D.C. Musician to Be Featured on 'Empire'

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Most musicians don't get their first big break in front of millions of people on the nation's biggest television show.

But Desmond Barnes, aka DB Bantino, isn't most musicians.

The District native and Morgan State University alum is getting the opportunity of a lifetime over the next several weeks because music he's written, arranged and produced with superstar producer and songwriter Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins will be featured on the top-rated Fox TV show "Empire" beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 2.

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"It is my first really big gig. Yeah, I'm excited," said Barnes, the son of Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes and her husband, Lafayette Barnes. "We'll have about five songs over several episodes."

Barnes' success comes as little surprise to those who know him, particularly his parents.

"God blessed me and my husband with two very talented and wonderful sons," Rolark Barnes said. "It was clear that both were destined for greatness, and that Desmond would make his mark in the arts."

Desmond Barnes and his brother, Lafayette Barnes IV, both lent their vocal talents to the DC Boys' Choir before eventually taking piano lessons. However, it was when Desmond began listening to rap and hip-hop in middle school that his mother realized that he could hear things in the music that others could not.

"That was when I realized that he had a gift," Rolark Barnes said.

Desmond dates his success back even further.

He recalls being the youngest in a local D.C. rap group called Southeast Connection. But as the elder members of the group moved on, Barnes said he found himself without any partners to make beats with.

"So I did it on my own," he said.

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He began making music for and producing such acts as Peso and Pacman, two local rap stars who two years ago raised money to travel to North Korea to shoot a historic rap music video.

Barnes, who also once worked as a staff assistant to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), has been called a triple threat in the music industry, being a producer, writer and artist who has worked with Atlantic Records and has had his tracks placed in an innovative iPhone app called Smart Studio Recording by SS Series LLC.

He recently signed a publishing deal with Seventy7 Music Publishing, headed by Jerkins, who has collaborated with some of the music industry's biggest stars included the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Through Jenkins, the opportunity to produce tracks for "Empire" was realized.

"When they took the music away from Timbland last season, Rodney Jerkins became the main producer for the current season and that's how it happened," Barnes said. "He's been calling me into the studio and we've been writing songs. It's exciting, it's definitely the biggest thing I've done."

Rolark Barnes said she and her husband just couldn't ignore how determined their son was and how much time he spent teaching himself and learning from others, noting the leap Barnes took to move to Los Angeles this year away from the security of his beloved family and friends.

"We are extremely proud of what he's been able to accomplish and grateful that he has some great folks and renowned professionals," Rolark Barnes said. "For a young man, the road has been long and bumpy, but he stays positive and keeps grinding. We will be sitting front and center when one of his songs will premiere on 'Empire.' That's big."