Underground Update: Get to know St. Paul’s Bayo

Local artist Bayo is set to release new music in February, champions positivity through rap.

Local artist Bayo poses for a portrait in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday, Feb. 23. 

Parker Johnson

Local artist Bayo poses for a portrait in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday, Feb. 23. 

Frankie Carlson

Self-love, generosity and hard work are not themes found in the lyrics of every up-and-coming rapper. But St. Paul Rapper Bayo is pulling out all the stops in 2020 in order to spread his message of positivity, combining his raspy soulful vocals with instrumental influences from hip hop, gospel, jazz and reggae. 

Born Omobayonle Idowu in Oakdale, Minnesota, Bayo did not begin rapping until high school. He quickly stood out among his friends when they started to freestyle for fun. It wasn’t before long that he was making songs of his own.

“I said to myself, ‘I like this, I could do this,’” Bayo said. “I always felt the coolest when I was rapping.”

While Bayo generated some buzz during his high school days, he said his career officially began in the fall of 2018 following inpatient treatment.

He began struggling with addiction to Xanax around the age of 21 and attended two months of local treatment. The experience enabled him to re-shift his focus toward his art. 

“In treatment, I started writing every single day,” Bayo said. “I said to myself, ‘When I get out of here, it’s gonna be all work.’ I had those two months to instill it into my brain that we’re gonna do this.” 

Bayo stuck to his word. Days after leaving treatment, he recorded the song “Livin’ the Dream,” which he saw as a declaration of his goals and determination to succeed. 

He continued writing and recording and soon enough completed work on his first full-length album, “No Rules,” which he released independently in 2019. Themes of the project center around self-betterment, faith and overcoming challenges.

Bayo’s manager Demetrius Matthews feels that Bayo can be a positive role model for young people. 

“He has a story behind him that is compelling in itself,” Matthews said. “It might make a kid maybe want to sign themselves into treatment or say, ‘If Bayo did it, I could do it. I could get back on the right track.’” 

Since his start, Bayo has gotten heavily involved in the live music scene in the Twin Cities. He had the opportunity to perform at Soundset in the summer of 2019 and now performs weekly shows opening for local singer Jaki Cavins at Moxy Minneapolis in Uptown. 

At “Thursdays #AtTheMoxy,” Bayo came into contact with his business and marketing associate Salman Elmi. Elmi had never worked in the music industry but became eager to collaborate with Bayo after hearing his lyrics. 

“I saw Bayo and thought, ‘Okay wow, we could really help take him to the next level. We could really help spread this message,’” Elmi said. 

When he’s not recording, Bayo works at Ujamaa Place in St. Paul, a nonprofit which centers around teaching young African American men how to navigate inequality, poverty and the criminal justice system. He works in community outreach and social media management and occasionally performs for participants.

Bayo’s new track “Girlfriend” is set to drop late February with an array of other singles to be expected later in the year. He has high hopes going into the new decade with more shows in the Twin Cities and plans in the works for a college tour.

His only hope is that listeners will continue to share and resonate with his music. 

“Call me selfish, but I want it to be everywhere. It’s not about me, it’s about the message,” Bayo said.