The rap star next door

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DaBaby’s new crib makes waves in small-town Troutman; Neighbors complain about guard towers, stadium lighting, armed entourage

Since DaBaby moved to Troutman nearly a year ago, some neighbors have complained about construction and noise at his estate, and police have become familiar with the musician. (Photos from Zillow/Carolinas MLS; Instagram)

by Tony Mecia and Cristina Bolling

There are some things you wouldn’t expect to see in a small country town like Troutman, N.C., population 2,800: a $2.3M estate ringed by two-story guard towers and concrete walls. Caravans of black Cadillac Escalades. Backyard stadium lighting.

But since international rap star DaBaby moved in less than a year ago, he has created a stir that residents say is unlike anything the town has ever seen.

DaBaby’s compound — 35 miles north of Charlotte, near where the Catawba River enters Lake Norman — is on a quiet, two-lane street dotted with Trump yard signs. It has certainly attracted the attention of the neighbors. It is also becoming well-known to Troutman code enforcement and police, many of whom say they had never heard of the Grammy-nominated musician from Charlotte until the complaints started pouring in.

There have been 31 calls for service at DaBaby’s address since December 2019, Iredell County’s emergency communications office says — including 14 instances of burglar alarms going off, four noise complaints and at least two domestic arguments. More recently, neighbors have been anonymously phoning in complaints about construction at DaBaby’s estate, including concerns about new guard towers, a concrete wall and what they say are bright stadium-style lights.

On Friday afternoon in DaBaby’s new neighborhood, residents described being stunned by their heavily guarded new neighbor. None of the four neighbors The Ledger talked to said they’d met DaBaby or his staff, and none wanted to be quoted because of privacy concerns.

Several said they can tell when DaBaby is in town by whether his stadium lights are on at night and the presence of shiny black Escalades and other cars driving in and out. One annoyed neighbor said “100 cars a day” drive by to take photos of the compound.

Open secret: DaBaby’s home in Troutman has not been previously disclosed in the media, though it seems well-known in the area among young people — especially with teenagers at South Iredell High School, several people said. But the existence of a rap star in Troutman’s midst is less well-known among the older crowd, many of whom are unfamiliar with him and his music. When The Ledger called Troutman town manager Bryan Gruesbeck last week to ask if he had heard of complaints about a rapper named DaBaby, Gruesbeck said: “I thought my rap game was really strong, but I don’t even know who that is.”

DaBaby’s neighbors, though, certainly now know who he is. One said she noticed this summer that guards “were sitting outside in their Escalade, and they actually had guns.”

She added: “This is a very friendly neighborhood, so having someone down there to have guards up and not speak to nobody — it’s just kind of weird.”

Troutman, about 35 miles north of Charlotte in Iredell County, has a small downtown, waterfront property, older houses and new subdivisions. DaBaby’s neighborhood has a mix of housing sizes and styles. (Photo from Zillow when the house was on the market in 2019.)

From Vance High to rap star

DaBaby, whose real name is Jonathan Kirk, is something of a Charlotte Cinderella story, albeit a complicated one.

He moved to Charlotte from Cleveland as a child, attended elementary, middle and high schools in Charlotte, and graduated from Vance High School in 2010.

The 28-year-old is one of the biggest names in rap music. He has released two No. 1 albums, sells out concerts, and headlines major shows like the BET Awards and “Saturday Night Live.” Last month, his third studio album, Blame It On Baby, went platinum. It contains his first No. 1 song, “Rockstar.” His 2019 hit “Suge” was nominated for a Grammy for best rap song.

He’s also known for his rap sheet. He was arrested on battery charges in January in Miami. In 2018, he was charged with carrying a concealed weapon stemming from a fatal shooting at a Huntersville Walmart, though that charge was dismissed. Last December, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police handcuffed and detained him for marijuana possession after his concert at Bojangles Coliseum but then later dropped the charges. He famously got into a fight at SouthPark mall’s Louis Vuitton store in May 2019, though there was later some speculation that the incident was staged.

Despite his international fame, DaBaby has maintained his Charlotte ties. He hosted a “VOTE BABY VOTE” voter registration drive earlier this month in north Charlotte, and in June he was part of a panel discussion about systemic racism and police reform with civic leaders at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture. He wore a Charlotte Hornets jersey on “SNL,” and when his jet broke down on the tarmac the week of that appearance and he was unable to fly from New York to Charlotte for a concert at Bojangles Coliseum, he Facetimed the venue from the broken-down jet and spoke directly to the crowd on the big screen, then later did a make-up concert.

Property records show his new house is 11,300 s.f. and has 5 bedrooms, 8 full bathrooms and 1 half-bath. It sits on 9 acres and was bought for $2.3M in November 2019. His name is not on the deed. Instead, the house is owned by a woman believed to be his mother. When it was on the market last year, the mansion, built in 2018, was billed as a “modern Tuscan estate” with marble tile, a theater room, a custom-designed wine cellar and a turfed putting and chipping area. “This IS the home for the proverbial entertainer,” the listing said.

DaBaby’s estate stands out on the residential street, where most of the one-and two-story homes are modest and valued at between $250,000 and $500,000, according to county tax records.

Trouble in Troutman

DaBaby is also becoming known to Troutman law enforcement. Troutman police Chief Tina Fleming says she first learned who DaBaby was when she responded to a 911 call from his house on Jan. 29.

