Interview: Baker Boy on starting his journey and rapping in his native language

I don’t think there was any artist at BIGSOUND this year as excited as Baker Boy. The young Yolngu rapper from the Top End only started recording music last year and has already pushed through in a big way. Just a few months ago the skilled rapper, dancer, actor and artist managed to win the triple j Unearthed x National Indigenous Music Awards prize, performing alongside the likes of A.B. Original and Dan Sultan, which obviously bumped up his profile to the point where he packed out an entire room at BIGSOUND.

With a follow-up to his popular single “Cloud 9” due out next month, we had a bit of a chat with Baker Boy about how his rather rapid rise in the scene started and how he’s going to keep that momentum going.

This year everything seems to be happening for you. You won the triple J Unearthed earlier this year, performed at the awards and now you’re showcasing at BIGSOUND. What are your plans to make the most of this momentum for the rest of this year?

We got a new track coming out in the middle of October, it’s the next single. I really want everyone to support me and have fun with me and be in my little journey that I’m going through.

When did that journey begin for you?

It started end of last year and then Baker Boy happened pretty much at the start of this year. It’s going off! Everyone’s loving “Cloud 9” and it’s just amazing to see everyone enjoying my song and experiencing something positive.

I know you have an ambition to be the first Aboriginal rapper to rap in an Indigenous language as well.

I’m the first Indigenous rapper to rap in my native language in Australia, in the mainstream, it’s pretty crazy. I wasn’t really expecting it. Last year I was pretty much thinking to myself ‘I wonder if anyone who is rapping in that language’ and I searched and couldn’t find anyone. I’m focused on that. This was after when I started making “Cloud 9”.

All these Brotherboys, when they’re around me they always rap and beatbox, and I kind of got that influence from them. From rapping and all that, they asked me to try freestyle but I couldn’t do it – mind you, I only started rapping end of last year – so I went back home and started writing “Cloud 9”. I started rapping in front of them next time they asked me, I now had something to say to them, and they were losing it; they were amazed. And then Dion Brownfield threw me in the recording studio and was like “let’s start right now”; straight away when I rapped it, he took me to the studio. So we started making the song and his son, Kian, did the amazing hook on “Cloud 9”. From there we gave it to management and they threw it out there and everyone was just losing it.

After that I went to Arnhem Land to do a dance tutorial tour and music video clip. During our spare time we filmed “Cloud 9”, so that’s filmed in my home town. From there, this crazy journey started and now here I am at BIGSOUND!

You’re also heavily involved in dance as well. Did that come before the hip hop?

Yeah, so when I started hip hop it was pretty much from my dad. My dad was the one that introduced me to hip hop; he’s like the legend of hip hop in Arnhem Land. He’s the one that showed hip hop culture to the community, from watching all these movies and videos of American rappers and like all these hip hop elements. He started having his own crew, all his brothers and sisters dancing, breaking it down and DJing, emceeing.

What is it about the dancing element that really connected with you?

Well it pretty much runs in our blood. Aboriginal people have been dancing, playing instruments and singing for centuries and from there the new generations kind of changed it up a bit and kept it going. I had a passion for it and pushed it, tried to make it happen, and I did. It’s crazy to see hard work pay off at the end of the day.

And what is it about emceeing that you connect with? What kind of messages are you hoping to bring to the scene?

To be honest, I don’t like public speaking. When I first grab the mic and start talking I feel like I’m going to choke, I freak out a bit. But then I just click into this zone; I’m in the zone going off, talking and talking – I get annoyed from me talking for ages. Emceeing is a tough challenge for me, but I’m going to risk it.

Taking it back to when your dad introduced you to hip hop? What kind of rappers and what kind of messages spoke to you the most?

2Pac, Bone Thugs, Biggie Smalls, NWA, Ice-T, LL Cool J, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash. Those guys were my inspiration. The freedom of speech [connects with me]. You can do music and be free and say whatever you want, because it’s your show; it’s who you are, and how you see the world.

How did it feel last night watching the audience connect with that?

It was off the chain. I don’t know how to explain the feeling, it was just overwhelming; joy, love, happy – all these different emotions in one place. I wanted to cry on the stage it was just that amazing. The whole house was packed and everyone was into it. It’s made me more confident, like “I’m doing my job right, so I’m going to keep going”. It’s not only straight-forward to people but it’s positive and empowering.

To keep up to date with all things Baker Boy head on over to his official website HERE.

Photo by Michelle Grace Hunder.