Insightful, Passionate, and Dedicated. That’s the three words I would use to describe St Louis rapper Bari. I was able to sit down and have an hour long conversation with the artist about his journey, the issues surrounding our community today, and topics within the music industry.
I wanted to go all the way back and find out what it was that made Bari want to become a rapper and what was his first step when embarking on this new journey.
With his mother being in the Navy, Bari moved to St Louis when he was just two while his Father traveled between Los Angeles and New York. Whenever his Father came back to St. Louis, he would always play music when around Bari. One of the songs he remembers fondly is Elevators (Me & You) by Outkast from their second studio album ATLiens released in 1996. “He had this burgundy Cadillac and we’d sing that song [ Me & You ], so since then I would connect with dude through music in a way”. When at home, he’d always hear his Mother playing tracks from artists like Smokey Robinson, Tupac, Biggie, and multiple artists from Motown. At the age of seven, his Father moved out to California after getting into the art of poetry, which inspired Bari to begin writing poetry and ultimately writing raps starting at the age of eight. But when his Father introduced him to who Jay-Z was and played his entire discography for him, that’s what really sparked his interest in writing. But it wasn’t until he heard Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 by Jeezy when he realized not only that he wanted to become a rapper, but that he could become a rapper.
After writing and manifesting his rap career for a few years, Bari still didn’t tell anybody or showcase his aspirations. It wasn’t until he was 15 when his friends came across the rappers rhymes in his phone.
“So when I was like 15 I was with my patna‘s and I was gettin in trouble with my momma cause I ain’t do something in the crib. It’s summer time like around this time. I ain’t do something at the crib and somehow I left my phone [with his friends] and on some lil nigga shit, they end up going through my phone and heard my raps and so when I come back they damn near was joanin‘ on my ass you know making fun of my ass like making fun of how I was sounding and all that shit. We was just joanin‘ and we end up kinda like battling one of the niggas and from there my patna‘ came back and was like aye yo on some real shit we was making fun of you but you damn near hard, i’m like oh ok.”
At the time, one of his friends was close to Smino and introduced him to Bari around the age of 16, but they didn’t start making music until their Junior year of High School. “I was recording at his [Smino] house” Bari recalls, “He had already had the equipment. He was making beats, so that was my first time being able to be around somebody that could make a beat that was original. So, the beat was mine instead of like dang you know back then we had limewire and shit so we downloaded instrumentals and shit like that so that was the first time I could ever do that. He had equipment and shit so I was recording at his house everyday “
Upon graduation, Smino and Bari ended up perusing a bachelors degree at Columbia College located in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 17. There, they met up with an upperclassmen, by the name of Classic.
“He [Classic] was like an upperclassmen he was a senior and we was freshmen and we was going to his house. One day me and him was talking am i’m like man I aint finna do this college shit for four more years when I know I wanna rap. It was just so hard. Like alright i’m at the studio all the time im tryna fit in studio time with them then I gotta still keep my grades up and what the fuck i’m finna keep doing all this for when I gotta spend all this money, go through all this stress just to graduate and say I wanna go and rap.”
After that, Bari and Smino parted ways with Columbia and returned back to St. Louis. Smino later moved back to Chicago which started the birth of Zero Fatigue. During this transition, Bari hit some milestones of his own.
” I ended up having two kids with my lady, we still together. My Son turning five in September and my Daughter turning three in September. So really, my journey been kinda just you know, getting real established while raising my kids and being the man of my household.”
“I got a fascination with superheroes since I was a little nigga. My son low-key got the same fascination its crazy. I wanted to be a super hero so as I grew up I was like i’m not finna be running around with no mask and tights on and shit. So what’s a real life superhero? The first thing it was to me, like my first superhero was Muhammad Ali and Michael Jackson. Muhammad Ali he the greatest and then Michael Jackson the greatest. It was kind of like I wanna be them. In my head they real life superheroes, they the greatest. So I just became obsessed with tryna be the greatest. Like how does it feel to be the greatest at something? Like as a man i’m tryna be the best at something”
Though thousands of artists journeys started before the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a lot of artists who were just getting started during this time. This pandemic has postponed or even shifted many artists goals for this year, and one of those artist is Bari. However, even though plans have changed, he’s still staying dedicated to his craft and pushing out new material.
“To me, Covid kinda slowed shit up. I was finna make certain moves but I just feel like you know God is a mysterious being you know I ain’t really equipped to say that I understand everything that he been doing. I lost my auntie to Covid low-key so I went through a family tragedy and I was finna move to L.A and my baby mother was finna move with my kids to Texas and because of that [Covid] we decided not to do that I decided to drop a project called Layer Cake that I made last year that I was not about to drop. So just a lot of different decisions just got made because of that but I’ve been fighting through life through different situations. Different tragedies been happening in my life. I’ve been used to fighting you know like basically everything that I done got in a way I scratched claws. I’m no longer with Zero Fatigue I got my own brand, called Awesomeness now, my own LLC. I just been setting up my own business so everything I done got I been scratching and clawing for.”
