Calum ‘Lumo’ Barnes: The hidden clues to a rapper’s death
With three well-received albums and a growing fanbase, rapper Lumo was going places.
That’s what his friends and family thought.
But after a lads’ night playing video games, he left his bed in the middle of the night, ordered a taxi and got out of it on a Glasgow bridge.
Just a few months after he had helped a mental health charity with a campaign about depression, he ended his life.
His loved ones waited, and hoped, going to the river every day.
But five days later, the body of Calum “Lumo” Barnes was recovered from the Clyde.
The media reported that a “brother in rhyme” of the Glasgow hip hop scene was dead, aged 21.
The death of the rapper described by his peers as “a breath of fresh air” shocked the hip hop community, devastating his family and leaving the question why?
And then they found his video diaries.
After Calum’s death in September 2017, his family discovered a video camera among his belongings. He had recorded a series of vlogs nobody had ever seen.
They knew Calum had a camera but had thought he was using it for music projects.
His sister Jenn said: “It was a complete treasure find, but we were nervous.”
At this point filmmaker Hannah Currie had read about Calum’s death and approached the family.
She thought his experience – and the fact he had even written poetry for a mental health charity – might help others.
The family felt unable to watch Calum’s recordings. Instead, they gave Hannah the camera.
After pressing play, Hannah and the family began to understand more about what had been going on in Calum’s mind.
Jenn said: “When we did watch, we were surprised. It seemed like he was trying hard to help others.
“But he hadn’t done anything with them [the videos. We didn’t know what his plan was – or if he knew this was coming and wanted to leave a kind of memoir behind.”
The video diaries became the basis of a documentary film about the life and death of Calum Barnes, and were a starting point for those closest to him to campaign on mental health issues.
‘A funny wee boy’
Born in Glasgow in 1995, Calum Barnes arrived fast. He was different and he was alert, according to mum Janet.
Full of personality, he was just a “funny, funny wee boy” she said.
His sister Jenn adored him.
Living in Glasgow’s Cardonald area, they had a happy upbringing.
Jenn and Calum were close. “I wanted to do everything with him because he was just so cute,” she said.
As they grew older Jenn could see Calum was shy and quiet within himself. Mum Janet knew he could be a bit awkward but thought his peers just didn’t “get” him.
He soon found a way to express his ideas.
Always creative in his writing, his parents said they were summoned to the school on a few occasions because of the things he had written.
His imagination, according to his mum, was beyond that of other people.
The writing turned into poetry, and the poetry turned into rap.
Lumanes, aka Lumo, was born.
But Lumo was not your typical rapper.
Sister Jenn said: “I used to tell people my wee brother was a rapper.
“They’d say: ‘Seriously? You’re white and ginger, how can your brother be a rapper?’ And I’d say: ‘It’s his thing. It’s just his thing’.”
In the first of his video diaries, Calum talked about the start of his relationship with music.
He said: “In high school I was bullied quite a lot.
“I guess I just started doing music out of boredom – something to keep my mind occupied in school because I wasn’t really feeling it whatsoever.
“So from the age of 13, I was writing and producing my own hip hop music. Eventually I did live performances and I did a rap battle when I was 16 years old, which led me into a group called Deadsoundz.”
Deadsoundz, a collective of hip hop artists, included Andrew “A-Macc” Malcolmson and Andy “Subz” Jamieson.
Subz said: “A-Macc said we had to bring this young guy into the crew. He showed us his Facebook profile.
“He was just this wee Elvis-looking guy with slicked-back ginger hair and sunglasses all suited and booted. I said: ‘Who is this guy?'”
A-Macc remembers seeing him for the first time: “He had a Barbour jacket on, skinny jeans and a white school shirt, and his hair slicked back. But he was so funny.”
The band started to record tracks. Calum would work day jobs in various call centres to help pay for their music videos.
To everyone around him, life seemed good with the Deadsoundz crew. Lumo had found his tribe.
Deadsoundz picked up a following and Lumo was getting noticed.
His friend Danny Munn said he was making a statement: “A skinny white ginger rapper from Cardonald – talking about gangster stuff like swag, wearing Versace and being in the club wi’ hunners of women.”
When the initial success of Deadsoundz waned, Lumo went in his own direction.
He found a friend and mentor in manager Mickey Ferrari, a well-known promoter in the Glasgow club scene, and worked on successful solo tracks and collaborations.
Ferrari’s Purple Lounge productions showcased the best of the local R&B and hip hop talent.
