Last week, the world was given a brief reprieve from the murder hornet-infested dumpster fire that is 2020, when Drake and Lil Durk released “Laugh Now, Cry Later” and its accompanying s̶p̶o̶n̶s̶o̶r̶e̶d̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶t̶e̶n̶t̶ music video.
At first blush, the song and visuals seemed on par with recent Drake single efforts. Minimalist-leaning production, melodic-leaning vocals, and the typical excess you come to expect from a man whose COVID-friendly music video for Toosie Slide was a casual tour of his $100 million Toronto mansion.
But then, at precisely the 0:19 mark, Drake pulled his concept Maybach to a stop and looked back to the camera with a face that only Drake can make when he knows everything’s about to change—and everything changed.
Over the next 4.5 minutes, neither Odell Beckham Jr. nor Kevin Durant nor Lil Durk on a jet ski (with all due respect to Lil Durk on a jet ski) could outshine that single word. And while pop music has seen its fair share of “baby,” from Britney to Bieber to The Ronettes, this was undeniably a paradigm shift in “baby” culture.
But which “baby” was the best “baby”? Here are all twelve, ranked in ascending order.
#12: The First Baby (0:12)
As the song’s first “baby,” this is obviously an incredibly important “baby.” But at this point, we’re yet to realize its significance. It’s a subtle “baby,” underscored by the fact that we’re still getting our bearings musically, and it’s the only “baby” that isn’t delivered by someone breaking the fourth wall. Upon re-watch, we come to realize that this “baby” is the one by which all the other “baby”s are born. The Mother Baby, if you will. But like all great acts of maternal generosity, this “baby” steps back to let its protegés shine.
#11: The Sixth Baby (1:24)
This “baby” only ranks higher than the previous one because it’s in an elite class of “baby”s: The High Note Baby. There’s only four of these in the song so it deserves to be cherished, and—spoiler alert—the other three are all Top Five Babys. But by this point, we’ve already heard the first High Note Baby (more on that later) so the novelty has slightly worn off. More importantly, this video’s charm lies in Drake getting absolutely worked in various competitive sports: basketball, football, shopping, so watching him crush dingers like Roberto Alomar just doesn’t hit the same. It’s a mid “baby” at best.
#10: The Fifth Baby, aka The Odell Beckham Baby (1:17)
We love to see a cameo “baby.” And this video has some great ones. But I can’t help but feel Odell got robbed here. After completing a 35-yard pass to Drake (who unleashes a fake route that couldn’t shake a maple leaf), Odell turns to the camera to deliver a wide-receiver-confident “baby.” But look at his hand. The upward arc. The finger flick at the end. ODELL THINKS HE’S DOING A HIGH NOTE BABY. But it’s not. It’s a normal “baby.” If I was Odell, I would immediately pull my agent off any contract negotiations and sue OVO for reckless misrepresentation. Sorry, OBJ. 2020 gets us all eventually.
#9: The Seventh Baby (2:22)
Make no mistake, this is a very good “baby.” The artful framing of the shot by director Dave Myers adds a great deal to the pathos of this “baby,” and the scene sets up a classic Drake self-effacing comedy break. But we’re in the Top 10 here, these are the Big Boy Babys. There’s just nothing too remarkable about it. Moving on.
#8: The Tenth Baby, aka The Lil Durk Baby (3:47)
Durk absolutely triumphs in this song, from the pitch-perfect delivery, to the supremely capable jet-skiing, to “Bring Drake to the hood, surround Drake around Dracs.” And seeing the two rep their home teams in this scene is a joy. So Durk is grandfathered in to the Big Boy Baby rankings. But his “baby” itself is a bit of a throwaway, and to be honest, Durk doesn’t need it. He’s doing well enough on his own.
