On stage, Young Bari, a San Francisco Bay Area rapper is a charismatic crowd pleaser, full of motion and a confident performer in front of the camera whose style is reminiscent of such West Coast rappers as E-40, Keak Da Sneak and DJ QUIK.
But backstage, recently in BET Studio's Green Room on West 57th Street, Jabari "Young Bari" Baldwin, 20, and Johnathon "J-Roc" Murell, 21, are a picture of calm. Glued to a wall of video screens watching the live audience and reels of video rap performances, both rappers were confident and relaxed before being called to the stage to compete in the network's Wild Out Wednesday competition.
"All New York needs to know is I'm a different type of artist with a different type of swag that you're going to feel before I even step up in the room," says Bari.
Within an hour, Young Bari and J-Roc appeared on camera in front nearly 100 screaming young fans, mostly female, mugging for the cameras while singing a minute and half of their Bay Area hit, "I Bangz." Although his sound is gangsta rap, and Bay Area hyphy (hyperactive), Young Bari uses no profanity.
When asked what his music says to listeners who crowd his concerts, buy his CDs and download his songs on iTunes, Young Bari says: "I just want them to respect a real young dude on his grind who talks about what you could be going through and how you're living right now. I am really in these streets to talk about it without using any type of advisory in my music. I just want people to feel and hear and walk through the shoes of Young Bari out of the San Francisco Bay Area and show them how we rock on this side."
On their first visit to New York City, Young Bari and J-Roc left their Baldwin Hotel room with the idea of winning the competition and moving on to bigger things, but they came in second. However, they showed enough energy and stage presence that Pat Charles, creator of the popular Blaze the Stage competition and head writer for BET's hit show, 106 & Park, asked them to return to New York.
They will be performing with a group of rappers at the Blaze the Stage "Summer 2010 Invitational" at Symphony Space on Saturday, August 7. The program is a homecoming that features the hottest up-and-coming dance teams, singers and hip-hop/ R&B artists from all over the country who have already wowed millions of viewers on national television. Like other contestants, Young Bari and J-Roc will be competing for cash prizes, industry-wide recognition and bragging rights.
J-Roc says they are thrilled to return to New York to perform, and describes what he sees as the difference between East Coast and West Coast rap styles. "East Coast rappers always have a story to tell, and always have something to say lyrically," he says. "But these days, a lot of West Coast rappers have a great story too, but they say it with a different swag and flava to it. We'll be there to prove that."
The duo will already be in town with their reps from the talent development company UGMX to meet with record executives about a label deal. Young Bari, who writes his own music and has been rapping since he was 11, recorded his first record at age 14. He now sees Saturday's competition as a chance to show his artistry.
"I get the chance to do a complete song, and a full performance in front of a national audience this time," Bari says. "Now at the end of the day I'm an artist so I know how to make music for everybody. Keeping it real it's just a natural thing to me because I just have so much love for music, and I love for people to hear my story and relate to my words. When I write music, the pen basically matches with what I see, what I know, what I grew up around, what I do, and how I live my life on a daily basis."
By Len Hollie
In addition to iTunes, Young Bari's music and information are available at www.myspace.com/yungbari and www.youngjabari.com. Tickets for Saturday's Blaze the Stage "Summer 2010 Invitational" performance at Symphony Space are available at http://www.symphonyspace.org/events.
Follow Len Hollie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lenhollie