Hamden, a classically trained musician, makes his debut as a hip-hop artist


HAMDEN, CT — A Hamden resident, classically trained musician and songwriter, made his debut as a hip-hop artist with the release of his debut single earlier this month.

Robert Z. Barnes, known as REBL, surprised many who know him as a symphonic and orchestral composer by releasing “Focused,” his debut hip-hop single, on July 8. As a classically trained musician and songwriter, the release of REBL marks a transition not often seen in today’s pop culture.

“I deliberately kept this project silent before the release,” REBL said of the months leading up to the reveal of their new single and music video. “I didn’t want anyone to see this coming.”

Focused is an anthem about REBL’s ability to focus on its goals with “laser acuity and its ability to pursue any call with integrity, confidence and courage,” according to a press release.

Read more from the press release below:

A listener commented, “It definitely got me hyped right from the start. It’s the type of rapping I wish there was more of today.” Another listener simply claimed, “I miss rapping like this.”

The flood of positive feedback from listeners aged 16 to 60+ took REBL by surprise. He exclaimed, “I didn’t expect the age group of people to enjoy this track. But it honestly makes sense. Everyone can relate to the need to focus on what’s important. They connect with the power to remember what matters – and let go of the rest.”

Listeners who understand music theory have recognized how REBL’s classical training has influenced its instrumentation and underlying composition. As one fan said, “That key change is EVERYTHING!”

REBL began composing and arranging symphonic and orchestral music as a young boy under his real name, Robert Z. Barnes. He joined the music program in middle school and became a highly skilled percussionist in high school and college. In 2019, he landed a coveted spot in a drum corps, where he toured the country as a snare drummer in Drum Corps International (DCI) competitions.

The crowning glory of REBL’s life as a songwriter came during his senior year in high school. The group’s director, Richard Schwartz (Oakcrest High School, Mays Landing, NJ) invited REBL to teach one of his compositions to the class and conduct it during the winter concert.

The video of this moment can be viewed here.

REBL’s transition from composing to producing digital music began after enrolling in his first music production course in high school. He mainly produced instrumental music until a friend commented on the quality of his voice while working on a hip-hop project for the class. It took four years before REBL recognized this feedback and explored vocal performance, resulting in Focused.

REBL is working on its next project, which it plans to release around September 2022.

For more information, visit reblofficial.com.

The official Focused clip can be viewed here.


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