Every Friday, I spend a few minutes scrolling through Spotify’s collection of notable new album and single releases on my phone. Though I rarely listen to more than a few tracks, it’s a comforting ritual, a compulsion that I cling to even as I age out of the target audience for basically all songs released on a label with enough marketing clout to earn a spot on the Spotify New Music page.
There’s a consistent visual continuity among album art these days. Almost everything that shows up looks like it would easily fit on a stylish Instagram feed, featuring usually either a slightly off-kilter image of a face (like this week’s releases from Beyoncé, Cage the Elephant, and Gus Dapperton ), a striking photo of the artist in some stage of undress (the art for Tyga’s single “Goddamn” finds him sunbathing on a Lamborghini; Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You features a body-positive nude; and Shy Glizzy’s Covered N Blood features the rapper squatting shirtlessly behind a tiger while covered in blood), or something made by a computer (Beck’s “Saw Lightning,”Sech’s Sueños, and “Earth,” the star-studded single by the odious joke-rapper Lil Dicky). So when something falls outside of these strict, market-tested bounds, it tends to jump out at you. Such as:
I give you, friends, the cover of Daddy Yankee’s just-released “Con Calma” remix featuring Katy Perry and the white Canadian reggae-rapper Snow. The song is kind of whatever — Daddy Yankee borrows its hook from “Informer,” the 1992 hit by Snow himself, and if we’re going down the old town road of nostalgia I’d rather just listen to “Informer” — but its art… wow. Do you see the similarities between Daddy Yankee and Katy Perry’s bubble-shaped cartoon heads and, uh, this?
Yes, we’re talking about the dang Boss Baby, the main character in the Oscar-nominated animated film The Boss Baby, in which Alec Baldwin plays a baby, who is a boss (but also a baby). I have no idea why Daddy Yankee and his team settled on the whole Boss Baby thing, but they did, and they really decided to lean into it. Here’s the video for the original, non-Katy Perry-featuring track, in which Daddy Yankee raps a bunch of the song with a Boss Baby head on his adult body:
The Boss Baby has been a meme from the moment its existence was announced, another shamelessly blunt concept driving a computer-animated kids’ movie, fitting neatly into a genre including The Emoji Movie (about talking Emoji), The Lego Movie (about talking Legos), and whatever movie the Minions came from. (“Alec Baldwin combines his Trump impression with his character from that scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, but — get this — he’s a big-ass baby who wears a suit. Will he shit himself? Hell yeah he’ll shit himself,” said its writer during a pitch meeting, I assume.) And yet its charming dumbness clearly hit a cultural nerve, bringing in over half a billion dollars at the box office and spawning a (sadly) Baldwin-less children’s series on Netflix.
Daddy Yankee is not the only musician to deploy Boss Baby-style imagery. The Charlotte, NC rapper DaBaby (you may have seen the video for his single “Walker Texas Ranger”; if not, prepare to live) capped off his Baby Talk series of mixtapes with one depicting him as a Boss Baby, wearing a suit and talking on a brick-sized cell phone. Given that DaBaby is by no means the only popular rapper with the word “baby” in his name — there’s also Lil Baby from Atlanta, Bricc Baby Shitro from Los Angeles, Big Baby Scumbag of Florida, Birdman, the head of Cash Money Records, whose nickname is “Baby” — I can only assume that we will see more Boss Babies in hip-hop soon.