The Last Baron of New York

By Tyrus Townsend

Originally published on Advocate.com April 14 2009 11:00 PM ET

Artist Baron has always
been a star: with good looks, raw talent, and an unwavering
determination to outshine everyone around him. A
multidisciplinary artist, Baron is back with his sophomore CD,
Celebrity

, a 14-track collection of pop-meets-electro beats. Equal parts
Jungle Brothers, Esthero, and Labelle,
Celebrity

is a celebration of enjoying life to the fullest.

Influenced by an array
of musical artists (David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, and
Goldfrapp, to name a few), Baron's critically acclaimed
debut,
Troubled Man

, was met with rave reviews. Now, fueled by the success of his
club-banging new single, Baron is ready to show the world how
to "Party With b."

Advocate.com: Isn't this so ironic: You are releasing your sophomore
CD,
Celebrity

, as we sit inside Virgin Records, which is closing
most of its North American stores.Baron:

It is pretty crazy that after all these years an institution
like Virgin Records is closing down.

Who will carry your records now? This smells like a Ponzi
scheme. A conspiracy theory.

[
Laughs

] I know, right? It's a good thing that I distribute my
record through my own label, B Sexy Records.

I have a confession.

What is it?

Secretly, I've been following you since I saw you
leaving Zara a few years ago. I thought to myself,
Who is this gorgeous creature?

I mean…you look like a modern-day Grace Jones.

Thank you! Actually, when I was in high school I pursued being
a model and entertained the idea of fashion design. I love the
works of the avant-garde: John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, and
Raf Simons.

Now that I've just revealed myself as a stalker, tell
me, Who is Artist.Baron.

Baron is a New York City employee by day, artist by night. I am
a graphic designer, poet, lyricist, and entrepreneur. I hail
from the Newark, N.J., area and have been a resident of
Brooklyn for the past five years. I am one of five siblings and
the only one raised by my grandmother, whom I absolutely
adore.

artist.Baron2 x 390 | Advocate.com

So tell me about your sophomore release,
Celebrity

. What was the inspiration and direction of this project?Celebrity

is a smash-up album of hip-hop, tribal, electro, and punk rock
that dissects the celebrity phenomenon in a personal way. My
influences range from hip-hop (Notorious B.I.G. and Tone Loc)
to electronica (Goldfrapp and Esthero) to Hall & Oates and
Aretha Franklin.

So it's safe to say that
Celebrity

is different from your 2004 debut,
Troubled Man?

Very much so.
Celebrity

is an upbeat celebratory project that is meant to breathe and
inspire and give hope to the world. I wrote in my liner notes,
"I told myself that this time I was writing for the world.
I'm not sure if it truly worked out. I keep writing
anyways." The standout singles are "Party With b,"
"Grown Ass Man," and the title track,
"Celebrity." All of these cuts invoke partying and coming
into your own and being comfortable in your own skin. I also
had full creative control of this album, from the artwork to
the packaging to writing on every track on this project.

Which artists have influenced you and why?

Kanye. He produces and writes, is a risk-taker and
multitalented. Madonna has a knack for "becoming the
album." Timbaland, Sam Sparro, M.I.A -- she is on the edge
and not mainstream and her music makes one think -- the
Tapestry

album, and Aretha Franklin for her versatility.

So tell me about "your first time."

My first performance was at a coffee shop in Newark and it was
not willingly. My cousin placed my name on the open-mike list
and I was very surprised when they called my name. The crowd
was very receptive to what I had to say, and riding upon that
vibe I continued to perform more frequently until my nerves
were right. Luckily things changed for me after meeting fellow
poet-musician ButtaFlySoul at the River to River Poetry Slam in
Harlem. Up until then, I thought I was the only guy talking
about gay issues in the black community. The heterosexual
community has embraced me like no other. I came out to my
grandmother at age 15 and at that particular time I identified
as gay. If you would have met me years ago, I would have
identified as gay. Sexuality, to me, is more individual, and to
identify as gay is limiting. We lose who we are when boxed into
a category, and when that is done we tend not to connect with
others of the human race.

artist.Baron x Xtra large | Advocate.com

So then you decided to venture into New York City? What was
that like, coming from the suburbs of New Jersey?

I would sneak out of my grandmother's and head down to the
Village with no money. At this particular time I was scared to
take the subway anywhere else, so I would just walk around for
blocks and blocks.

In NYC? All alone? You're lucky the wolves did not eat
you up.

I enjoyed walking the streets and finding inspiration; one
could not find that living in the suburbs. I would
people-watch, and it was the best education I ever
received.

What do you search for in a mate?

Creativity, honesty, outrageousness, and sexy.

Hmm... Maybe your future mate will read this interview?

[
Laughs

] Let's hope so!