Interview: Baker Boy
From his roots in indigenous dance group Djuki Mala to performing to packed crowds at festivals like BIGSOUND, Baker Boy - aka the Fresh New Prince, aka Danzal Baker - has had a pretty whirlwind few years.
Energetic, positive and exceedingly excited about what 2018 has in store, Baker Boy is also genuinely grateful for his success and those who've helped him get here. Just after our interview, Baker Boy went on to score two tracks in the Triple J Hottest 100, with 'Marryuna' sneaking into the top 20 at #17 - none of which is surprising to those who know his drive.
We chatted Drake, recording and rhyming in Yolŋu Matha ahead of his WOMADelaide performance next Month.
BNKR: Hi Danzal – how’s your day been so far?
Baker Boy: It’s been so good – well, today is going to be busy for me ... I'm at the studio right now and [I'm] just going to try and push all the interviews quickly as possible, but my producer is going to be leaving tomorrow and going to America.
Tight deadline then?
It’s crazy. I’m really excited for everything that’s happening – it’s really mindblowing, it’s just amazing – I can’t wait.
Congratulations on being included in the lineup for WOMAD again this year – can you tell us about when you decided to make music your career?
I think it started when I started working with Indigenous Hip Hop Projects. I’ve done a couple of music video projects with Indigenous Hip Hop Projects, going around to the communities and making hip-hop, rap music but talking about healthy lifestyles and education and all the good messages we were putting out ... and it kind of influenced me to start something similar to that but in my own way.
But also how it really started as well was … all my brotherboys, they always freestyled in front of me and some would beatbox, and then they tried getting me in and I said. "Oh sorry, I'm not really good with rhyming because English is not my first language, and I said, next time, sure I’ll have something for you.” So I went back home, wrote a couple of lyrics, and from there just pretty much went back - then they caught me again and they said, "Can you try and freestyle?"
And I was like, "Whoa…well you know what, I’ve got something for you – alright here it is." And then I started rapping what I wrote down, and then [my friend's] dad pretty much got me and put me in the studio and said, "Alright, you know what, since everyone’s vibing, we’re going to record this track, here we go."
And we started recording the track, just vibing out, having fun just mucking around, and then the week after there was a music project going to Arnhem Land, which ended up to be [going to] my community, Milingimbi, and that’s when we did a dance tutorial to music. During our free time we pretty much filmed ‘Cloud 9’, and then from there just went to a whole other level.
You’re the first indigenous rapper to perform in your native language in Australia – what does it mean to you to have achieved this?
It’s the greatest honour – but I wouldn’t say im the first indigenous rapper to have rapped in [their native] language, I would say im the first to rap in my own language which is Yolŋu Matha. I think it’s the greatest honour I could get, and it's just amazing.
You mentioned that you were finding it a little bit hard to rhyme in English – do you find it interesting using both languages together within the same song?
Yeah it’s really interesting, and it's something different as well. It’s actually talking about, like, living in two worlds.
You’re a dancer, actor and an artist as well – but what’s your earliest musical memory?
First was pretty much listening to African Bombada, Grandmaster Flash, old school stuff – that’s what dad – well my dad and all the original Baker Boys, all the uncles and dad – they pretty much introduced that to me ... and I was like, "wow, this is amazing" and from there, every time I listened to it I danced. 'Cause I started as a dancer – well, I was pretty much born a dancer, and I just grew up dancing, dancing ... And from there, just pretty much listening to older hip-hop, 'cause it's really good to hear the old school hip-hop, because they talk about the struggle and how hard it is to live in this society, for everyone – black or white.
Who are you listening to at the moment, in terms of contemporary artists?
I’d say Kendrick Lamar, Drake, J. Cole – there's a lot.
And do you connect with them in the same way you were saying you connected with those older artists, and the message that they were presenting?
Yeah definitely – I got more inspired and [the reason I] wanted to do something is because I was listening to AB Original as well, brotherboys out there, Philly, Birdz and all of them, they’re like one of the brotherboys that would inspire of the artists to actually do something about their lives and keep going forward.
You mentioned before that you were working on your debut album – that's coming out mid-year, is that right?
Yeah! All of the [tracks] have a different way of seeing the world and all of them are different feelings – because I want to take everyone on a rollercoaster, I don’t want to take everyone on this straight train.
How's the recording process been?
It’s been an amazing vibe – totally insane, awesome. But also it’s crazy full-on, working hard, just been busy, non-stop.
It must be very exciting for you!
Oh definitely, it’s been exciting! Thinking about all the tracks that I've got and am making at the moment – I just really can’t wait to release my album.
You’ve performed at WOMAD before, haven’t you?
Yes, I have performed at WOMAD before with Djuki Mala, and that was the first time for me at WOMADelaide and it was so good! The big stage, everything was just insane!
Are you excited to be coming back to Adelaide again?
100%. Definitely. I’m really excited, I'm really pumped – and I can't wait. It's only around the corner soon – every time I think about it I just get really excited and just want to be there already.