Jenn said Ferarri had looked out for her brother, making sure that no-one took advantage of him.
But in May 2015, tragedy struck.
Ferrari died from liver cancer, and Calum took it hard. He put his feelings on film, describing his friend’s death as “tragic”.
I lost a bit of who I am. After Mickey passed away I was very prone to self-harm and had a very big problem with drinking too much alcohoI
Calum said it had left him “totally lost”.
“Sometimes I would be drinking and nobody else would be,” he said.
“I was drinking to escape reality. I was drinking because I didn’t want to be sober.
“I wasn’t drinking to have fun. There’s a big difference.”
His mother saw the change. Janet found him crying in his room and convinced him to seek help.
‘Through different eyes’
He took medication, but she watched him as he started on a downward spiral.
The death of Mickey Ferrari turned his thoughts to religion and he started to read the Koran.
According to his sister Jenn, he “wanted to see the world through different eyes”.
In the diaries, Calum discussed his interest in religion.
“When Mickey passed away, I looked into Islam a bit more,” he said.
“I read into it and when I decided I was ready, I took my Shahadah [reciting a commitment to Allah].
“I took Mickey’s name as well. Mickey’s real name was Mohsen. So I became Mohsen Khalid Al-Faruq Barnes.”
A-Macc recalled one occasion when he received a Snapchat message from Calum at five o’clock in the morning.
“He was at the mosque. That’s dedication – I’m usually going to my bed at five in the morning,” he said.
But Calum continued to struggle with his mental health, in what he himself described as an identity crisis.
I got a Snapchat off him once at five in the morning. He was at the mosque. That’s dedication – I’m usually just going to my bed at five in the morning
Jenn also noticed the change.
“At first we didn’t understand it, but then my mum started to understand it was about being at peace.
“He tried to stop going out and partying and the lyrics changed. He started to get really serious.”
In his vlog, Calum said the three sides of his personality fought against each other.
He said: “I was being called three different names by three different types of people. It got very confusing because one week I was Mohsen – I was well-behaved, I had the kuffiye on and I was praying five times a day.
“Next week, I’d be Calum, so I’d be depressed.
“Then the next week, I’d be Lumo so I’d be jumping about, thinking I could sell anything, get any girl I wanted.”
‘Letting myself down’
Calum also revealed how much depression had affected him.
He said: “Recently, I haven’t been too great.
“I’ve been letting myself down quite a lot with simple mistakes and bad habits I keep coming back to.
“But hopefully over time, I’ll be able to conquer those bad habits.”
Then, in September 2017, Calum disappeared without warning.
Calum’s friends and family hope the documentary – Lumo: Too Young To Die – will show the importance of talking about mental health issues.
Filmmaker Hannah Currie said: “The incredible thing about the hip hop community was the outpouring of grief and emotion.
“That’s a hyper-masculine space and they started sharing about their own mental health.
“I thought it was incredible and wondered if it could inspire change on a greater level.”
Janet said: “When I heard the diaries it just clicked how ill he was. We would have done anything. You never think it’s going to happen to you.
“This is just not us. We will do things as normal – but it will never be normal again.”
Jenn added: “We have gone through this as a family and we don’t want anyone else to go through it. If we can do something – anything – to help, then we will.
“We had known things had been pretty bad.
“I thought it was just him growing up, but seeing how much he was hurting, I thought maybe it wasn’t just a teenage phase.”
However, she said no-one had known how bad things really were.
“Towards the end things seemed really good. There was no inclination he was in a bad place. But they say sometimes, once that decision has been made, a person finds peace.
“He went and got an Uber and never came back.”
‘All he wanted to do was rap’
Jenn now acts as an ambassador for SAMH – the Scottish Association for Mental Health.
She thinks Calum would have been amused at what has happened since his death.
She said: “I think he would want it to get bigger and bigger. I think in his head he didn’t necessarily want to be famous but he wanted some kind of recognition for his music.
“That was everything to him. He worked all these jobs just to fund doing other things.
“All he wanted to do was rap. And that was part of his struggle, that he didn’t think he could get to where he wanted to be.”
Lumo’s friends have written and recorded a track highlighting suicide and mental health issues.
And Subz has become a support worker helping young people aged 18 to 26.
He said: “I was inspired to do something different career-wise to help people with mental health issues. I am really passionate about it. And I’m doing it for him.”
He wants people to be able to talk about mental health.
“There’s not a problem on earth that can’t be fixed, and I wish Calum knew that.”
Lumo: Too Young To Die is available to watch now on the BBC iPlayer