Darnelle Barnes, a Little Rock native well known as a member of the local rap group DMP, died earlier this morning in a car accident near his home, friends say. DMP’s Khaliq Slater said that Barnes lived in the Emerald Mountain neighborhood with his mother, and was driving up a hill around the corner from his house when the accident occurred. He was 18 years old.
Barnes graduated from J.A. Fair High School earlier this year and had joined DMP — which also includes Miles Flint and James Grant — in 2014. Flint, who records under the name Jefe, met Barnes at Bryant Middle School, and the two reconnected last year because, Flint said, “he liked our music and started hanging out on the weekends at my brother’s house, and we just got closer and closer.” Barnes had been recording and appearing in music videos with the group ever since.
“He was always a jokester,” Flint said. “If there was ever a moment where no one was doing anything, he was the one who would start cracking jokes and play-fighting. He was playful.” His friends say Barnes had recently visited Atlanta to look into management opportunies for DMP. According to Flint, he met the acclaimed producer Drumma Boy, who “told Darnelle that next time he came back to Atlanta he would make us some beats.” Barnes was scheduled to go back Oct. 7.
Music video director Kenneth Bell, who shot several videos for the group, remembers Barnes as “real energetic and cool, always excited about whatever we were doing — shooting videos, making music. He really felt like he was going to go somewhere with what he was doing. He was going to do as much as he could, he was always excited.”
Bell was editing Barnes’ latest music video this morning when he heard the news. He remembers filming the clip with Barnes in Conway a few weeks ago: “One of his friends wanted to shoot at a gas station, which was our first stop. We hopped out and started shooting, and 30 seconds later a guy pulled up and asked if we were making a music video and if he could join in. He ran over and started turning up with Darnelle, who was rapping. And after a few seconds he recognized Darnelle’s voice, and was like “Wait a second, are you from DMP?” He turns to his friend and was like, ‘Hey, this is DMP here!'”
Barnes was proud of the group and its burgeoning success. In one of his last posts on Twitter, Sunday morning, he wrote, “I made it from nothing to something.”
“He really wanted to make it,” Slater said, “Rest in peace.”
Flint added, “Everybody needs to pray for his mom, his dad and his siblings. This rap stuff doesn’t matter, it’s about the people that’s hurting. They just lost their baby. They lost their brother.”