DJ K.i.D is a 21-year-old North Carolina-by-way-of-California DJ, engineer, and producer who has been at the right hand of DaBaby for the past 19 months. K.i.D began as DaBaby’s tour DJ in the fall of 2018, but has moved into the roles of producer and engineer. His first song behind the boards was “Intro,” the standout, introspective moment from DaBaby’s 2019 album, Kirk. On the freshly-released album, Blame It on Baby, K.i.D plays a much larger role, producing or co-producing half a dozen of the project’s 13 songs, and engineering seven of them.
With Blame It on Baby marking a stylistic change for DaBaby, Complex connected with K.i.D to get the story behind the shift. And it turns out the type of “every song sounds the same” comments on social media that DaBaby mocked in his video with Lil Yachty actually inspired the record’s sound.
“I was on social media, and some people would say, ‘Baby got the same type of flow,’” K.i.D admits. “In the camp, we all know Baby don’t have the same type of flow. He was rapping the type of music we made on ‘Sad Shit,’ the melodic type of vibe, back before I even knew [him]. So it was like, yeah, I'm fixing to unleash and show y'all the type of music that I know I can make, that y'all ain't even heard yet. He pretty much had to dumb down his music so the world could catch on.” He adds, “Every time me and Baby would get in the studio, he wanted big records. He wanted something that sounded different than what he did before.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, in the absence of live shows, K.i.D is confident DaBaby will still figure out ways to perform this new music for fans. “Baby is a mastermind when it comes to his marketing, so you'll probably see some live shows from us soon,” he says. “I wouldn't be surprised if you see us pop up with a Billion Dollar Baby live concert. Even if we can't do shows, I'm sure we're going to find some way to entertain you.”
But before all that, we began by asking K.i.D about how he connected with DaBaby in the first place. The conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
I want to start at the beginning. You've told the story about how you met DaBaby when you were asked to fill in for his DJ at a show at East Carolina University in September, 2018. But what made that gig special?
What made it special is the fact that I was already a fan of [his] music. So him coming to an event that we had booked him for, I was already super geeked, not knowing that I was going to end up having to DJ his set.
I had a pretty good relationship with his former DJ. He called me and told me, “I can’t make it out there. My flight got delayed. Can you fill in for me?” I’m like, “Shoot, yeah. I ain't got no problem with that. This is my favorite rapper.” Ripe opportunity for me to kickstart my career in the direction that I want to go.
Baby pulls up, and his manager, [Daud] Carter from South Coast Music Group, gives me a flash drive with all of Baby's music on it. I’m like, “I already got half of these songs. You can take this out.” He’s like, “I’m going to just direct you on which song to play next. He’s going to use key words to lead you the direction he wants the performance to go.”
As soon as bruh got on stage, I knew what to drop first, and that was “Today,” his hit record during that time, which is a crazy record. After that, it was just back to back. He would say something and I would pick up on where he's trying to go, and I would play the next record. He looked pretty satisfied.
The day after that, Carter ends up calling me. “Yeah, K.i.D, Baby rocking with you. We want you to get on the road with us.” Immediately, the next day, we got on the road and went to South Carolina to do some shows. It was a super-dope experience.
“If you know you’re on fire right now, and if people want more music, and you can give to the people, why not put it out there?”
That was before a lot of us had heard of DaBaby. What did you like about his stuff back then?
He was raw. Coming from Charlotte, North Carolina, bruh, you knew Baby was the guy that was going to pop. He had that bouncy music. Everybody wanted to hear what he had going on. His swag was top-tier. Everything he said he was going to do, he did it. That was important to me.
On the production side, did you have any songs with DaBaby before “Intro”?
Nah. “Intro” was our first song. We made that on a cruise that I mentioned in some other interviews. It was Cardi B, DJ Khaled, Lil Nas X, and a few other dope artists. “Intro” was really the first beat I made, a while ago at my mom's crib. She told me, “The 808 ain’t kicking enough.” I ended up redoing that 808, and I woke her out of her sleep. She’s like, “Yeah, that’s the one.”
