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Interview: Baker Boy


Interview: Baker Boy

Tom Johnston

Baker Boy isn’t just another rapper on the block, he’s a treasure-trove of stories, an artist who links peoples and times. Dubbed the ‘fresh new prince’ in Arnhem Land, 20 year old Danzal Baker is clear headed in his approach to get from the Top End, to the top of the ranks.

Having only released two singles Cloud Nine and Marryunna, he’s managed to sweep up at the National Indigenous Music awards, hit up a range of festival performances and will soon support 50 Cent and Dizzee Rascal on their Australian tours. 

Yet we at This Is Radelaide are more excited about his appearance at WOMADelaide! I sat down with Baker Boy ahead of his packed schedule to find out the truth behind his accolades. 

Where do I start? After everything you’ve achieved this past year, do you feel like it's all happened so quickly? 

Well (laughs)... I’ve been performing since I was 15 years old, so I’m used to performing in front of a lot of people. The last year has felt like a natural progression. Once I got used to the audience, it was just about gaining confidence to be out there and having fun. What’s crazy for me is everyone talking about “Baker Boy, Baker Boy!”. That said, I wasn’t rapping before last year; it’s something new and it’s taken off like a bullet from a gun. 

Can you see how much you’ve developed since you started?

I’ve definitely developed more. More confidence, more skills - performing in front of a lot of people is crazy. What’s interesting is how much more energy I have than before, it’s really next level. 

I know that dance is a big part of your performance, especially now that you’re able to have dancers on stage with you. How did it all tie in?

I actually grew up dancing first. My dad was a dancer, in fact he and his big brother were the original Baker Boys. I got a lot of influence from just watching them. They were the reason I fell in love with hip-hop too, which is something that always made me feel like I was happy. Every time I listened to beats or even DJs, did graffiti and danced - it felt like I was free. 

How you blend traditional and contemporary styles of dance parallels your use of language as well. Did using different languages and styles come naturally?

The thing is that before I started rapping, I already had the idea of blending Yolngu Matha language with English. When I actually did it, it felt like I was dancing - so I’d say yes (laughs).

The last couple years has seen a push for indigenous languages in education - have you seen the impact this is having?

I think it’s really important. I hope my songs and what I’m doing can have an impact on the way things are done as well. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn indigenous languages in Australia. People overseas have their language, so why can’t we do the same? It’s really easy when you take your time, take a moment to learn the languages, the stories - I think it’s the most beautiful thing. I’ve tried learning other languages and hearing how similar the pronunciation of some words are to indigenous words is awesome. 

I think of one other young indigenous artist using her language, Emily Wurramura - is there pressure in being one of the few young indigenous artists in the mainstream?

I think being a representative of Indigenous music is the greatest honour I can get, even though I have the heavy shoulder of my family and other indigenous peoples. For me, I’m happy to do all that I can to keep them entertained, happy and living the best lives they can.

Could we see a collaboration with Emily any time soon?

Oh definitely! I know for certain that the day will come around when we have our time. We actually went to the same performing arts school in Brisbane.

Amazing! I was so glad to see you announced for WOMADelaide, how did this feel for you?

I got really pumped and excited, because I’ve been to WOMADelaide before to perform with Djuki Mala, even doing workshops - it was insane, I loved it. So many people, so much good food, so many talented artists. I think music has its own world, and brings everyone inside and outside of that world together.

And what's next, is there an album on the way, more collaborations, more festivals?

Well as you can hear, I’m on a train to the studio. After I record this last track, I’m hoping it’ll all be ready by the middle of the year. 

Will the rest of the album sound pretty similar to what we’ve heard in the last two tracks?

All I can say is that there’s different vibes and different styles - it’ll all make you want to do something, be something, keep going. I can’t put my finger on it, or find the words. All the tracks are different, I can at least say that.

See Baker Boy performing at WOMADelaide on Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th of March in Botanic Park. 

Photo credit to: Nadia Achilles