“Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta” wrapped its first and, so far, only season on June 13 on WE tv. And although Bow Wow, who also serves as an executive producer of the show, is the main draw, viewers of the show are now more than familiar with the larger-than-life presence of Brandon Barnes.
Tagged an artist developer, Barnes is promoted as the son of hip-hop power broker Debra “Deb” Antney, who is his godmother and helped raise him. Antney helped launch the careers of Nicki Minaj, Gucci Mane and her own son, Waka Flocka Flame. While Zonnique, daughter and stepdaughter of Tiny and T.I., and Reginae Carter, Lil Wayne’s and Toya’s daughter, may have been initially more well-known than Barnes, there’s no denying that it’s Barnes who brought a lot of the drama this inaugural season. From his uneasy working relationship with Zonnique, an aspiring singer, to his clash with her best friend Reginae Carter, to his professional clash with his “mom” Deb Antney, Barnes seems to have trouble getting along with anybody on the show, and that was an unexpected outcome for Barnes.
“Did I come into this knowing that I was going to be a villain? No,” admits Barnes. But he wasn’t completely naïve either and says, “I came into this knowing that I was going to have a very big personality because, after all, it is reality TV.”
That big personality has prompted some on social media to conclude that Barnes is a bigger diva than the artists he wants to develop. And while that judgment has displeased him at times, Barnes contends that the show’s drama “is really believable,” noting that “I’m the type of person where you cannot tell me what to say. You can’t tell me how to feel. You can’t tell me how to act, especially in the setting of a reality TV show.”
But even though “the drama is real,” Barnes says the depiction is not necessarily accurate. “The magic really happens in that stupid editing room,” he explains. “You can’t necessarily believe everything that you hear or see at that moment.”
“I could sit here and say a hundred positive things about you. But the second that you make me mad and I say ‘shut up,’ they take that ‘shut up’ and they spit it all over the show. And not only do they do that, they make it seem like it was something that it really wasn’t,” he expounds.
The lack of balance in his portrayal and all the portrayals overall remains a concern to Barnes. “I would like to see more of the positive things that we had going on on the show,” he says. “And that was one of the things I was upset about, especially with it being a full-blown all-Black cast.
“And not only that, but we had somebody who should have understood our situation as far as growing up in this business and being around the business and being young and Black,” he says, alluding to executive producer and fellow cast member Bow Wow.
“To have a show that’s just solely based on the drama, that wasn’t a good look for us or him,” Barnes says.
Barnes says he wished the show would have taken an interest in some of his more positive steps. For example, he is launching his own label called Melodics Way and is presently looking for what’s next in the industry through submissions via his website, melodicsway.com.
Overall, he says he is not displeased with his portrayal. “I am a superstar, you hear me. I’ve busted my butt to work very hard for where I’m at. The reality at the end of the day is not everybody is going to like you nor love you, but I’m living my dream and I’m following God’s path for me, and if people don’t understand that then that’s just their problem. I don’t have anything to worry about.”
Despite “Growing Up Hip Hop: Atlanta”’s season finale’s few hanging storylines, including two separate ones involving Barnes with Reginae Carter as well as Deb Antney, a second season has yet to be confirmed. With the flagship “Growing Up Hip Hop,” where Angela Simmons and Romeo Miller are the main draws, returning for its third season July 20, it looks good for the Atlanta show to follow suit. Should that happen, however, Barnes says he’s not completely sure he will be on board.
Barnes admits that fear of once again “stepping into a situation that you don’t have any say nor control over whatsoever” could prevent him from doing a second season. “That would have to be something that I would truly have to think about,” he says. “I would definitely have to think about it.”