I’m like, okay, everyone sends Baby these beats that sound just like “Suge.” I’m not against “Suge,” but I wanted to be different. I'm not the regular track producer. I like to put my beats and my production in there—what I like to call that Waterboy sound, which is basically those bouncy hi-hats, those bouncy 808s, everything sounding crisp and clear. I'm an engineer as well, so I pay attention to the small things.
It was crazy that he picked that one, because I thought he would have picked something more turned up. It was real special to me, because “Intro” was when he was talking about his father who had passed away, R.I.P. to Mr. Kirk. For him to put something so serious on the first industry production I ever had, it was major.
When did you guys start working on Blame It On Baby?
It was never really a distinct time. We were doing shows and still making music on the road, so I can't really give you a certain time when we started making it, other than during Kirk.
The way that bruh moves, every record he makes is pretty much project-ready. It’s not like we’re storing up songs. In the studio, it’s like, “Okay, yeah, this is a hit. Definitely on the album.” Next record: “That’s a hit. It’s going on the album.”
Did you finish the album before the whole world went into lockdown?
Yeah. Actually, the last record we ended up doing was the NBA Youngboy record [“Jump”]. If we were to put a countdown on corona, and it was the last five seconds, we finished that in the last two. We got out of L.A. just in time to get back home.
“Every time me and Baby would get in the studio, he wanted big records. He wanted something that sounded different than what he did before.”
Did you think about pushing the release of the album back because of the pandemic?
I don’t think bruh was really thinking about pushing the release of the album backwards. Baby is a more of a live-in-the-moment type of guy. If there's something going on, he’s going to capitalize on it. It was like, “Shoot, it’s the perfect time.” He took the opportunity that was at hand, [and] threw the mask on [for the album cover]. It turned up what was going on. So you’re looking at this, the only album on the charts with a quarantine mask—it’s going to make a statement in the future. Like, “Yeah, we made Blame It on Baby back when the coronavirus was going on.”
Did you guys have any overall goal or objective with Blame It on Baby?
Every time me and Baby would get in the studio, he wanted big records. He wanted something that sounded different than what he did before. There wasn't really a direction that we were really going in. It was just big records, period.
So it was on his mind to do different things? He references that directly on the record a bunch of times. Why did he want to do that?
As a DJ, I pay attention to certain things. I was on social media, and some people would say, “Baby got the same type of flow.” In the camp, we all know Baby don’t have the same type of flow. He was rapping the type of music we made on “Sad Shit,” the melodic type of vibe, back before I even knew [him]. So it was like, yeah, I'm fixing to unleash and show y'all the type of music that I know I can make, that y'all ain't even heard yet. He pretty much had to dumb down his music so the world could catch on.
Before the world even heard who he was, if you date back and listen to “Light Show” and those types of songs on Baby Talk, he been doing this. This ain’t nothing new to him. He just put it on the back burner and then decided to turn back up when the world thought it was over. It was like he was pulling a trick right back out the bag that he already had.
As an engineer, what's the secret to recording good vocals for DaBaby?
He likes to work fast. He wants a quick response for me. He don’t want no slow engineer that’s going to take forever to punch it back in, because everything he does is one take. If you don’t catch it, then it’s like, “Damn. What the fuck? That was a perfect take.”
A couple of your songs on the album are co-productions. How did those work?
Mind you, I just started making beats again a couple months ago. I'm probably about eight to nine months in, making beats. So I would put out something on Instagram and say, “Loop makers, give me some fire loops.”
My DMs got flooded with over 5,000 hard loop makers. Shout out to everyone. And a few of those, people like Tom French, MVA[beats], Jasper [Harris], Rocco Did It [Again], who made the “Jump” record with me. Tom French, by the way, is one of the hardest producers. He made “Sad Shit” and “Champion” with me.
I put out the opportunity because, as a DJ, I feel like it's important to push that culture forward and let people know that making music is also a collaboration. It don't just have to be by yourself. And a lot of these producers hide that fact. So with me, I bring in these producers like Tom French. I'll take the loop and I’ll flip it, add what I want to it, put in those bouncy 808s, them bouncy hi-hats, that crispiness. After that, it’s just a matter of getting bruh on it.
