apologized for calling the 16-year-old Youtuber JoJo Siwa a “b*tch” in the song. Video footage also surfaced of DaBaby attacking a Los Angeles homeowner who had rented him his home for a video shoot back in December 2020.


In April, he faced backlash on social media after posting a video of him making fun of a flight attendant’s hairstyle while aboard a private plane with his friends.

In June, regardless of comments and criticism, DaBaby followed through with the release of his collaboration with Tory Lanez “Skat”.

In July, during his performance at Rolling Loud Miami on July 25th, the American rapper invited Tory Lanez to perform their song on stage, right after Megan Thee Stallion came off stage. On top of that, DaBaby made a homophobic and misogynistic speech while addressing the crowd.

The backlash following his comments was immediate. Several artists condemned his behavior: from Dua Lipa, who collaborated with the rapper on the remix of her song “Levitating”, to Elton John, who insisted on how these rants have the dangerous effects of fueling misinformation and prejudice surrounding HIV and AIDS. DaBaby later tried to apologize for his behavior, but the damage was done.

Several fans decided to boycott DaBaby’s music, supported by singer Demi Lovato who encouraged her followers to listen to the original version of “Levitating” (and not the rapper's remix).

Austin City Limits, Governors Ball, Music Midtown Music, Lollapalooza and iHeartRadio festivals all dropped the rapper from their line-up, making it extremely unlikely DaBaby will tour again until (at least) the end of the year.

Actions have consequences

From an artist’s perspective, this can be particularly visible when analyzing their radio airplay. As a media, radio not only plays music but also shares news. So any trending topic regarding an artist’s attitude on/offline is often picked up by radio stations and discussed.

We took a deeper look into a few of DaBaby’s songs to see if this trend is true, and we noticed some interesting parallels between his radio performance and the events in his life. Indeed, although a song’s airplay can increase or decrease overtime (due to various factors), it is interesting to look into specific dips - striking dips in his radio airplay which take place shortly before/after specific incidents in his life.

"Coco" by 24kGoldn featuring DaBaby

The number of daily airplays started to decrease at the end of February. 

Two events can be linked to this drop: (1) Video footage surfaced of DaBaby attacking a Los Angeles homeowner; (2) DaBaby apologized for calling 16-year-old JoJo Siwa a “b*tch” in his song “Beatbox Freestyle” - song which was released on February 19th.

Evolution of the number of daily radio plays of the song "Coco" by 24kGoldn ft. DaBaby


"Masterpiece" by DaBaby

The song lost its hype at the end of April.

This drop can be linked to the fact that DaBaby posted a video of him making fun of a flight attendant’s hairstyle on April 17th.

Evolution of the number of daily radio plays of the song "Masterpiece" by DaBaby

“Blind” by DaBaby featuring Young Thug

The song experienced a decrease in radio airplay in June.

This drop can be linked to the release of DaBaby’s song “Skat”, in collaboration with Tory Lanez (charged with felony assault for shooting Megan Thee Stallion), on June 14th.

Evolution of the number of daily radio plays of the song "Blind" by DaBaby ft. Young Thug

“Levitating” by Dua Lipa & DaBaby

Between June and July, the remix version of Dua Lipa’s song “Levitating” lost almost 35% of its daily radio plays (going from 1,550 average daily plays during the first week of June to 1,019 average daily plays the last week of July). We can also see that the original version of “Levitating” experienced a short spike over the same time period during which DaBaby’s remix’s airplay went down.

This drop can be linked back to fans, and other artists such as Demi Lovato, who boycotted his remix of the song because of the homophobic and misogynistic speech he made during his performance at Rolling Loud Miami on July 25th.

Evolution of the number of daily radio plays of the songs "Levitating" by Dua Lipa and "Levitating" by Dua Lipa ft. DaBaby

Drawing parallels between radio and real-time events is an interesting practice that solidifies the relevancy of radio analytics to define a strategy. Radio airplay data can not only give a behind-the-scenes look into the aftermath of past events, but also shine a light on future opportunities. This particular and unfortunate case with DaBaby is the living proof of how the personal behavior of an artist has a positive or, in this case, negative impact on their career. From being disapproved by fellow artists, to being criticized by his fans and losing the support of industry players (festivals). So what now? DaBaby, as an artist, will most likely have to plan a strategy to correct the mistakes he's made, otherwise this trend will continue to a point of no return. Considering radio alone, airplay is a great achievement for any artist, it is an important step forward and a valuable asset, so must not be neglected.

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At WARM we make decisions and take action based on a strong set of values, and Accountability is one of them. We are all in to support music entrepreneurs as well as established industry players which share the same level of responsibility and will to build up the industry. Unfortunately, like in any other industry, these types of events occur. From big labels to fans, we all have the power of change, the power to make things right and better tomorrow’s music industry.

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