A chilly Michigan night surrounds the combustible energy inside of Mix Factory One Studios, where artists, managers, and producers are all in different pockets of the two-floor complex talking music and business. In the era of home-based studios, Mix One is still thriving due to high grade equipment and professional business practices, and it's here where the emcee known as P8tience, born Brian Barnes, sits at the studio's massive control board listening to a newly recorded track for his latest album, Good Karma.
Barnes sits up in the recliner and looks over at his manger Darius Mitchell and supporter and former manager Detroit Tre as they give him looks of approval.
"I think it's done," Barnes says. "We've done about 150 songs."
Barnes grew up in Detroit among society's worst ills — poverty, violence, and addiction. "My mom was on drugs, she would bust up for months at a time," he says. "We wouldn't see her for days or weeks." Barnes' father was a mechanic who was battling his own demons.
Both his parents would get drunk, high, and fight. During one incident Barnes' father hit his mother in the head with a beer bottle.
This left Barnes in a position to have to look after his three siblings. Because of his mother's disappearing acts, Barnes and his siblings regularly missed school, lived by borrowing food from neighbors, and became clever at avoiding visits from Child Protective Services. "It got to the point in fourth grade that when you heard a knock on the door you had to be quiet," he says. "I was trying to keep my brothers and sisters together and make sure we ate."
Barnes says he can't remember any details of school from first through fourth grade. After missing more than 150 days of school, C.P.S. finally caught up with Barnes and his siblings and threatened to remove them from the care of their mother. That's when Barnes' grandmother stepped in and promised Social Services that they would attend school regularly.
The plan changed slightly. "She took us to school one time and we had to go through a metal detector," he says. "[There were] like kids be in here carrying guns and knives. She told them we wouldn't be back, and that same day she enrolled us in Southfield public schools."
Barnes' grandmother had recently won a lawsuit from Cedar Point. ("A roller coaster caught her leg and [dragged] her," he says.) With the settlement money she was able to buy a home in Southfield, which Barnes says was previously owned by one of the Temptations. Barnes stayed with her and attended school in Southfield during the week, but went home to his mother's house on the weekends.
The contrast was stark. "It was like you can have everything you want with your grandmother, but when you go home it's nothing," he says. By 1998 Barnes started getting into trouble — stealing from stores and people, and breaking into cars.
Barnes pauses and composes his thoughts. "This one guy wanted to rob this liquor store. He knew I had a gun," he says. "We got caught. His parents made him tell on me to make sure I took the brunt of the shit. I couldn't go back to school. I had to get a GED, and if I didn't they were going to charge me as an adult."
Barnes was 16 years old and sitting in an Oxford boot-camp facility. "Jail actually got me into writing," he says. "I used to write poems about shit I wanted to say about my mans who couldn't come see me because of his parents. I always had this meekness and calmness, and that's where the name P8tience came from."
Barnes had always been a hip-hop fan. His childhood was filled with Jay-Z, Biggie, and Tupac, but it was DMX that he related to the most. "DMX made me feel like I wasn't crazy," Barnes says. "I was able to help my brothers and sisters. X was telling those same stories."
Barnes walked out of bootcamp with a GED and not much else. He went back to robbing, stealing, and a little dope-dealing. His grandmother was fighting dementia, his mother was still battling addiction, and his relationship with his father was still rocky. With no support system, at age 21 Barnes walked away from street life to focus strictly on music.
A friend introduced him to King Ray, and Barnes had contributed four songs on the collab album, Prelude to History, released under Ray's Historic Records imprint. "It never really got no legs. We did as much as we could," he says. "We did a few shows but niggas don't really understand the business. You get out here at these venues and these open mics and see that it's 100 niggas doing the same things. If your confidence ain't there, you be like maybe I can just go back to doing some other shit."
Though the project didn't make a lot of noise, Barnes spent the next three years learning production and recording techniques at Ray's Thinkers Lab recording studio in Southfield.
By 2007 Barnes had became a father, married his child's mother, and decided to step up his commitment to music. "I felt if I took that rap shit serious it could be my career," he says. "I knew I couldn't be the guy that could work 30 years at a plant."
Barnes says his daughter, Madison, gave him an epiphany: "There was no more time to play," he says.
