Former North Carolina resident Jonathan Kirk, also known as DaBaby, has lost a slew of followers, fans and supporters within the past two weeks after making homophobic and uneducated anti-HIV/AIDS comments during a concert. Since that July 25 performance, DaBaby has apologized for his remarks, rescinded his apology, been cut from a number of future scheduled performances and festivals, and has apologized yet again. Additionally, more fellow artists have made statements distancing themselves from DaBaby, with dozens of organizations even drafting an open letter to the rapper.
It has become clear that DaBaby’s words are taking a toll on his career, sending a previous upward trajectory into a downward spiral. After taking back his original apology, DaBaby issued another statement, posting, “social media moves so fast that people want to demolish you before you even have the opportunity to grow, educate and learn from your mistakes. As a man who has had to make his own way from very difficult circumstances, having people I know publicly working against me, knowing that what I needed was education on these topics and guidance, has been challenging.”
After DaBaby’s first apology, Elton John, Dua Lipa and Lil Nas X’s father spoke out against his harmful stereotyping of people living with HIV. Since the second apology, Madonna, Demi Lovato, Questlove and rapper Chika have also voiced their opinions on DaBaby. Lovato, who identifies as nonbinary, posted on Instagram: “HIV is not a gay disease” and “I really don’t recognize this as the person I worked with. I know my fans know where my heart lies and that I stand 100 percent with the LGBTQ community.” Lipa then encouraged followers to listen to the original version of the song “Levitating” in which DaBaby is not featured.
Even without the influence of these performers, DaBaby is being pushed out of multiple festivals and enterprises. boohooMAN, a UK-based fashion retailer, published that their relationship with DaBaby, who has previously acted as a consultant for several of their clothing lines, is effectively over. The company tweeted that they “condemn the use of homophobic language” evident in DaBaby’s shows.
Other dissolved partnerships include DaBaby’s appearance at the music festivals Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, the Governor’s Ball, Parklife in the United Kingdom, Music Midtown and Day N Vegas. Without venues in which to perform, it is becoming abundantly clear that repercussions for DaBaby’s actions are, and will continue to be, severe.
National nonprofits, university centers and grassroots organizations published an informational piece on August 4 that outlined why DaBaby’s actions have been especially detrimental to the Black LGBTQ community in the South. This statement references his second apology, agreeing that education is an important facet of unlearning transphobia and homophobia. Among the most shocking statistics they present: Black Americans account for more HIV diagnoses (43 percent) and the most deaths among people with HIV (44 percent), more so than any other racial and ethnic group in the U.S.
Included in the groups represented in the informational piece are the Black AIDS Institute, Wake Forest Faith Coordinating Center, the SUSTAIN Center at the University of Houston and the NC AIDS Action Network. The letter also mentions that “31,864 people are living with HIV in North Carolina,” pointing out the state is where Kirk/DaBaby was raised.
Civil rights activist and author Kevin Powell proves that not everyone has written DaBaby off as a lost cause. Powell told NPR that he believes in “counsel culture, not cancel culture,” saying that DaBaby must stop taking this faux pas lightly. “You have to make amends by your actions or your deeds,” Powell emphasizes. “It can’t just be an apology just because you’re trying to save your career.”
Miley Cyrus, who identifies as pansexual and nonbinary, has offered to help DaBaby make amends, posting on Instagram, “would love to talk and see how we can learn from each other and help be part of making a more just and understanding future!”
At last report, Kirk/DaBaby had deleted all related comments and his apology to the LGBTQ community, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS. No explanation for his latest actions has been forthcoming.
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