Baker has undergone a couple more transformations since then—from rapper to rock star, from underdog musician to Hollywood guy dating a generational sex symbol, with a seemingly bottomless well of famous friends. The changes, he explained to me, came after he really began to find himself: “This was partly to do with the costumes. I still was trying to be somebody else, and now I’m kind of like, ‘I’ve found who I am.’ It took me having a partner to realize that who I am on the red carpet is also who I am in the house now.”
Stuck inside during the early days of the pandemic, Baker picked up his guitar and began releasing “Lockdown Sessions”—covers of everything from Paramore’s “Misery Business” to Oasis’s “Champagne Supernova”—on YouTube, where they were viewed tens of millions of times.
Then, in September, he released Tickets to My Downfall, a stark departure from his hip-hop past: a 15-track pop-punk album that sounds like a Blink-182-Linkin Park hybrid. Critics wondered if it was a stunt—and it was certainly savvy, soaring not just to the top of the rock charts but to the top of the Billboard 200. “There is a shitload of teenagers that are going through things and are needing somebody to preach to the choir,” explained Cole Chase Hudson, the TikTok star who goes by Lil Huddy and appeared in Downfalls High, a 49-minute musical short film Baker released earlier this year.
“Pop-punk is emotional…angsty and rebellious and younger and feels more fun,” Travis Barker, who produced and plays drums on the album, told me during a late-night phone interview. “I don’t know that there is another style of music that is like that.”
Barker, who said he now considers Baker his “best friend,” met the singer years ago after a Blink-182 concert; hangouts ensued whenever Barker was in Cleveland. In 2019, Baker confided that he had an acoustic riff and hook he was struggling to build into a full song. Barker got to work and within days, “I Think I’m OKAY,” Baker’s first true rock track, was finished. Later the two went to the studio to work on what eventually became Tickets to My Downfall.
“It helps him a lot, coming from being a rapper and being more of a lyricist,” Barker explained. “Typically in rap music, they pay more attention to cadence and pay more attention to words and ways of saying things that rock musicians don’t really think of. He was successful at a completely other genre of music. Not many people can do that.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .