Darius the Barbarian: The Freedom of Fantasy Island

Within a packed venue, Darius the Barbarian hosts his party series, Fantasy- an event that’s filled with party-goers who are ready to tap into their inner fantasy. He guides his guests into a realm levied above boring, everyday life. It feels as though he’s mastered the gift of world-building, granting other people the ability to transcend rules that keep us limited.

As a young kid in Florida, Darius tapped into his artistry. He spent time learning from his uncle, who Darius would soon follow in his footsteps as an emcee. Fast forward to now, he has completely manifested his dreams of being a rapper and party curator. His journey of learning to sink comfortably into his skin inspires his work. He blends his music with imagery that reflects his desire to have freedom, hoping to persuade people to lean into liberation- a feeling that can be hard to consistently keep. Through Darius’s EP, On Screen, he hands us gems like “How I Move” and “Bitch So Bad.” Each song on the techno-inspired project lets us naturally connect with ourselves, reacting to the spaces that he creates in organic ways.

When speaking about his work, he guides us through the different phases of his creative journey, letting us take a peek at his evolution as an artist. His work teaches us about the inevitability of forming into different versions of ourselves. Even though we may have never thought we would become who we are, it’s important to honor the varying iterations of ourselves- no matter how imperfect or drastically different they seem.

Interviewer: Tell me about the genesis of Darius the Barbarian.

Darius: I'm from Missouri originally and I had the perfect family- I had a sister, a brother, my mom, and my stepdad. But when I turned seven, my mom had got addicted to meth. So it was just me and my brother at this time. My stepdad got out of the picture because you can't really have a working marriage with a drug addict. As the addiction got worse, we had to move to Florida. So me and my brother flew to Florida when I was seven. Being that he had a disease I had to make sure he had his medication and treatments. My escape was getting out and going to college. In my second year of college, my brother got really ill, and I had to drop out to take care of him. The following year, he passed away. [My childhood] definitely had obstacles, but I would not trade it for anything and I'm really thankful and blessed for the way things worked out the way they did.

Interviewer: Did you feel a culture shock when you moved from Florida to New York?

Darius: When I came to New York, I felt at home. There was nobody staring at me and there was nobody judging me at all. Basically, [NYC] is known for the parties, the nightlife, and all that other stuff. Have you been to Europe?

Interviewer: What's the tea with Europe?

Darius: In New York, you can be open, you can be free, and all that other stuff. But you get into nightlight and most times, it's a certain vibe already going on. You go in and try to work it out whenever you go in. But in Europe, when you go into a party, it is just like how you see it at the movies. Every single soul in that club is jumping. That's my specialty. When you go into these types of spaces, you don't want to try to feel feel the vibe out. But you know, when you go in there, it's all about how the music takes control of you, and you completely surrender to it and let go. I just moved from there. I did this international music tour in Spain, London, and Berlin.

Photos by @joeyrdgaf

Interviewer: Let’s talk about your music. How did that start for you?

Darius: If you look at the music and listen to the timestamps, they all are very significant. When I was 20, I just started making music and I really didn't even know my sound yet. After that, on my first techno project, I made a remix to this guy’s song and then he and I connected with the record label. They flew me to Canada and we made that project. I was still discovering my sound and really playing with it. I'm very excited because I'm focusing on releasing music that truly defines who I am.

I started rapping as soon as I hit Florida because my uncle, at the time, who lived with my grandmother, was trying to rap. He had all these beats playing and I was like, ‘I really like this.’ It was just coming so naturally that I was writing raps to him. And he was like, ‘Oh, you didn't write this get out my face.’ But my techno and club side also represents me in a sense of freedom. I like to curate that space where everybody can just jump and just feel exhilarating, crazy, and wild.

Interviewer: You keep bringing up movement and dance, and I feel like there's so much power in movement. So many Black kids are born with cuntness and our world teaches us to suppress it. What is the significance of movement for you?

Darius: Oh, my God. Wow. The power of movement. When I [used to] go out, I would have all this anxiety about going out because I knew there was going to be this music playing. I knew that my friends were going to be wanting to dance. When I started to have the courage to go out into these places, I realized that internally, I was so restricted. I didn't want to dance. I didn't want to talk, and I just wanted to go home. Once you open up and free yourself of all that mental anguish, you free yourself of that edge. It’s not just about the dance, it's about your spirit.

Photos by @joeyrdgaf

Interviewer: Do you remember a time when you went to a function and you were like, ‘Wait, this is tea’?

Darius: I went to this function in New York last year. I went with my friends and the club was dark. It was just all flashing lights, strobe lights, and all this other stuff. The music was out of this world and not a single person around me was just sitting back. All of my friends were dancing and had their eyes closed. And so was the whole room. That's when I was like, ‘Oh, this is it.’

Interviewer: Tell me about the party scene that you’ve been creating. What does it look like when we step up to the party?

Darius: Imagine that we're at an ocean bay and all of these people are looking to get on this boat. This boat is your trip to Fantasy Island. My job is to be the captain of that boat. I'm going to steer us all in the right direction. The point of my spaces is to go out and internally seek enjoyment and freedom, You don't have to worry about being judged or anything, just come out and let the music take over.