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The Last Baron of New

The Last Baron of New


Artist Baron takes his act from Jersey to New York -- paying homage to everyone from Grace Jones to Aretha Franklin -- with his new album Celebrity .

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." 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 meanaEUR|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.

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.

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!

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