BarelyAnyHook is an MC you keep your eyes on.
Tall and gingerly with a constant gaze, BarelyAnyHook wears his quirk on his sleeve, in his glasses, his intimidating head of hair and the multi-lingual lyrics that often sit front and centre in his songs.
The rapper, real name Ejiro Ekperigin, first hit the public radar when he was featured on AYLØ’s “Honest Conversations” in 2016.
The next few months provided more fragments of who the rapper is. He was a guest on the delicious “Blunt Deals” by producer Goldkeyz.
More features came after. By now, the rapper had whipped up considerable interest and it was somewhat fitting that his first introduction of sorts came by way of a performance at the now-iconic 90s Baby Soundoff.
The alte-verse may have met him on an evening in Lekki but barelyanyhook’s story starts much earlier.
A minute or so of digging led us his oldest recording on the internet, a soulful number titled “Good Girl” featuring verses rapped over a Ryan Leslie beat. The track was made over seven years ago when Barely made music under the moniker – “DK”.
The new name – “barelyanyhook” – was the title of a project he was working on. But with time, the moniker detached itself from a body of work that never saw the light of day and stuck to its creator.
Barely’s first shift had more to do with genres than nicknames though; it dates back to a time when melody, not ‘spoken word with sauce’ was his chosen art form.
“I’m actually a singer at heart. It’s what I began with,” he told More Branches’ Adedayo Laketu in 2017. “Then poetry. Rapping came after I swapped powers with a friend who did it. We rubbed off on each other and he encouraged it too.”
Convinced that this marauding, puzzle-like form was the way to go, the new rapper threw himself into his art.
You can still hear his first love in his music though.
The rapper enjoys building vivid motifs in his verses, by combing rapid delivery with a lyrical edge that makes every song feel like an intense conversation.
Yet, he’s built a knack for kicking off songs with new soul melodies that would remind you of a more laidback Anderson .Paak before plunging headfirst into his verses.
Take “Montezuma” for instance, where he takes your ears to Central America with a carioca-tinged hook, while he contemplates life by the ocean in his verses.
Understanding barelyanyhook’s unfolding as an artist will take you through both sides of his two releases. In 2013, he released “22“, a three-track collection of tracks that serves as his debut project.
5 years passed between that and his first full-bodied body of work.
The 10-track “Took You Long Enough” was released in 2018. The 10-track project features gems like “Johnny Seabass”, “Montezuma” and “Reasons”.
Hip-hop loves underdog stories. From an eager Jay-Z living in the shadow of Jaz-O and Biggie to a short black boy from Jos trying to wrestle the throne of Nigerian hip-hop, we love to see supposed underlings take a jump to respect and acclaim.
More importantly, we’re obsessed with whatever instigates that jump – from Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” and the years of Instagram infamy that stimulated interest in her to Zlatan Ibile and how a dance style rebranded an underground rap vet as a pop prince.
It would make sense that fans of BarelyAnyHook, and the artist himself, would be in wait for that moment. And if anyone knows how to take an opportunity, it’s Johnny Seabass.
In 2017, while Jidenna was in Lagos during one of his frequent visits, BarelyAnyHook caught him after a show at Beat FM.
The rapper decided to strut his stuff to another eclectic Nigerian brother.
The video of that short freestyle made its way online via Beat FM’s Twitter and turned several heads his way.
It’s been over a year since then and Barely shows no signs of slowing down.
On his latest single “Line-Up”, he insists he’s closed the chapter on an old flame, even though she keeps blowing his line up.
“That’s it, really. I’m exploring the range of my emotions and states of mind as a person regardless of the context or location. And emotions are a lot like a colour-changing gas inside a crystal ball for me sometimes,” he says.
“We’ve just gotta be cool with all sides of ourselves, basically.”
Keep your eyes on this guy.