Exclusive Michael Barber Interview

michael barber

The very first time I was told who Michael Barber was, I was told he was Indiana’s Jay-Z. Strong words from my boy Wick, a Chicago transplant, who wanted me to clarify for this article that he didn’t mean a “white Jay-Z” but specifically if “Indiana, the state, had their version of what New York has of Jay-Z.”

I didn’t get much from Wick, but that’s ok. I got the chance to interview Michael over the weekend, and talk about his new album, AHAYWEH, Indiana, basketball and Indiana Basketball, his relationship with the Wu Tang Clan, Donald Trump vs Bob Lefsetz among other things,.

The album, AHAYWEH, is available as a hard copy on his website, and songs from the album have been released as singles on music platforms like Itunes and Spotify. In May, Michael’s song Quiet War was endorsed by President Trump, and in August, Michael released a protest song, Ladder, which is protesting that same administration that just endorsed him. I think. Check part of the interview transcribed below. The full interview audio will be available on our youtube and podcast channel.



WJS:After hearing music from you, I was told that you were Indiana’s Jay-Z, or actually Indiana’s version of Jay-Z, how do you feel about this?

Michael: That’s interesting. I have never heard that before, I guess it’s a compliment? I will take it as one.

WJS: It was meant to be one.

Michael: Great.

WJS: Let’s talk about the new project, AHAYWEH, first off how do you say that? What is it?

Michael: I’ve heard it pronounced a few different ways, but it’s an initialism for Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here, which is a sign on the gates of hell on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Dante’s Inferno.

WJS: Not really something a normal rapper is making albums about…

Michael: (laughs) Right! Well, Dante’s Inferno as it is commonly called nowadays, was a poem by an Italian poet named Dante Alighieri. He was alive in the middle ages like the 1300s. He wrote about Heaven and Hell. One of the poems is about the 9 levels of hell inside Earth, and this was on the gates of hell, but he also worked on this poem for 12 years. He wrote it for 12 years and died a year later so when I was around the 3 year point of working on this album, and I was just like man this is gonna take me 12 years. I did close to 50 full songs before selecting these 17 songs

WJS: Again not something a normal rapper is rapping about, but 50 songs and 3 years that is a lot…

Michael: Well I finished 50 songs, and it was closer to 4 years of working on it. I started probably 150 songs.

WJS: Wow! That’s a lot. So the song, Quiet War, it is about the opioid epidemic, and it got an endorsement from the President, can you tell us a little bit about that song and the endorsement?

Michael: Yeah, The song is about the current epidemic of the opioids that has taken so many people from us, and changed so many lives. From Big Pharmacies lying about pain pills being addictive to the heroin it touches on all of that.

WJS: It really is a great song. Can you tell us about the endorsement from the President?

Michael: it is what it is. It’s one of those things were it doesn’t carry a lot of weight. Former Presidents, maybe it would be a bigger deal. I mean it’s an endorsement from this President who is a polarizing figure that a lot of people dislike, I mean it’s not Obama, I think just that, I mean if it would have been President Obama, I think it would have opened more doors. Instead, I actually had blogs and other media outlets say they didn’t want anything to do with it just because they disliked the President.

WJS: Really? Can you elaborate on that?

Michael: The most important thing in that whole letter is the amount of money the President says he is going to put towards fighting this epidemic. I mean I am happy that the President recognized it, but it was Donald Trump. It wasn’t an endorsement from Bob Lefsetz. It wasn’t Jimmy Iovine. I mean at this point an endorsement from Bob Lefsetz is probably worth more, but like I said, it is what it is. It’s an important message for the song to get out to help in to raise awareness about an issue that is catastrophic right now.

WJS: Ok, now let’s jump into some basketball since the season has started, and we are a hip hop and basketball news outlet. So I was told you are a Laker fan and an Indiana fan, is that correct and how do you feel about those teams this year?