#7: The Fourth Baby (1:10)
Drake’s vulnerability is his superpower, and it’s on full display alongside the fourth “baby,” in which the titular “sometimes we cry” lyric comes to literal fruition. We later see the scene played as a joke, but in this moment we’re left to ponder the source of Drake’s genuine tears and reckon with the most solemn “baby” on the track. Is he still upset that Kawhi left him? Did he see the memes about people comparing his back tattoos to a Zoom meeting? Did he fall for an unconfirmed rumor about a Tim Horton’s coming to Calabasas? We may never know.
#6: The Eleventh Baby, aka The Kevin Durant Baby (4:02)
KD slides into a high spot on The Cameo Baby list, mostly on the merit of the fact that he’s got the rarefied honor of the only High Note Baby besides Drake. It’s a capable and confident “baby” performance, and his lackadaisical posterizing of Drake throughout the film provides some its most enjoyable comedic moments. But there’s something off about it. Maybe it’s the fact that he doesn’t quite nail the “ba-” with the same energy that he does the “-by.” Maybe it’s his quick exit from the frame, as if he was playing in the NBA Bubble and his “excused absence to dunk on a Canadian rapper” pass had just expired. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s kind of a weird dude who just tried to steal a fan’s girlfriend on Twitter. Who’s to say? Good effort, though, KD. On to the Top 5.
#5: The Eighth Baby, aka The Aggy Abby Baby (2:30)
In a video full of established superstars, model/influencer Aggy Abby easily holds her own, and that’s in large part due to her strong “baby.” Abby is a force in her CN Tower-tall pile of Nike bags that Drake is buying for her — in CASH — and the gender-reversal of her dominant “baby” delivery is a welcome shift in the power dynamic of an otherwise male-only film. Plus, you can tell by her hand motion that, unlike Odell, she knows she’s delivering a Down Note Baby, and she’s owning it. Very well done.
#4: The Ninth Baby (2:37)
This “baby” ticks a ton of boxes. It’s memeable. It’s a High Note Baby. It proceeds Drake’s best rapping on the track. It’s a visually-stunning throwback to an iconic Muhammad Ali photo, in a classic “I can’t tell if this is serious or not” moment — a zone that Drake regularly traffics in to great success. For many reasons, the ninth “baby” has rightfully earned its spot as the fourth “baby” on this list. But it’s edged out by…
#3: The Eleventh Baby (3:54)
If nothing else, Drake is a master of memes. We think we’re meme-ing Drake, but really, we’re just captioning the viral-ready visuals he’s intentionally crafted for us. (A personal favorite: Comparing Drake in his LeBron Draft Day suit to Fred VanVleet at the Raptors championship reunion in 2039, to which champagnepapi himself responded: “Hahahahhahahahahahahha” — emphasis Drake’s.) But perhaps the standout meme is this image, Drake emerging from the water to deliver the eleventh “baby,” if only because it was perfectly timed with the release of the WAP video and…well…you get it.
#2: The Second Baby (0:19)
As we covered in the intro, despite being the second “baby” in the song, the camerawork and delivery here let you know—this is not a run-of-the-mill “baby,” and this is not going to be a run-of-the-mill Drake moment. It’s a seminole achievement in “baby” history. It sets the tone for what might somehow take the crown of Song of the Summer, despite arriving in mid-August and in the sixth month of a quarantine. And it’s only bested by…
#1: The Third Baby (0:27)
There are a few moments that changed culture forever. The invention of electricity. The introduction of the Bonus Sweep in the 1989 reboot of Supermarket Sweep. And the 0:27 mark of the “Laugh Now, Cry Later” video, when Aubrey “Drake” Graham halts his confident strut into Nike’s Beaverton Headquarters to turn to camera and deliver the “baby” heard round the world: The Original High Note Baby.
It’s the “baby” that launched a thousand group chats.
It’s the “baby” we never saw coming, and yet feels like we’ve known forever.
It’s the “baby” the entire song, nay, the entire summer now revolves around.
And for some of us, it was the “baby” that helped us skim a little bit of joy off the barrel of shit that is 2020.
Sometimes we laugh. Most of the time we cry. But for one moment, we remembered how to hit the high note.