Upon first listening to Michael Barber I expected to interview an rebellious teenager, however after asking him a few questions I saw a focused adult. Michael Barber brings you the truth whether you agree with him or not, one thing holds true; he is a free thinker. He refuses to be boxed in or believe in the hype. Michael Barber is a great artist and could be one of the leaders of the new generation. He may even be the industries new litmus test. His thinking to some is revolutionary, to others it is antagonistic, while yet others see him as a representative or councilman voicing their concerns. I believe he blends just enough controversy with just enough truth to keep you interested. Universal has their hands full with this new artist/business, he is definitely not a cookie-cutter artist nor is he for the faint of heart.
Ok so I listened to your mixtape Michael Barber “The Truth” hosted by DJ Fade. I must say it was interesting; it seemed sort of like 50 Cent's old “Robbing The Industry” track, except it was the entire mixtape. What was your motivation behind writing or preparing for this mixtape?
It was kind of how I felt. Like 50 back then, I had just put out the 2nd part of my “Motion Picture Mayhem” series [I feel like it went over people’s heads] so DJ Fade and I got together and just really told people the truth. Like people, don't drink the Kool-aid. Also I never, ever hold back or bite my tongue, been like that, was raised like that, and it was the truth.
On the track “The Truth” and several others Asher Roth get a battery of shots fired in his direction. Why is Asher Roth in your cross hairs?
Asher and I, well, he was ok, he came into the game as a gimmick, he has told the world he hasn't EVER seen a royalty check, 100% gimmick, but he came out and said on allhiphop.com or somewhere that he doesn't care about poor people.
He has come across as a racist on more than one occasion, and last he was always going around saying "I'm nice!" and "SEE ME", "SEE ME", dude ok I saw you dude, I saw him on a track when he came out, and then he quit saying "see me" he kind of shut up a little.
He isn't really in my cross hairs anymore, just had to let him know that I had him checkmate. His label is in a lot of trouble right now, they can capitalize on Justin Bieber now, until his voice changes, then what? Plus SRC is known for buying enough units to make a song hit top one or two on ITunes, Asher is probably in the rear-view of the rap window anyway, so on to the next one.
We see that Asher Roth's background is like a college kid, stoner, and music lover; however what is your background? Where are you from, and how did you get started in Hip Hop?
Asher Roth isn't from College, first off, that was a gimmick to get white kids to like him. I have been around some great people in the industry, I grew up in a small town in rural southern Indiana, I moved to Louisville, Kentucky and traveled around emceeing with a group called Rhyme Related.
I have been in studios with people like Nappy Roots, the rock group Tantric, the great songwriter Static Major, RIP; and many more. I have been really blessed. I went through a long period of drug abuse that is behind me, I am now in Florida living on the beach. I grew up on hip hop, I create music, and I’m more of a musician, an artist, than a rapper.
How did the Universal deal come about?
My dude Jonathan Hay, he came at me after he saw the buzz from the first “Motion Picture Mayhem” mix tape on torrent sites. It shut down some sites, the buzz from that was really cool. It hit the internet, and slowly became a hot item. It wasn't like I dropped it on one day and the next day it was all over the place, it was a slow push, but the buzz was huge for the 2nd one.
So I got offered the deal, it was a P and D, and I still had my own network going on, so it was a no-brainer. Hay is that dude too, I mean he broke Rihanna. So you know he can see talent, I think from day one he and I have been on the same page. He does his thing and I do mine, but he knows the goal. He has been a great guy in my corner, the whole Hoopla family has been nice, they added to my brand.
I also noticed that you threw cheap shots at Mike Posner and Joe Budden, why?
The Mike Posner thing was more of joke, because I can't stand that kid b**ching and whining like a female on tracks. I heard a half of a 16 by that dude and had to turn it off. I really was just being funny going at Joey too. The whole Tahiry thing cracks me up, because they both think they’re a little bit bigger than they are. She's got a day job, he can't find a label, and they both crack me up.
Are you prepared for battle if an emcee such as Joe Budden decides to respond you?
On a track he did, “R.I.P” he had some shots for me, but we are cool. I was really just airing out the whole industry, saying “ok people don't believe all this hype”. If they play a song 22 times on the radio, does that make it hot, or is the label paying to make it hot?
I wasn't really taking shots at him as I was just saying what he was doing, I mean that is him on Youtube holding an ice pack after he got beat up, that is him on Youtube crying about his girl…It is the same as me saying, "George Bush was a coke head" or saying "Laura Bush killed somebody." All true statements.
Of all the people you're taunting who has either subliminally or overtly responded to you?
Well the before mentioned Joey, Asher had his hype man come after me like on some real homo stuff, messaging me on Youtube. Then somehow they got my number and started prank calling me; I got some of the messages saved, they just acted real homo about it. Like some damn kids calling me, saying "stop saying Asher is gay, please stop". I’m going to put those out, maybe, I don't know. [Laughing]
Hip Hop as of late has moved away from all the beef and even major problems like Rick Ross v Mayweather & 50 Cent, TI v Ludacris, and several others have been squashed. What’s the root of your beefs and why are taking cheap shots at almost everyone?
I don't know about cheap shots, I was just calling it how it is. My boy Kia Shine gets three BMI awards for writing “Best I Ever Had”, so Drake you got ghostwriters?
If you didn't know that, then just keep playing your FM dial. Static Major writes “Lollipop”, Wayne's biggest hit, and nobody even mentions that. Gillie the Kid, he wrote the whole “Carter” album. I was just calling it how it is; the cards can go up and come back down with a shuffle. A spade is still a spade. Beef is dead, but the truth is always alive, it’s just do people want to believe the truth or the hype?
