Born in 1975 in Fontana, California, Barker was encouraged to pursue his musical talents by his mother, who bought him his first drum set at the age of four. Throughout his youth, he dabbled with everything from trumpet and piano to singing and skateboarding, but he always returned to the drums. Before his mother passed away the day before he started high school, she urged him to continue drumming. Barker followed her advice and eventually worked his way onto the touring roster of ska-punks the Aquabats, who shared a number of tour dates with up-and-coming headliners blink-182. When blink's original drummer departed in 1998, Barker permanently joined the lineup, forming the core trio that delivered the mainstream breakthroughs Enema of the State (1999) and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001), which sold over 35 million copies across the globe.
As relations within the band started to fray, Barker contributed to the first of two blink side projects, Tom DeLonge's experimental Box Car Racer (in 2005 he'd join Mark Hoppus in the band +44). Barker also pursued personal ventures, forming hybrid hip-hop/punk project the Transplants with Rancid's Tim Armstrong, and starring in an MTV reality show with his then-wife. After the 2003 release of blink's fifth self-titled set, the band went on hiatus and Barker was able to focus on his own endeavors.
Plunging headfirst into non-punk genres, he collaborated with the Black Eyed Peas, T.I., Johnny Cash, Outkast, the Game, Paul Wall, and countless others. He also teamed with friend DJ AM (born Adam Goldstein), forming the duo TRV$DJAM in the summer of 2008. Months later, the pair were on a private plane returning home when a tire burst and they veered off the runway. They were the sole survivors of the crash and Barker spent months in the hospital recovering from his injuries (Goldstein died a year later from an overdose). The traumatic event shook his life into focus and, as soon as he was physically able, he returned to his drums and got back to work.
His first order of business was a long-discussed solo effort. In 2011, that LP was finally unveiled. The star-studded debut, Give the Drummer Some, featured an impressive number of famous friends, including Lil Wayne, Pharrell Williams, RZA, Raekwon, Tom Morello, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Kid Cudi, Tech N9ne, Cypress Hill, and Slipknot's Corey Taylor. Upon release, the set peaked within the Billboard Top Ten and even managed to land on both the R&B and Rap charts at number two. Months later, blink delivered the comeback effort Neighborhoods, their fourth straight Top Ten showing. Meanwhile, Barker maintained cross-genre collaborating, adding Britney Spears, the Glitch Mob, Wiz Khalifa, and Jeezy to his professional résumé. One particular guest spot with rapper Yelawolf bore additional fruit in 2012 with the rap-rock collaborative EP Psycho White.
As blink continued to work on their seventh album, Barker kept busy with artists such as Xzibit, LL Cool J, Run the Jewels, Krewella, and Skylar Grey. He also released a memoir Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating Death, and Drums, Drums, Drums. In 2016, with Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba replacing DeLonge, the newly formed blink-182 issued their critically acclaimed California, which returned them to number one on the Billboard 200 for the first time in 15 years. Amidst a mainstream pop-punk revival and their status as respected scene veterans, blink toured California and rode the momentum back to the studio for a follow-up. Before that album arrived, Barker lent his talents to tracks with Lil Nas X ("F9mily [You & Me]"), Halsey and Yungblud ("11 Minutes"), and Machine Gun Kelly and Yungblud (the hit single "I Think I'm OKAY"). Several non-album songs arrived in 2020, including "Drums Drums Drums" with Wiz Khalifa and "Forever" featuring Run the Jewels. ~ Neil Z. Yeung, Rovi
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