Barnes met and started working with an up-and-coming talented trio of producers called No Speakerz. He released a dozen songs to build a buzz for himself, and in 2011, his mixtape, Industry Ready made its debut.
The mixtape was all Detroit gangsta — tales of chasing sex, alcohol, and everything that money can buy. He was a hustler's hustler who prided himself as a lyrical street rapper. His singles "Balla Blog" and "Hands on You" became club mainstays and underground hits. In 2012 he released his second mixtape, Industry Ready 2.0.
Around the the same time, Barnes ran into Detroit hip-hop royalty Obie Trice at the studio. Trice had already seen Barnes perform, and was familiar with his music. "He told me he knew my music, started reciting my lyrics," Barnes says. "He brought me into his studio and played me his whole third album."
Trice had just severed ties with Shady Records and had started his own label, Black Market Entertainment. After Trice lost his mother to breast cancer in 2012, he invited Barnes on a six-city Midwest tour and signed him to Black Market Entertainment.
"You got to imagine doing an open mic in the Old Miami, and then I'm on tour and I ain't got to perform in front of 10 niggas no more," he says. "At a minimum I'm performing in front of 400 and 500 people a night. I'm making money now."
Barnes would do seven more tours with Trice in total, doing a full set as an opening act and then playing the role of hype man for Trice's set. Although Trice gave him the green light for an album, Barnes never managed to release a full-length project, although he continuously fed the streets mixtapes and singles (including the phenomenal 90s Jacking for Beats mixtape).
Barnes admits he failed to properly leverage the exposure, stage time, and fanbase into a solid foundation for himself. He takes a deep breath. "I didn't do right by it," he says. "When I had the backing, the money, the co-sign — I could have parlayed that into something bigger. I thought it would be there forever."
But Barnes had gotten a bite of his dream. Being signed to Black Market allowed him to feed his family and pay his bills while doing something that he loved to do. After five years he decided it was best to move on from Trice's camp in 2016.
Barnes says it was a mutual decision, and that he still has nothing but love for Trice. "He allowed me to be able to put food in my daughter's and son's mouths," he says. "When I didn't have no options, Obie Trice came in and pulled me out the mud."
So Barnes was back to trying to create a support system and keep his income flowing. He was now divorced and unsigned. He wanted to get back to his fans in Europe, but trying to navigate through the logistics with no backing was challenging. He joined the group Crown Royal, but that ended before it truly got started.
By 2018, his music had also changed. He was older, and no longer interested in recording a mixtape full of the same old trap tales he'd been rapping about since the days he was still trapping.
Enter "Keep Calm," the single that was released in early 2017 with the help of his new management team Black Collar Music Group. The single featured the chorus: "I can't keep calm, I got a son and he could have been Trayvon/ I can't keep calm, I got a nephew and he could have been Mike Brown."
"Here I am traveling and I see kids getting murdered, and I'm thinking about my son that I used to see every night and open the door to make sure he was sleep," Barnes says. "And I don't get to do that anymore because he lives with his mom."
Things are different now. Barnes says his mother is in rehab. He has a better relationship with his father, and he remarried in 2017. He still dwells within a plethora of boom-bap, jazzy, and trap production sounds. Released earlier this month, his latest single, "I Am," continues to reflect the grown man perspectives of his current reality.
"Sixteen years old and two felonies, I'll show you how to be a player Bill Bellamy/ Stop playing I'm the real McCoy, I just want to show you what that type of pressure can do to little boys," he raps. The track features Detroit emcees Jovie and Stretch Money as all three artists explore the lives and decisions of their parents that have created the good but complicated men the rappers have grown into.
Barnes has a lot planned for the last half of 2018. He has five show dates in Detroit, Chicago, and Ohio over the next 30 days, a new album set to release in late August, and a "30 for 30" weekly freestyle series in which he will be dropping a new freestyle every Friday for 30 weeks.
"I try to stay true to the music," Barnes says. "At the end of the day, I've been in the streets. ... As long as the emotion is real and relevant, then I'm going to do it."
P8tience will perform on Friday, July 20 as part of the 2018 Summer Showcase at the Bullfrog Bar and Grill, 15414 Telegraph Rd., Redford Charter Twp., 313-533-4477; facebook.com/bullfrogbar; Performances start at 10:30 p.m.; Tickets are $10.
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