Did you take notice of where 50 Cent's constant need to beef landed his latest project with a little on 100K sold?
Well at the end of the day you have to have hot music. I think 50 ran out of hot songs a long time ago, and I really doubt his heart is in the studio anymore. He has movies and a bigger brand, so 100 thousand for a project that he didn't spend that much on… I doubt he is really upset about it at the end of the day.
He isn't in the studio paying for beats with his rent money anymore. The beef side isn't there ok, but the truth is, and 50 helped Ross out really, giving him looks, cause a hot song is a hot song, a hot album is a hot album. His latest joint wasn't that hot, he even called in Neyo real late, for that song, it just wasn't a hot album.
On this mixtape you speak a lot about being the “Truth” and how you have lyrics; however you don't do too much to showcase your talent. Were you just frustrated with the industry?
Yeah, just mostly freestyles on here, I had just recorded “Motion Picture Mayhem 2” and put that out, to much success, and I just wanted to get away from songwriting so much and just tell people like I said, "don't drink the Kool-aid". If all this smoke and mirrors is tricking you guys, well DJ Fade and I are the Windex and cloth. [Laughing]
Also if it wasn't a freestyle, it was me producing the track, so I wanted to showcase that side of me, and you say no lyrics, well ok, I was beat making and telling the truth. It helped me link up with some people who wanted some beats too. OJ da Juiceman hit me up, a lot of people did actually looking for production.
The Pennie Lane track is a relatively with a different vibe, however it sounds like an Asher Roth song. How do you plan on defending that to your critics?
I could care less about critics, they are going to be there no matter what; you have critics critiquing the Sistine Chapel. That is a song I did to relate to my drug history, Pennie Lane, a character from the movie "Almost Famous" and a Beatles song. I use her as my drug addiction, something I have suffered from, and I wrote a song about it. One song won't define my career like an Asher Roth.
Are you worried that taking shots at established Universal artists such as Lil Wayne and Drake may end up with you shelved on a subsidiary “tax write-off” label like Bungalow Records?
Never… You can't do that anymore, I mean I guess an artist could use that as an excuse, oh I got signed but they got my album on the shelf. I have turned in my project to them, and Jonathan Hay and I are working on the release date, tweaking the album etc. Then I went out and got my own umbrella group rolling, we got backing, we have Best Buy hard copy distribution, Itunes, we have Europe and now Dubai distribution companies; the internet is free, it is the future.
So people can stop me for a second, but only Michael can stop Michael. I have a machine rolling and I have sponsorship and have had some with great companies like Miller High Life, Crown Royal, and Oakley just to list a few. So if I was on Bungalow Records, cool, I would get them whatever they needed.
I started my own umbrella company, I have my contract with Universal, nothing is void, but they can't shelf me. We are good, they gave me my money, they got a hot project, and we are just getting the timing right on that. ECP Music Group is moving forward, we have already been contacted by Nas's people at Sony about working with them, and people representing Tommy Mottola have come to me. It will be really hard to shelf me, even if Universal decided to say oh shelf him, well I got my own companies. I have my own outlets, so at the end of the day it would be in their best interest to make a buck on my brand that we are sharing for that project.
Plus those guys I’m signed with at Universal, they are too smart, they saw the big plan from day one.
What voids do you see in the industry, and where do you fit or are you filling those voids?
I don't think the people have a voice. The system and everything runs together as one, that isn't how art is supposed to be. We are against the machine as artists, and people like Black Eyed Peas, they do nothing to say here is a middle finger to you, and you, and you!
I have a single coming out this week or real shortly, called, "Soapbox". I am the Irish Jesus, the people's voice. It’s cool for the everyday man or woman to look at Drake and “go cool”, he is up there with his big ass eyebrows popping bottles and screwing every girl he wants, but they can't relate to that. I want to be the voice that they can relate to. I did it more on “Motion Picture Mayhem 1”, but I am getting that back.
We need a voice for this time period, and people are real scared right now, a lot of America is living pay check to pay check, the economy is probably not going to turn over, so people need a voice, not somebody with hot punch lines.
What other projects do you have out, that may allow people to see you showcase your skills?
I think my “Motion Picture Mayhem” series is a groundbreaking series, it is going to be five albums, two are done and you can get them online or on Itunes, etc., that is me.
Since we've heard who you are critical of in the industry, who do you respect, and who would you eventually like to work with?
I have worked with some hot people, Nas and I have been talking about doing another record, he was just in Miami working, I am suppose to link up with Trent Reznor, but we will see.
A lot of people have been in contact, OJ the Juiceman or whatever, he got a few beats off me, and I am trying to get more into music and away from hip hop.
Whose music are you listening to currently, for enjoyment?
I had Bob Marley on all day the other day. Great artist right there, and my boy Josh just gave me a hot mix of STP, I listen to anything that is good. Good solid music. Oh and Plastic Beach is hot.
Are you concerned that your beefs may cause some artists to be turned off by you and not want to work with you?
Not at all; It wasn't a physical, I will come shoot your house up beef. It was more of oh ok, this barber guy, he doesn't hold back. It wasn't like I was fabricating stuff, I told the truth, and a lot of people respect that.
How do you plan on attaining longevity in this ever changing industry?
I am here. I have gained a decent fan base that is growing, that seems ok, you don't have to be on the cover of XXL magazine to be hot. These kids know that. They send me messages all the time online and I see people out, and they respect me for being me and not trying to throw on a gimmick or a hat or anything. I just give them me on a record, and they see that. I don't have a lambo and a jet. I have my self built studio on the beach, so longevity? As long as I’m alive I will be in a studio recording, creating, and making music, it is in me.