Police records show that DaBaby called police after a disagreement with the 26-year-old mother of their 2-year-old daughter. The two were arguing about their relationship, and she went to a master bathroom closet and poured bleach on about $10,000 worth of his clothing — including a $1,600 pair of Gucci dress pants, three hooded sweatshirts valued at $2,000, a $550 pair of Burberry shorts, a $900 pair of Balenciaga sneakers and a $300 Detroit Pistons jersey, according to a police report. Police cited her for damage to property.

Police showed up again on April 22, when DaBaby called 911 to report that she had consumed too much wine and “was drunk and destroying his house,” according to the police report. He told police he tried to lock himself in the master bedroom to escape her yelling at him but that she “kicked open the bedroom door,” breaking it and the door frame.

[Read the police reports from the Troutman Police Department.]

Records show noise complaints on March 27, April 8, May 9 and Sept. 1, though there are no details available on those incidents.

In early June, county records show the property applied for a permit to build five guard stations on the perimeter of the property, and construction started on a 10-foot-high concrete wall. Neighbors complained that the construction violated town ordinances.

DaBaby’s guard towers and concrete wall drew complaints to Troutman officials from neighbors.

The investigation fell to John Ganus, Troutman’s part-time code administrator, whose cases usually involve overgrown grass or trash in somebody’s yard. After working with Iredell County building inspectors on the issue, Ganus said: “We determined at that time that there was nothing they were doing in violation of the ordinance, in terms of the walls and the fencing and that kind of thing.”

The most recent complaint came last week, when an anonymous caller alerted the town that “extremely bright stadium-style lighting” had been installed on the property, Ganus said. He said he had not yet had time to review the town’s ordinances to determine if the lighting is permissible.

It’s unclear what the lights are for. Town officials and neighbors say they’ve heard DaBaby is building a football field. A video he posted on Instagram last month shows several light poles around a basketball court near his swimming pool.

When The Ledger approached DaBaby’s property on Friday, the guard towers were unmanned, and neither of the two gated driveway entrances had a doorbell or call button. We spoke with someone outside the mansion gates who said he was part of the “big staff” that works at the estate, and said he’d pass along a reporter’s business card to somebody who handles publicity. As of Sunday, nobody had responded. The Ledger also sent a message Sunday to DaBaby through his promotion company’s website but didn’t hear back.

Another nearby resident said he was surprised in April when he moved to the neighborhood and discovered he was living near a rap star. He’s noticed that the stadium lighting is getting brighter in his yard as the leaves fall off the trees, but it doesn’t bother him.

“I understand he’s a nice guy. … I know he does a lot of public service stuff. I’ve seen him on television, but I’ve never met him,” he said.

“I don’t think he does any walking around. He’s not social,” he said. “He bought it to say he had a place to go where nobody’s gonna bother him. Who’s gonna come out here? There’s no place to park, and it’s fenced all the way around.”

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In brief:

  • Church temporarily ordered shut: Mecklenburg County health officials have ordered the United House of Prayer for All People to close following an outbreak at the church linked to at least 121 Covid cases. Church leaders had refused to cooperate with health officials and had declined to cancel a six-day revival service starting Sunday, County Manager Dena Diorio said. (Qcitymetro)

  • Bank expansion: U.S. Bank has opened its second Charlotte-area location, in Pineville. It is also adding six ATMs in Harris Teeter parking lots, in Charlotte, Matthews, Huntersville and Mooresville and two in Concord. U.S. Bank has about 850 local employees. (Biz Journal)

  • Suggested Covid restrictions: North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to Mecklenburg and 35 other counties suggesting that they consider enacting ordinances to combat Covid that are more stringent than state requirements. The sample ordinance suggests lowering the limits on gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, similar to restrictions under Phase 2. (North State Journal)

  • Wells Fargo sale?: Wells Fargo is considering selling its asset management business, which would be the bank’s “biggest shake-up” since CEO Charles Scharf came on board last year, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources. (Reuters)

  • Ski season approaches: North Carolina’s ski resorts are preparing to open under Covid guidelines. Skiers often already wear face coverings and maintain social distancing, so it’s “a ready-made sport for maintaining the guidelines,” the president of the N.C. Area Ski Association said. Resorts say the season will start as soon as it’s cold enough to make snow, possibly in the next few weeks. (WBTV)

  • State job gains: North Carolina added 48,000 jobs in September, more than twice as many as in August. But the state’s unemployment rate rose to 7.3% from 6.5%, as more potential workers started looking for jobs. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Happy hour Thursday: Don’t forget — The Ledger’s first-ever virtual happy hour is Thursday at 5:30. Details here. It’s open to paying subscribers.

  • Erroneous job listing or signal from Wegmans? Shoppers who are hoping for Charlotte’s first Wegmans to show up soon are hopeful that recent job listings that appeared online indicate the grocer is on its way. The job listings from Talentify indicate that Wegmans is hiring for a variety of jobs in Charlotte, including cashier, overnight stocking and baker, but when you click on the listing, the job location is listed as Webster, N.Y. It would be unusual to hire staff before starting construction on a grocery store. The issue was debated on the “Bring Wegmans to Charlotte, NC!” Facebook group, with one commenter writing “YASSSS 💪 moving in the right direction” but another writing “They can’t be playing with my emotions like this!!!!” A Wegmans spokeswoman didn’t return an email over the weekend.

Taking stock

Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:

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Executive editorTony MeciaManaging editorCristina BollingContributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN AdvisoryReporting intern: David Griffith