RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Draped around Joseph Bakri’s living room is merchandise bearing his name and decorative tapestries matching his cool and collected personality.
There’s a large size “Bakri” logo stickered onto a coffee table, an array of “Bakri” t-shirts placed throughout the room, and even a larger-than-life “Bakri” chain hanging over the neck of the man himself.
He takes a break from working on an upcoming music video to search through a bin to make a t-shirt sale, grabbing the last of the requested size available and scoring another $20 off his name, which he’s created into a brand at this point.
The Brownsville resident pauses to reflect on what he’s accomplished so far and gives philosophical insight into where he’s heading next.
Bakri has seen his music career skyrocket in the last few years thanks to a laser-focused mindset and an abundance of support.
He first took an interest in music at a young age and by the time he was in middle school was playing bass in local metal, reggae, and cover bands.
The lack of reliability on some of his band members inspired him to take a solo approach to music as he looked to further his career.
“I got frustrated dealing with members in some of my previous bands and every time I wanted to move forward there was an issue that held us back,” said Bakri.
He took matters into his own hands and started Bakri11 with no genre in mind around 2018. At the time, Bakri was influenced by trap metal artists Gizmo, Kamiyada, and City Morgue and saw that sound leak into his first recordings as a solo artist.
Using a metal or reggae-focused approach at chord progression and slapping on lyrics in a rap-style tempo is the basis behind Bakri’s music and most trap metal.
The artist feels he stands out from the trap metal crowd due to coming from a metal background, as opposed to most in the genre who tend to be more rap-based.
“I knew I could use my knowledge of metal genres to really master trap metal,” said Bakri. “Most trap metal artists don’t know the complexity of the genre so I knew I could make it work.”
Bakri11’s first songs under his solo moniker, “Gotta Be You” and “Keep On Groovin’” featured reggae-infused instrumentals infused with funky bass lines, simple-but-catchy guitar riffs, and layered over with autobiographical lyrics.
By 2019, Bakri11 began bolstering the trap side of his music. Around this time is when he began collaborating with DJ Xyn, a Brownsville-based producer with the same committed drive as Bakri.
Rough-edged aggression defines songs like “F*** What You Say,” or “South Tex Swang.” The former of the two was written by Bakri as a message to himself, as he commonly views his bouts with anxiety and self-doubt as his biggest obstacle.
Bakri’s anxiety struggles are a key part of his daily routine. The condition leaves him in a restless mood that makes him focused on work all day.
He states that instead of letting this agitation defeat him, he conquers it by always keeping himself busy with something.
The rapper pressed on in 2020, releasing six singles in the year that ranged from hardstyle trap on “Too Loud” to more relaxed chillwave-esque beats on “Something Different.”
In March 2020, Bakrii11 was set to play at a South Padre Island as part of a spring break event featuring Waka Flaka, Lil Nas X, and DaBaby.
But just before the artist was scheduled to perform, the COVID-19 pandemic forced concerts abroad to come to a halt. Suddenly, Bakri lost the ability to play concerts, a big way he attracted people to his music.
This did not discourage Bakri, though. He made due by making music videos for himself, other artists, and continuing to market himself in an attractive way.
Each of Bakri11’s music videos is a cinematic experience that displays blasts of color effects, shots of money being thrown around, numerous zoom-in/zoom-out motions, and other traditional themes seen in rap videos.
He uses a similar formula when he shoots and edits music videos for other artists, although he admits he’s scaled back on doing work for others in order to save himself from burnout and to focus on his own music.
That music has allowed him to live completely off his art as of late. He credits a large portion of that to merchandise sales, which are considerably made by people who may not necessarily like Bakri11, but support Bakri and his ambition.
“People support me because of my work ethic and positive attitude,” said Bakri. “They might not love all my music but they’ll say ‘hey, I love your hustle and your humbleness’ so they’ll buy something.”
Bakri makes it a contingent point to market his name and keep a close connection with those who support him.
Sharing a photo of a fan in a Bakri shirt or even just talking to them on social media goes a long way in keeping longtime supporters.
“I don’t expect the world to stop when I release a new song or video,” said Bakri. “But if you’re consistently sharing what you’re doing and keeping people involved they’ll eventually check it out.”
Bakri has stayed consistent with his releases in 2021, putting out four singles and music videos that more or less follow the musical path he’s been on the past few years.
His career hit a milestone in July when he opened for DaBaby in Hidalgo’s Payne Arena. The experience is one the rapper hopes will serve as a precursor to him playing bigger shows in the future.
For now, this Brownsville native will continue tirelessly putting out new releases and working on a variety of projects.
In addition to playing as Bakri11, the artist plays bass in three RGV death metal bands, I Am Heir, Signs of Omnicide, and Dythalla. These projects only add to the versatility Bakri exudes musically.
Playing music in a variety of genres is something Bakri cherishes. He hopes to continue making music as long as he can.
The Rio Grande Valley is full of musical talent that deserves exposure. If you know a musician or band who should be featured on RGV Sounds, email KVEO-DigitalDesk@nexstar.tv.