Taking the stage for his Austin City Limits Music Festival set stage clad in a plaid bathrobe, bejeweled pineapple sunglasses and sandals with socks, it was clear R&B singer/rapper Big Baby Dram has come to embrace his role as the free-spirited Muppet of the hip-hop world. He’s a living cartoon character with windmill dance moves, a blunted drawl and easygoing flair.
With his tendency toward schmaltzy vocal flourishes, the 29-year-old artist from Hampton, Va., could just as easily have ended up as a lounge singer in a hideaway bar somewhere instead of on stage at ACL Fest persuading a crowd of thousands to shout out their love for their mamas (before cheekily adding, “I love your mama, too.”)
The fact that he still seems genuinely surprised and overjoyed by his success gives him an air of humility that allows him to belt out his sexual proclivity for a “Group Thang” — explicitly and passionately — without seeming particularly sleazy.
The crowd rocked with him through his whole set. A group of over-hyped kids bizarrely decided to mosh during the sing-song pick-up track “Cute,” but they got particularly lit during the hits, such as “Cash Machine” and “Cha Cha.”
He played a heartfelt version of “Dram Sings Special,” his feature on Chance the Rapper’s “Coloring Book,” but a good portion of the crowd was clearly in it for his monster 2016 collab “Broccoli.” As soon as the song wrapped, half the crowd filed out while he was still closing his set.
But Dram didn’t seem to care. He’s just in it to spread love.