Tell me about your 808s for a second, because they're so distinctive. Even on the track with the acoustic guitar (“Find My Way”), you put them in there, which I thought was a nice touch.
It’s important to me, bro. When I was younger, shout out to my grandma, in the church, I played the drums. So having that distinctive hit that's going to catch everyone's attention, similar to “Find My Way,” when it went up high and it dropped back low an octave, I like the catchiness. It’s sort of like a tag to me. Say if I didn’t put my tags on a beat, and you heard the 808s go up high like that, you would know, “Okay, that’s K.i.D.” I like to do that. I like to have jaw-droppers, where it'll catch your attention.
The title track of the album is only about two minutes long, but it’s got the two separate sections and five producers, including you. Tell me how that song came together.
I think it was up in my condo, and Baby was like, “Let’s do some different real quick.” I ended up playing that first loop by Jasper [Harris] and his guy, which is pretty hard. We got halfway through the song, and he’s like, “We need to switch it up.” So I'm going through some more melodies that I made, that me and MVA[beats]. [Baby’s] like, “Let’s do something different. People think that I can’t goddamn switch the flow. I’m going to fucking switch the flow, and I’m going to switch the beat, back and forth.”
On “Sad Shit,” which came first: the sound of the song, the subject matter, or the singing?
It was really the sound of the song. We started creating off of a melody that me and Tom [French] made. If you listen, he really takes it there on that song. It’s something different that I feel like the world hasn’t experienced from Baby yet.
DaBaby put out two albums in 2019, and now this one in the spring of 2020. Are you worried about overexposure?
I seen somebody say something like that on the internet. But when you got a legend like DaBaby, I don’t really feel like that’s going to be a problem. If you know you’re on fire right now, and if people want more music, and you can give to the people, why not put it out there? Why hold onto this music? You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so let that music go. Might as well give it to the world.
You've been working with DaBaby for about a year and a half. How has your relationship changed over that time?
Getting more comfortable with each other, and trusting each other a lot more, especially when it comes to DJing. In the beginning, I had to learn his key words and his body language on stage, to know where the next song was going to go. Now it's on point. Say I was in California or something like that, and he’d fly in from Florida: we’d come to a show without talking about the set list, and we’d know where each other is going to go.
You guys have been touring really hard. Now, we’re in a situation where we might not see concerts of any size until 2021. How are you feeling about that?
We’re in the lab. We’re always working. Even though we’re not on the road, we’re always brainstorming. Baby is a mastermind when it comes to his marketing, so you’ll probably see some live shows from us soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see us pop up with a Billion Dollar Baby live concert. Even if we can’t do shows, I’m sure we're going to find some way to entertain you.
Tell me a bit about what else you have planned for over the next couple of months?
I ain’t really told this to nobody else, but I just signed a big pub[lishing] deal, so I’m working. I’m in the studio, going crazy. Other than music, just staying active and entertaining the world.
You used to rap. Are you planning on doing that again, or are those days over?
If somebody was to challenge me or battle me as a rap artist, I’d have to take it there. But that’s not the way I'm going. I’m focused on being the hottest DJ first, best producer in the world. That’s what I’m on. I’m claiming that.
No more remixes like the ones you were doing as a kid?
As of right now, nah. But don’t get it twisted, I’ll take it every which direction. I’m cut like that.
I know you were a big sports guy in high school, playing football and running track. How are you staying in shape these days?
How am I staying in shape? I’m beating up beats.
How good at football were you? Were you thinking about playing in college?
I had some decisions to go to to App[alachian] State and Lenoir–Rhyne for track and football. It was cool playing quarterback and receiver, but I knew that my heart was set on music, so I left that alone.
Tell me why, maybe three or so years ago, you decided to get full on into DJing.
To be real, my mama told me to start DJing. Then when I found out how much I can get paid for playing music that I like, and turning up a crowd, and making people have a good time. It was like, it's not even about the money anymore. I'm the guy that can bring life to a party, and be the escape route for other people. They might have something going on at home, and they come to one of my events, and it's drama-free and violence-free. We’re all just having fun. I like being the guy that's able to provide that opportunity for other people.