“I Try To Be Versatile, I Don’t know who I would compare myself to. I really would say like, hopefully nobody. I just want to be an original, the first Drew Barker, not the next Lil Wayne, not the next Drake.” -Drew Barker
There are so many adjectives that can describe a hip-hop artist, but for Fort Worth-based rapper Drew Barker, the art of versatility is what makes his music enjoyable to a wide variety of people.
Far too often do we associate musical influence as the type of sound or artistry one has that makes his/her music similar to a more, well-known and accomplished artist. This is where the uniqueness of Drew Barker separates himself from others: he looks at his influences as the person they are, instead of their music, which has led him to drop some of the biggest singles in the Dallas/Fort Worth independent hip-hop scene such as “Drop the Top,” “Chillin’ in the Hills,” and “Me and My Bros.”
The diversity of Barker as a person and musician allows for him to do all that. When listening to any of his mixtapes, tracks move from sounding like a traditional Texas hip-hop joint that’s bumped in the car while cruising down the street, to a slower, smoother song immediately following it. Add in jams that are club bangers as well, and Barker’s music is suited for just about any occasion.
“I’ve had shows where most of the people are from the hood, to shows where it’s mostly girls, to clubs where most of the people are in cowboy boots or hats,” added Barker.
And the juxtaposition shows when listening to two of his biggest hits, “Chillin’ in the Hills,” and “Me and My Bros.”
“Chillin’ in the Hills” offers that smooth vibe; traditional hip-hop production where Barker fully displays his talents as a lyricist.
“Me and My Bros” on the other hand, has the classic party jam sound. Something that can be bumped in clubs for everyone to have a good time.
Originally born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Barker grew up in Fort Worth with a fondness for rap music, beginning in sixth grade when he began to write rap lyrics. He was a part of a rap group during his high school years, and started recording and dropping mixtapes.
But it wasn’t until attending college at the University of Arkansas that Barker began seeing the potential and dreams of being a rapper. During a time when Wiz Khalifa and Drake broke through the mainstream scene by, “Simply being themselves,” as Barker put it. The two rappers, in turn, became his two biggest influences.
“In college, at parties and stuff, people would always look at me and yell ‘Rap! Rap! Rap!’” said Barker. “And there was somebody else who could beat-box. If it was a frat party, they would call on us, and he would beat-box and I would freestyle, and everybody would be jamming. When I walked in my dorm, one student’s room is playing my music, then when I would walk down the hall some more, another room is bumping my music as well, so that’s when I started doing studio sessions, and taking it a little more serious.”
It was during college where Barker’s first online mixtape was released, Straight To The Top Vol. 1, and became a regional breakthrough. That’s when the fanbase began to rise in Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. After 3 years attending college, Barker decided to drop out with just about 60 hours left to receive a Bachelor’s Degree. His sole focus became making it in the music game, and he didn’t want anything to get in the way:
“Rapping and making hip-hop music is what I like and want to do. Studying and going to school was just holding me back from doing so much more in music, so I just decided to quit. I’ve thought about going back and finishing my degree, but it’ll always be there for me. I can be miserable my whole life, working a job: I once cleaned cars all summer, and it was so miserable because I didn’t want to be there even though I was getting paid. I worked from 7:30 in the morning to 6 every day, out in the heat, vacuuming cars for 3 months. That’s all I thought about every day, that I didn’t want to be there. That made me take music a little more seriously. I want to do something that I like to do.”
Since leaving school, Barker has had the chance to further establish his brand among different demographics, drop two mixtapes (Straight To The Top: Vol. 3 and Killabeat2), release his clothing line, SFA (Stay Fresh Alliance), and perform at shows in clubs across the country, opening up for Mike Stud, Travis Porter, and Future.
But while music has been such a huge part of Barker’s life, it played second hand to him growing up, as he was all about playing basketball. He played the game throughout his childhood, on AAU teams and up until high school. That passion hasn’t left him as he wants to eventually establish an AAU basketball program, as well as build rec facilities for the youth in the community.
“Fort worth is kind of small – growing really fast, but still relatively small.” stated Barker. “I just want to give back the community and area hopefully, try to help build up Fort Worth through my music. I got plans to establish after-school programs and centers where the youth can come after school and play basketball, or other games to keep them out of trouble.”
Even if his hometown has a huge place in his heart, Barker’s vision of himself as an artist far expands the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. He’s been consistently performing in Arkansas, Kansas, San Diego, and has upcoming shows booked in Kansas City and in Ohio. So don’t be surprised if you hear Drew Barker’s name mentioned more and more in the near future.