Written by Travis Shosa
Kitchener, Ontario-born singer/rapper/producer Quinton Barnes planned for his third album, For the Love of Drugs, to be released in 2021, within the same calendar year as As a Motherfucker. Why it didn’t see release isn’t due to any behind-the-scenes complications. Singles “Body” and “Arouse” saw daylight as the first and second singles of an album that was ultimately not to be: one that shares the same title but adopts an entirely different artistic ethos. Meant to capture the chaos of a descent into self-destructive hedonism, the Grimalkin collective member deemed the initial draft to be too soft for its concept. After deciding to scrap it in favor of a more wild and confrontational sound, the new For the Love of Drugs, out on October 21, sees Barnes blend the alternative R&B and hip-hop of his early work with elements of industrial and glitch.
“Stunner,” featuring vocalist Christina Jewell and Richmond, VA rapper Ty Sorrell, is the lone track that tethers the old and new versions of For the Love of Drugs together: the only song to survive Barnes’ brutal cuts. As such, it’s not as overtly grim as new singles “Dead” and “Scenes Of,” but its examination of his anxieties and frustrations with fakes via blunt bars assures its inclusion is sensible. “They think I’m fine cause I’m focused / In my head, I’m so scared I’m gon blow this / I wrestle with demons, they tell me to smoke this,” he raps in a confession of his own self-medicated façade over a trap beat accentuated by heavy bass. Barnes goes back and forth on whether or not he’s spent his life trying to be a “stunner”: unsure how much of what he projects out to the world is the real him. Still, he assures himself that he’s not fake, evidenced by his willingness to admit that the noise within his head may not always make it to the surface.
Following Sorrell’s verse, “Stunner” deliquesces into a glitchy soup on Jewell’s bridge as she sings, “Is it natural I find you talk bout nothing?” Barnes returns to joke about how he was getting food during their parts: distracting himself with humor. As it ends on a final verse, the line “It’s funny how the dream may die but / I’ll never give it up / Not for lack of trying” stands out. The “dream” in reference is never explicitly specified. It could be career-related, though it’s just as likely a dream that others will be honest with themselves and each other: himself included.
For more Quinton Barnes, you can watch the video for “Dead,” the first single from For the Love of Drugs:
Travis Shosa is the founder and editor-in-chief of Stamens/Pistils/Parties. Formerly the runner of COUNTERZINE, he has bylines at Pitchfork, The Alternative, and Post-Trash among others.