You’d be right to expect an emerging artist to dream of being swept up by a hotshot manager and signed to a prestigious record label. This is where hip-hop rapper and wordsmith, Barney Artist, stands out.
For Barney, music is ‘painting sounds’ and independent, thought is not only a right, but a necessity. Most importantly, his stance on independent music is something of a moral statement; Barney Artist upholds that artists should be independent and not caught under the influence of corporate record labels in order to protect the realness behind their skill.
Raw and genuine talent: Barney draws upon the soulful and poetic face of hip-hop in what you could call urban chill-out. His easygoing vibe is particularly apparent in the 2013 track ‘Where’s Your Soul At?’ feat, fellow hip-hop connoisseurs Alfa Mist and Lester The Nightfly. This cool cat of a tune is four minutes of jazzy hip-hop built simply upon gentle clips, jazzy RnB chimes, a slinky syncopated bassline and laid back – yet cleverly poignant – rapped rhymes; Barney is certainly a profound lyricist.
“Find a solace in a certain type of writing.” Barney calls for authenticity and honesty in life:. The velvety piano, which comes out of its shell as the track develops, is reminiscent of a suave jazz bar whilst the steady padded beat paints a faded watercolour of Britain’s urban streets.
Keeping true to his philosophy of creating music as an art and not as a money making venture, Barney is offering his 12-track EP ‘BAEP’ free to download via his website. The third track ‘Turn Your Head Around’ feat. Emmavie & Alfa Misk is particularly hypnotic. Layered vocal samples bubble in the background, skipping in sync with the offbeat RnB pulses and furry bass. The main vocal showcases Emmavie’s luscious, chocolatey voice in a catchy – but not overly ‘stuck in your head’ – chorus. Above all, the video is particularly worth a watch. Modest yet endearing, it follows Barney on his wanderings around London, reminding us that he is as much a simple Londoner as the rest of the people of the capital.
Showing his poeticism in full force is track ‘Mystery’. Here Barney speaks rhymes over a warm, bluesy piano riff and crispy hi-hat. “Yeah, but there’s poetry in everything if you look for it.” His words become a metrical paintbrush, adding swagger and texture to the track. A nice touch: towards the end of ‘Mystery’, we hear Barney speaking interview style, transcending that listener/listened barrier as if he were right here in the room with us. He tells us, “Hip hop is like one big movement: one big family.”
One last track that deserves a mention is ‘Sit Still’ (prod. by DuqueNuquem). This piece takes a pitch-shifted sample, ephemeral synths and ringing strings to create an edgier sound than we’ve heard in Barney’s other tracks. The fragmented black-and-white music video directed by Gerald Boye is the perfect complement to this salient track. In a snapshot-esque mixture of close-ups and full-body shots we follow Barney: like a raconteur he tells us his story.
What is eye-catching about Barney Artist is his likeability; to listen to his music is to want to get to know him. It would be easy to spend all day dissecting each of his tracks word by word, teasing out the exquisite golden truths between each syllable. Yet this is pure relaxation music; sit back, listen and soak it up.