This article originally published on Charlotte Ledger and was republished with permission. Sign up for a free subscription.
There are some things you wouldn’t expect to see in a small country town like Troutman, N.C., population 2,800: a $2.3 million 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.
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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.”
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 + 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 square feet and has five bedrooms, eight full bathrooms and one half-bath. It sits on nine acres and was bought for $2.3 million 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.
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.
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.”