Born in 1975 in Fontana, California, Barker was encouraged to pursue his musical talents by his mother, who bought him his first drum set at the age of four. Throughout his youth, he dabbled with everything from trumpet and piano to singing and skateboarding, but he always returned to the drums. Before his mother passed away the day before he started high school, she urged him to continue drumming. Barker followed her advice and eventually worked his way onto the touring roster of ska-punks the Aquabats, who shared a number of tour dates with up-and-coming headliners blink-182. When blink's original drummer departed in 1998, Barker permanently joined the lineup, forming the core trio that delivered the mainstream breakthroughs Enema of the State (1999) and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001), which sold over 35-million copies across the globe.
As relations within the band started to fray, Barker contributed to the first of two blink side projects, Tom DeLonge's experimental Box Car Racer (in 2005 he'd join Mark Hoppus in the band +44). Barker also pursued personal ventures, forming hybrid hip-hop/punk project the Transplants with Rancid's Tim Armstrong, and starring in an MTV reality show with his then-wife. After the 2003 release of blink's fifth self-titled set, the band went on hiatus and Barker was able to focus on his own endeavors.
Plunging headfirst into non-punk genres, he collaborated with the Black Eyed Peas, T.I., Johnny Cash, Outkast, the Game, Paul Wall, and countless others. He also teamed with friend DJ AM (born Adam Goldstein), forming the duo TRV$DJAM in the summer of 2008. Months later, the pair were on a private plane returning home when a tire burst and they veered off the runway. They were the sole survivors of the crash and Barker spent months in the hospital recovering from his injuries (Goldstein died a year later from an overdose). The traumatic event shook his life into focus and, as soon as he was physically able, he returned to his drums and got back to work.