It might seem that being the #1 hip hop artist from Indiana is about as equal as being a country banjo player in Harlem, New York, but for rapper/producer Michael Barber, he carries the title around with him with pride. His home state of Indiana, the fact that he isn’t from the an urban environment, and the notion that those two things actually put him behind the 8 ball in the hip hop world are just things he embraces.
Michael Barber, who is best known for his song, Sofa Bed, with Grammy nominated, multi-platinum selling rap group, the Nappy Roots, and for being the last recording act signed to the now defunct Death Row Records, says the irony in his entire music career makes for a good story but doesn’t define him.
“Think about it,” Michael tells me, “a white kid from a good home with both parents, successful, great parents might I add, from a small city in Indiana becomes the last artist signed to Death Row. The same Death Row that bailed Tupac out of prison to add him to their roster of artist. A roster that already had Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog. It’s not a just a credit to how hard I think I worked, but it also shows how are society and the rap game changed so much.”
Michael’s first official album died when Death Row filed for bankruptcy, and was purchased by EOne Music in 2014. He was featured on two Death Row/WideAwake Records releases before the label folded.
Now two years later, Michael has released his first project since, and this time it’s a duet album with fellow Indiana rapper, Matty Moe. The album titled, Deadly Combo, has been in the making for the last 4 years. The 10 tracks on the album are all produced by Michael, and those 10 came out of more than 60 songs that the Hoosier duo recorded over the years.
Deadly Combo is a mix of major guest appearances including two songs with the before mentioned Nappy Roots, one song with Wu Tang lyricist Streetlife, and another song with Michael’s former band, Illuminati Sky.
The album is about as far away from the current state of the mainstream rap songs, it has 2 songs about alcohol, but not in the cliche, celebration type of way heard on the radio by the likes of Lil Wayne and Drake, but in the form of struggling with addictions to the booze.
Crash into a Bottle talks about the pain of life and depending on alcohol for your problems. A pain Michael says he knows all to well from living.
“I have been sober over 3 years, officially I drank a some champaign at my wedding, but that has been it. No drugs for over 5 years, it’s the biggest success of my career. It’s a great feeling to not be dependent on anything anymore. That’s where some of the music comes from, and that song is one example.”
Michael is now in his 30s, married and has a son, and he talks about his future as a producer and rapper and also a husband and father to me on the phone, “It’s different, I might not say some of the stuff I use to rap about now that my son might hear it. Then again, he might hear some of my old songs regardless. I guess I can explain that when we get there.”
“The last few years I got away from putting out music because it felt so selfish. It was like ‘hey everybody look at me I make music, I rap, I want your attention.’ I don’t crave that attention, anymore. I strictly do it because when I did stop, it called me back. The last few years I have been learning the piano, and that has been something that I really enjoy. It’s also helped my production, and on this album it has a lot of piano on it that I played.”
Deadly Combo has been a solid success for Michael and Matty Moe. It debuted at in the top 200 on iTunes and has quickly climbed to the top 50 in new albums. That feat alone proves that both Michael and Matt can compete with major label acts with grass root marketing techniques.
The lead single, Moon Rocks, co-produced by Michael’s Illuminati Sky bandmate, Josh Tifer, is gradually gaining traction on air waves across the country, and has been streamed online over 500,000 times on music sites such as soundcloud and audiomack. Moon Rocks is fast paced, and a blend of hip hop and rock with a guitar solo that puts the song over the top. Yes, rock and hip hop but it also blends in a bit of pop that the other songs on the album don’t contain. It might be a hit record waiting on a major break through from radio.
“I like the song. If people say it’s pop, then that’s ok. It wasn’t formulated to be a pop song, and if you knew Josh’s mind state on pop records, you would understand that is the farthest thing that we wanted to make. I just call it good music if people like it. I think I did ok on it, Matt did great on it, and Josh did excellent on it,” Michael says of Moon Rocks.
Michael speaks highly of his partner in rhyme, Matty Moe, “He works quick, writing rhymes quickly, can flow to any type of beat that I send him, and when it’s time to work, he works. I wish every artist was as talented as Matt is. He has a bright future in front of him, and I can’t wait to see it.”
Deadly Combo is 10 songs produced by Michael, and it is a mix of rock, samples, and hip hop artistry that blends together to form a very solid album. The only problem might be that it is only 10 songs, and it leaves the listening wanting more. As far as a part 2 or another joint album, Michael leaves that question up in the air.
“Right now, it’s hard to tell. I know Matt is working on his solo project, I am working on a few different projects. I am not ruling it out, but I want to enjoy this album right now. Let people hear it, and not rush back into the studio to do another one. Matt is a talented artist, and I hope to produce on his solo album in the future.”
The album is out now via Itunes, Bandcamp, Spotify, and other online outlets, and you can also buy a hard copy of the album which comes with a free copy of other material recorded by Michael and Matt called, the EYS EP, just head over to www.DeadlyCombo.com
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