Michael: That is correct. I think the Lakers will make the playoffs. I have a bet with my buddy Jason that they will. I don’t see them doing much more, obviously it depends on who they match up against in the first round, but I think without a major trade they will make the playoffs. That is all.

WJS: So the Lakers are your team in the West, and is Indiana your team in the Eastern Division?

Michael: No, I mean sure I like the Pacers, but Indiana is my college team. The Hoosiers. I do love what Victor Oladipo is doing, love to watch him play. But yeah, that is college basketball.

WJS: Gotcha. And you are from Indiana a basketball state so do you grow up learning how to play the game and what not?

Michael: Yeah, I mean ball is life out here. I mean growing up here it really is bigger than any of the other states I have lived in, but not by much. Basketball is so big, so worldwide now, but when I grew up, it was definitely something that a lot of us did. We played and watched it, but I don’t know how much more than any kids.

WJS: So let’s talk about Archie Miller. Indiana’s new head basketball coach. How do you feel about Archie, last year wasn’t a great year, I mean my team is the Buckeyes so we both had new head coaches, but what do you think about Archie this year?

Michael: I think it’s a make or break year for him. He has a squad this year with senior leaders like Morgan and McRoberts, and good juniors that can play at an elite level, and obviously Romeo coming in with solid other freshmen on the team. I think they should compete for the Big Ten championship, and make a deep run in the tourney. I think, Archie needs to do both of those things. Indiana doesn’t mess around with basketball so he needs to have a strong showing.

WJS: So what is your prediction? Final Four? Elite Eight?

Michael: I think so.

WJS: You think so what..? A Final Four?

Michael: I think this is a team that can do that. Obviously it depends on who they matchup against, and if they are healthy. I think anything less than a top 4 finish in the Big Ten and at least, at the very, very least a sweet sixteen appearance is a let down.

WJS: That’s bold considering IU isn’t even ranked. Might be a little bias, but that is fine.

Michael: It might be slightly bias, but I think Archie does have a good team despite not being ranked. We are hurt right now so once Archie gets them healthy it’s National Championship or bust.

WJS: You just said a sweet sixteen, and now you think National Championship or bust?

Michael: I mean look if Indiana gets to a sweet sixteen it’s not enough. If they go to the Final Four it’s not enough. The fan base wants National Titles so at least one. I’m happy with being a National Championship threat year in and year out.

WJS: Only time will tell. Let’s jump back into your music real quick. Your song, Ladder, can you talk about that?

Michael: Yeah, well it uses lyrics from the legendary Woody Guthrie, and it’s just a song suggesting what can happen if we don’t realize every action has a reaction.

WJS: Ok…so you have some ties to the Wu Tang Clan, can you tell us about that and your song with them and a few mixtapes with the official DJ of the Wu Tang Clan, Mathematics?

Michael: Yeah, the first mixtape I ever did was hosted by Math. This was years ago when I first met them. I met them in Louisville just freestyling outside in a cypher and then they knew me in Orlando years later. That’s when I started those relationships, and Math ended up hosting 2 of my mixtapes and he has produced 3 songs for me. Then with Streetlife, I actually got him a record deal. I was the A&R on the deal, and was working on the full album, like producing for him, and we have the records, a few of them unreleased. We did the song, Skywalkin’, which I put Matty Moe on, and we did release. That’s where I got my chain, I don’t wear jewelry, ever, but he got me the chain, my millennium falcon chain. It’s good. The Wu Tang is the best to ever do it. All of them.

Michael Barber motion picture mayehm 3 w/ Mathematics

WJS: Nice…where can the people find you at online?

Michael: I have no clue just tell them to call the house phone, same number, same hood.

*The entire interview will be on our podcast on Monday

Written by Nick


Nick the Quick White is an avid fan of basketball and hip hop, and a contributing writer with WJS since 2013. Nick has interviewed rappers, ballers, rapper ballers, and baller rappers on the site and continues to preach that the NBA should have a team in Europe. Maybe because Nick currently lives outside London where to them Football is actually played with your feet, can you believe this fatuousness?

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