#SparktheArtsNC Artist Spotlight: Ryan ‘RnB’ Barber

Ryan “RnB” Barber is LEAF’s Spark the Arts artist in residence for February 2024. He will perform on Friday, February 23, at 7 p.m. in LEAF Global Arts’ Sound Underground. Free event.

The North Carolina Arts Council created Spark the Arts as an awareness campaign. It was designed to inspire public participation in the arts across the state by highlighting the unique way the arts lift spirits, bring people together, and heal. “Recognizing that the people of North Carolina are the spark that keeps the arts alive, well, and thriving, our goal is to ignite the resurgence of our state’s arts sector from the pandemic by connecting residents and visitors to arts experiences and arts stories across our state,” says the North Carolina Arts Council.

Barber’s residency includes an educational component: He’ll lead a performance and stage presence workshop on Wednesday, February 21, at 5 p.m. The class, part of the LEAF Lights program, is free and open to the public.

Barber is a proud staple of Asheville N.C.’s legendary music scene, at the forefront of its funk and R&B community. Drawing from a lifetime of singing, rapping, producing and touring across the nation, Ryan has released six full-length studio albums. He has also been featured on many high profile projects, including producing on two of R&B stalwart W. Ellington Felton’s recent albums, and also singing and rapping on the 2017 GRAMMY winning album Infinity Plus One by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, just one of the groups he actively tours with.

Born to a musical family and steeped in gospel and R&B from his first heartbeat, Ryan started his musical education in the church choir at the age of nine, and continued adding to a deepening knowledge of rhythm and percussion by joining the school marching band at sixteen. But it was love for hip hop, funk, new jack swing and especially R&B that beat in his chest, so he quickly began applying all he’d learned to producing his own tracks, inspired by J Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest, DJ Quik, Gerald Levert and Teddy Riley. Mixing a classic beat production feel with soulful Southern singing and a fearless falsetto, Ryan solidified his musical identity as a recording artist as well as a highly sought after performer and collaborator. The undeniable talent doesn’t end there, as Ryan also spins everyone’s favorite tunes at weddings and other special events as the boogie inducing DJ Badonkey Kong.

Already known throughout the Southeast as a standout voice, charismatic bandleader, DJ, and musical workhorse, Ryan “RnB” Barber has begun spreading his soaring funkiness across the nation, recently rocking sets at Chicago’s Lollapalooza Festival and performing live on SiriusXM in Washington, DC, delivering uplifting messages with a timeless soul that sounds like both yesterday and tomorrow.