“I made iight Shawty and Make Em Sick same night two dollars in my pocket one blunt didn’t eat the whole day type shit just feeding my kids type shit. People don’t really know the work you put in to get your music made and put a vision out.”Bari
But it’s just not a pandemic we’re facing. We’re in the middle of the largest civil right movement in history. Due to the senseless murder of George Floyd, the Black community has reached it’s tipping point. We have been tirelessly protesting not only for the arrest and conviction of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor‘s murderers, but for the re-opening of hundreds of murder cases and the abolishment of the police force.
When thinking about this movement, Bari reflects on things that he’s witnessed in his own neighborhoods.
“I’m from St. Louis, I’ve lived here since I was 2. I was here when the Mike Brown thing happened. From the day he got murdered to going to the first protest and seeing the first protest turn into a riot. The neighborhood he was murdered in I lived walking distance from. My Father named me Jabari Khari, Brave King in Swahili and my Mother was the only female lawyer in her branch. So, they’ve been putting this in my head since I could think. None of this was news, I’ve been looking at the world like this since I was a kid. I’ve just been praying for my people.”
Though we’re all trying to navigate our lives during this time, Bari has still been focused and diligent about his craft. Living in quarantine may be a challenge for some, but for this St. Louis rapper, it’s nothing new.
“I’ve been locked in like this for like 6 years” Bari says, “I’ve been in a tunnel vision I really only focus on my family, my loved ones and my crafts. What you gotta do be to be a great? That’s what I think about. Its kinda like what i’ve been focusing on. What I gotta do to be the best? What I gotta do to be the greatest? What work I gotta put in? So I’ve been thinking like this forever. Im about to drop a song next week, “Starstruck”, but I was about to drop the song a week ago, But it wasn’t the climate for that. We just need to let everything breathe. Unless I was finna come out with a song like The Bigger Picture by Lil Baby or something really addressing what was going on I didn’t feel like it was time for me to drop a song that I had already planned on dropping. So I just wanted to let everyone breathe and digest what’s going on. So I really just been working on my project that im planning on dropping at the end of the year. I’m also finna drop a project in a month that I did last year.”
Bari‘s upcoming project, Layer Cake, was something that he created last year but never released. Now with the current climate, he believed that now is the best time to bring the project back to life and share with his fanbase. The name itself is interesting, but the thought process and message behind it is even more insightful.
“It’s called Layer Cake it was made by prodxvzn, that’s my patna‘ he from Chicago. Born a day before me. We made like 16 songs. It’s Layer Cake it’s just about how money can be the meter on happiness but it shouldn’t be. The reason you chase money is so that nobody can tell you shit, once you get there you realize im really just tryna build myself up as a human being. Layer Cake, it’s really about the bread, the cake, but there’s layers to it and you want your cake layered, you want a lot of money but its deeper than just that. I really made it at a transition period in my life. I really learned all the things that I just said about creating more uplifting music. Even when I made MSTRGLSS I was still getting comfortable in that world saying you know what I want to make shit that make people happy, fuck all that tryna be deep shit i’m not obligated to do it. My pops was expecting something from me. The stuff that we talked about all the time expecting me to pull up like Talib Kweli , and I love Talib Kweli like Quality is a classic album, but during this time i’m tryna feed my family, i come from poverty aint nobody around me got money. Except my momma, she scratched and clawed she came from five kids she’s, the fourth youngest and she went to Alcorn State University. But nobody else in my family has no type of bread and no type of situation where they could really get it. We still aint bought my Granny a gravestone, that shit hurt me you feel me we gotta get some paper around this mother fucker. I’m tired of my people being broke and hurting and not being in a place where we can feel the luxury of life. Yeah, you only live once. Yeah, it aint everything. But i’m just tired of seeing my people hurting. Poverty leads to trauma and im just tryna cut that off. That’s what Layer Cake is about. Just tryna’ conquer the world and be that first dude from St Louis to get rich and really change the direction of my whole blood line.”
Bari has worked with some many talented artists, being a talented artist himself. So from the outside looking in, it’s tricky trying to guess which artists and/or producers Bari could see himself working with in the future. So I posed a difficult question for him, who is that one artist/producer that you’d really want to work with in the music industry?
“It depends on the time” he says, “Like right now, I really wanna work with Kevin Parker [Tame Impala] at this very moment. But then I also wanna work with Pierre Bourne, I really really wanna work with Pierre Bourne. I really really wanna work with Wheezy [Producer] you feel me. Wheezy and Turbo. As of artists, for real I wanna work with everybody but if it was like three on earth make a song with right now it’ll be Drake, Future, Pharrell, and Pharrell is in the producer realm but I also want to make a song with him on it so he’s on both list. Then its Young Thug. Everybody I said I named off rip it aint like there’s not other people I want to work with its just that those are the people I want to make multiple songs with. But I feel like I could take my career to another level working with Kevin Parker, Pierre Bourne and Pharell.”
