DaBaby brought that hip-hop high school musical energy to his sold-out D.C. date on Sunday night. But for fans ready to squeeze a few more hours out of the weekend, it might not have been exactly what they were looking for.
You can’t blame the Cleveland-born, Charlotte-raised upstart for trying. After toiling on the mix-tape scene for a few years, the man born Jonathan Kirk exploded into the rap hivemind this year with a pair of electric albums and dozens of features, pairing him with everyone from fellow 2019 royalty Megan Thee Stallion to pop stars Lizzo and Camila Cabello.
DaBaby is a short king who makes short songs: two-minute missives that percolate and punctuate, his syllables running into each other like eager relay racers over bouncing, in-the-red beats that sound like they were composed on the giant keyboard from “Big.”
The self-described “unorthodox” rapper flexes his unique sound on such songs as the irrepressible party-starter “Baby Sitter,” the hypnotic, flute-powered “Bop,” and “Suge,” a boastful tribute to Suge Knight that sounds like DaBaby is tiptoeing through the club. On Sunday, he performed that last one twice, using his biggest hit to deliver a message: “Say I’m the GOAT, act like I don’t know . . . I’m obviously winnin.’ ”
In concert, DaBaby tried to amplify his winning ways with some theatricality. During a couple of songs, he was joined by dancers in inflatable costumes of giant, grotesque babies. At several times during his set, the rapper and his crew turned skits into sketches, re-creating a jailhouse confrontation in prison orange or a red-and-blue-light police chase that brought “Grand Theft Auto” to life.
DaBaby deserves credit for elevating the usual rap show standards — the video montages, the smoke machines, the in-between song banter — so that the concert experience is more than blasting your favorite songs alongside thousands of strangers. But at Echostage, a Sunday night crowd wearing their Friday finest was ready to hear the hits and not much more, leading to awkward moments when the connection between artist and audience was broken.
Just being there for the turnup is fine though. One quiet moment underscored the need for live music as celebration of life: a brief tribute to Juice WRLD, the 21-year-old rapper who died on Sunday — a year to the day after he played Echostage, too.