There came a point when they became too much to handle, and he had to reel them in.

That is, the number of stage names for Boston rapper and spoken word artist Bakari J.B. (pronounced buh-car-ee). At first, he was Enemy Zappa, alluding to the popular “E-Z” rap name prefix. The name Yaambo, what his father calls him, has always been in the picture too.

Commence rapper name meiosis: Yaambo became Yaambeezy, which broke off into Beezy. Beezo wasn’t far behind. Yaambeezy the Great took over. Y-Jizza usurped Yaambeezy the Great. The names were multiplying and multiplying.

In the end, he went with his birth name, Bakari J.B. (Jibri Barrett)—an anomaly in the rap world, where most artists go by a pseudonym.

While Bakari recognizes he’s fortunate as an artist to have a uniquely Google-able name, it comes as no surprise that people often mispronounce it. “I’ve gotten Back-ery, I’ve gotten Bakery, I’ve gotten everything,” he said, laughing.

Indeed, when his green tea was ready in the Cambridge coffee shop where I met him, the barista hesitated and then tried, “Tea for Back-ery?”

The son of a jazz musician, Bakari fell in love with rhythm at an early age. As a kid at Boston Latin School, he remembers beating on tables and freestyling at lunch. “We used to pass around a notebook—period to period—writing raps. At lunch, we’d read it and see who had the best lines. And I always had the best lines,” he joked.

His adaptive style as a rapper draws both from East Coast lyricists like Mos Def and Talib Kweli, as well as grittier rappers like Biggie and Diddy. He flexes each style on his debut album, Fear and Desire, which was released in November 2013.

“I fear failure and desire success,” Bakari said. “Boston’s a small city. If you ask for 10 rappers that are doing it in the city, and my name can’t be mentioned, I’m doing something wrong.”

In fact, Bakari just got back from caravanning to A3C, an annual hip-hop festival in Atlanta, with a troupe of Boston’s best rappers, including Edo.G, Reks, Moe Pope, and others. The collection of hip-hop artists, who call themselves the Beantown Bullies, recorded a mixtape at the festival in a rented house. They plan on heading to SXSW this March. They are not to be confused with the Olde English Bulldogge breeder of the same name. Perhaps a future collaboration between the two? Please.

Still, Bakari agrees there is a lack of cohesion in the Boston hip-hop scene. Even last year at the event that he organized—Hoop Hop, a celebrity-style basketball tournament featuring hip-hop and R&B artists as the players—there were artists Bakari wasn’t familiar with.

“In Chicago, Chief Keef, Vic Mensa, Chance the Rapper—they’re bubbling because they’re always supporting each other. Boston needs to be like that,” he said. “We have to understand that Beantown Bullies is the start. The networks we all have are powerful.”

Whether it takes more Hoop Hop tournaments, Beantown Bullies mixtapes, or weekly cyphers in Marty Walsh’s living room, Boston’s rap scene will be better served with a more collaborative approach—and with more material from Bakari, aka Yaambeezy, aka Beezy, aka… all right. Just Bakari it is.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.