From his flippancy on social media and the content of his lyrics, Baro comes across as your typical teenage guy. He offers two-word answers to questions posted on his Tumblr, and his Facebook cover photo has a speech bubble that makes it look like his profile photo is saying "flaccid willy". But in person, Baro has depth. The 18-year-old has a wiser and more thoughtful aura to him than you’d expect. He talks about his plans in earnest and uses words like “obdurate”. His internet presence might say IDGAF, but his IRL attitude is the complete opposite.
It isn’t surprising to learn that at school, Baro Sura Sarka felt like he was on another wavelength to his classmates. “I was always on a different level,” Baro says, sitting on the couches at Fitzroy’s Red Triangle, an upstairs pool hall. “I was listening to different music. Like, even hip-hop and like jazz and soul. So I was always onto that. And the way I thought was way different to other kids. I was making music; they were playing footy on weekends and going to parties.”
Those musical tastes are something that show through on his debut EP 17/18, out now, and previous mixtape Howgoodisgood, released last year. His mature sound is what’s set him apart from his Australian peers, getting him noticed by Triple J (Baro was an Unearthed High finalist last year) and turning heads at Complex magazine offshoot, the taste-making music site Pigeons & Planes, which premiered 17/18 earlier this month.
No longer at school (he graduated last year), Baro has now found his people in the crew 90’s RD, which he describes as having the same mindset. “If you’re surrounded by like-minded people you’re obviously going to excel,” he says. “Although we all think the same … there're different little things. You get influenced by different people and better yourself as a person and creatively.”
90’s RD is made up of Baro, Charlie Threads, Marcus, Mosè, Nasty Mars, KushDaddy$lavens, Sol’MANIC, Te Waere and Yobi Masenqo. Similar in age as well as world view, the hip-hop collective has one goal. “The one thing we want to do is build a fucking empire,” Baro says. “That’s our plan.”
It’s here that Nasty Mars, sitting next to Baro, chimes in. “We’re like a bunch of people that don’t have, like, a box mentality. We see in terms of doing creative stuff,” he says. “We can make movies, we can make music and we can make clothes. We can do everything like the world is our oyster. That’s how everybody in 90’s RD thinks.”
Baro has said before how one of his biggest influences is Tyler, the Creator, and in this respect you can draw the parallels between 90’s RD and Odd Future. It’s more than just the music. Personal style and stretching into different creative outlets – whether clothing, art or film – is clearly inspired by the way Odd Future’s brand, Golf Wang, has extended beyond music.
But for Baro the music Tyler was making was what first set him on his path. “I was influenced by Tyler and Odd Future since I was in Year 9 when Goblin came out,” he says. “I was listening to Bastard and that was literally the best shit I ever heard in my life. I was so happy that was a thing. Like, that pretty much inspired me to pursue music. I was [already] doing music, but, like, to actually do it properly … I could be something.”
Being at the tail end of teenagedome, much of Baro’s lyrics have revolved around him transitioning from boy to man. He says it, "hasn’t really been tough. It’s just been different.”
“I didn’t really go to school last year because I was doing music, so [it’s] just that whole change – finishing school, doing music … expecting to make big-arse decisions. It's been cool."
While Baro has toured with the big names in Aussie hip-hop – Thundamentals, Allday, Remi, Spit Syndicate – he and 90’s RD are firing shots at the scene that he's labelled as broken.
“Aussie hip-hop is weak as fuck, and there's no character in it,” he says. “It feels so fabricated and ... people feel they have to be a certain thing, and they have it completely wrong. [90’s RD] wants to bring authenticity musically and character-wise.”
90’s RD isn't about empty words, though; it’s working hard to bring fresh blood and feeling to the Aussie hip-hop scene.
“It’s working out,” Baro says. “My friend Marcus just released his mixtape, PIZZA4BRKFST/CEREALAT3AM, and that’s doing really well. I released Howgoodisgood last year, and that went well, and everyone's about to release their shit. And it’s actually really good. [There’s] not just one person in the crew who’s a good artist, everybody’s great at what they do. It’s beautiful.”
Baro plays at Shebeen on August 1. Tickets are available here. 17/18 is out now.