By : Shamus Hill
6 min read
Brockton is one of the most special places in Massachusetts. Rich in both history and culture, the so-called “City of Champions” is exactly that — a place where winners are born and legends last forever. Though it isn’t the easiest place to grow up, it’s the city’s ability to produce formidable human beings that has resulted in so many influential people calling it home. One such person is Luke Bar$, a rapper who embodies the essence of Brockton like no other. After months of teasing an upcoming project, Luke kicks in 2023’s door with a phenomenal body of work titled ‘Angels Never Die’.
Much of Luke’s 2022 was spent moving side by side with his Brockton cohorts that make up Van Buren Records. Together, VB has amassed one of the most exciting collectives of artists in hip-hop right now, doing shows across the country from New York to Los Angeles, releasing full-length projects, and boosting the international image of Brockton. Despite the identity that precedes Van Buren as a conjoined group of artists, each member of the collective has solo discographies as well. Their individual styles of art-making are foundational to the success of the larger group, and nowhere do these styles shine brighter than on these individual releases. This is especially true for Luke Bar$, with ‘Angels Never Die’ becoming the second solo release of his catalog.
Luke’s last solo album, ‘GoodEvil’, made its debut in 2020, and was revered by many fans of the local music circuit as one of the most impactful projects to come from Massachusetts that year. Having to follow-up on such prestige is not easy, but ‘Angels Never Die’ does exactly that and more. Sitting at 13 songs and featuring collaborators such as Cousin Stizz, Max Moody, Notebook P, and Dupes, this album is a substantial one. While much of his prior work was centered around what Luke has been forced to endure in his early life, ‘Angels Never Die’ takes on a seemingly different approach, as he pivots towards seizing the unimaginable and overcoming any obstacle that comes his way. Instead of wallowing in self pity or sorrow, Luke is rising from the ashes as a force to be reckoned with, taking control instead of being controlled. This sentiment rings especially true on songs like “Yeah Yeah”, “Tables Turn”, and “Breathe”, which reflect on the struggles he endured, but also on his aspirations towards achieving what he’s always dreamed of. This dichotomy between pain and pleasure, between love and loss, is what ultimately lies at the core of this album, and subsequently at the core of Luke Bar$.
Filled with immense meaning, ‘Angels Never Die’ is helping to further the narrative surrounding Luke as one of Massachusetts’ most-promising talents. Whether analyzing this project from a lyrical or sonic perspective, it passes the litmus test for many as a masterful piece of work. With each passing day, his project is making its way onto the radar of rap fans from far and wide, and more people are becoming cognizant of the multi-faceted identity that surrounds the Bay State. It’s apparent that the music Luke makes is bigger than himself, and as time pushes forward, Luke will assuredly further the impact that his discography is making on modern hip-hop music. Whether it be on his own or alongside his Van Buren Records teammates, one thing is for certain, and it’s that Luke Bar$ is an artist full of promise.
Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #154 February 202
Check out all the art and columns of February's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass