Quinton Barnes 
For the Love of Drugs 

Artwork of Quinton Barnes' album For the Love of Drugs
Grimalkin Records • 2022

For the Love of Drugs is Quinton Barnes’ most addictive, terrifying and radiant work yet.

His Bandcamp bio modestly states, “I’m just doing my own thing :),” but when it comes to the music on his new album, For the Love of Drugs, Quinton Barnes is anything but bashful. According to the Kitchener-born/Toronto-based artist, that’s not how his third full-length started out. In a recent interview, Barnes describes the muted response to an early version of one track received from a friend that led him to scrap the record’s first iteration. He recognized that coming off his highly-stylized and critically lauded second album, As a Motherfucker, the artistic stakes for his next album needed levelling up. He set about reworking and repurposing what he already had in the can, cranking up the horrorcore and going maximum overdrive with the industrial grit and grime on his experimental hip-hop/R&B songs. The result is an exquisite album teetering on the edge of chaos, carnage, and carnivalesque camp that’s anything but bland and timid.

Admittedly, For the Love of Drugs can be a lot to take in one sitting, but that’s the point. Like all great art (whether it be music, literature, or cinema), For the Love of Drugs holds a magnifying glass up to our insecurities, failures, and vulnerabilities. Early single “Dead” amplifies the extremes with visceral lines like “I got voices in my head telling me I’m better off dead / And I been ignoring for a while but maybe I should lose myself.” Against beats that sound like they’ve gone through a meatgrinder, Barnes admits, “Yeah, I been living too reckless / Yeah, but we love it though.” It works as both a wink and a cry for help that only intensifies on “Jealousy,” where Barnes’ intricate and dense production work takes centre stage. He has an ear for drama and storytelling that often gets overlooked amidst his sometimes bombastic rhymes, and both “To Freedom” and “Fuck Alive” blend highly sexed-up lyrics with powerful production to stunning effect. 

For all his mastery of machine-like rhythms and blown-out beats, Barnes still makes room for his humanity to come through on For the Love of Drugs. One line in particular, from the aptly named “Stunner,” keeps coming back to me even once the music stops: “They think I’m fine cause I’m focused /In my head I’m so scared I’m gon blow this.” It doesn’t surprise me that only “Stunner” survived intact from the album’s previous version. In many ways, it feels like the album’s understated centrepiece. Compelled by creativity and fueled by the fear of losing it, Barnes has built an album so high-concept that it risks going over people’s heads. It’s a gamble he’s willing to take for his art, and one that pays off in spades: For the Love of Drugs is Barnes’ most addictive, terrifying and radiant work yet.

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Artwork of Julianna Riolino's album All Blue
Julianna Riolino 
All Blue