After listening to Bari‘s work, you can already tell what sets him apart from other artists. Not only is it his ability to effectively write music, it’s also his mindset and his passion for his craft as a whole. However, his own thoughts on what sets him apart make give you a whole new perspective.
When reflecting on himself, Bari says “I just feel like I mastered the technique. I feel like my voice, I worked on it. I didn’t have that voice as soon as I started recording. The main thing I worked on was my voice and the structure of my music. I could get on a song and rap for 40, 80, 132 bars. I don’t write. I go in the booth, I come up with something in my head, I have a little bit of it memorized, and then I go in the booth and punch just like everybody else. I could rap 132 bars but I just really love music so i’m really big on how the song is constructed around the beat. I feel like I set myself apart with that and then lyrically I feel like i’ve mastered the art of grandiose. Speaking it into existence. Everything I said I either did, becoming, or walking into it. You can talk about yourself too like this. Im talking about me like this so that people can talk about themselves. If you want to be a superhero, if you want to fly, if you want to be in the air, you want to energy, you can be that. That’s the aspect I do my music from. Some energy makes you feel cool, some energy makes you happy, some energy makes you angry, but not a lot of people got energy that makes you feel strong and empowered. Wether you’re a Woman or a Man. From out in the suburbs or the hood its for everybody to empower themselves and go and get they dreams and fly like they supposed to. Yeah I talk a lot of shit but it’s really for people to talk about themselves. But you gotta work for that too. I say that because i’m obsessed with my craft. I torture my family with this. It’s all I talk about. I know sometimes they’re like man, but shit this what he gotta do to keep him going so imma let him cook. Once you find the thing that makes you happy that makes you feel supreme that makes you feel like you’re doing something special lock into that, you grab it for life and let it pull you forward. It pulled me through everything. From insecurities to me learning the ups and downs of life. Learning how to communicate and being selfless. “
Not only was this interview a detailed view of Bari‘s life as an artist and as a Father, it was packed with insightful and encouraging thoughts. I wanted to make sure you, our readers, wether your an aspiring artist, entrepreneur, journalist, or just someone who is trying to get on the path to success, had something that you could take away. I asked him what advice would he give to aspiring artist whoa re stuggling to not only gain exposure but to stay consistent without having an audience. Here’s what he had to say.
“The first thing you need if you don’t have money is people. So it’s like when you don’t have the resources the resource is you as a person, it’s people. So whoever willing to help you, be humble and accept that. But be confident in yourself but you cannot expect anybody to walk your journey with you if you’re not walking strong. You gotta walk strong. Even if you waiver you gotta still look strong its apart of the process. Because if you waiver the people who walking with you gonna waiver. So you gotta walk strong you gotta keep your eyes open to the people who are coming in your life trying to help you. This is before you get anything. There aint’ gonna be no random mother fucker to just give you something because you’re amazing. Which happens, but even then always realize when people are trying to help you the power is people. It took me hella to learn that. I aint have no money I recorded at Classic’s. He [Classic] let me record there because he fuck with me as a person. He said dude nice he might be able to do something and that was really what it was. It was somebody that I didn’t even really know I met Classic that year. You gotta walk strong, which means if you get a door shut in your face you gotta just fucking turn around even if you crying. Be mad, yell, scream, but do that walking to the other option. A plan aint shit but an outline of how you want it to go. But there’s a lot of shit in between that is going to be different. There’s a journey to every step. When I put out Neva Look Back that shit said Never Look Book. At the time I had been fresh just getting out of my Zero Fatigue contract. I was feeling isolated. I moved to Chicago for 3 months while I made Neva Look Back with my family. I was in between deals tryna get stuff situated. So I ended up coming back to St Louis because it was taking longer than expected and I was really down about that shit. It ended up being what God meant for me. But when I put out Neva Look Back and that shit said Neva Look Book, I straight was sad. It was 12am I just had to walk. I walked like 2 miles just mad, fuming, and hurt. I made Iite Shawty and Make Em Sick same night two dollars in my pocket one blunt didn’t eat the whole day type shit just feeding my kids type shit. People don’t really know the work you put in to get your music made and put a vision out. You gotta be real strong and know you dealing with people who got they own lives. Anything a business owner is going to go through or an entrepreneur is going to go through you gotta go through as an artist. And you going through double because you also gotta know that you’re still tryna hone your craft. So its 3 jobs in one.”
Bari has already come so far as an artist, but there’s so many boundaries that he’s about to break in the near future. If this hasn’t convinced you to get into his discography, you’re simply just missing out. Follow Bari on Instagram and Twitter to be the first to find out when Layer Cake drops and his next single.