The career of Arnhem Land-born, Melbourne-based rapper and dancer Danzel Baker has skyrocketed in the past few months. Jack Latimore caught up with him for a quick yarn
The Arnhem Land rapper cooks up a storm for Splendour and Dark Mofo
IT’S ALREADY BEEN an incredible 2018 for Danzel Baker – aka Baker Boy. On top of being the first Indigenous artist to have two singles in Triple J’s Hottest 100 (‘Marryuna’ came in at number 17), he was nominated in April for three gongs in the Australian Independent Records (AIR) Awards, including Best Artist and Best Single. There’s no end to it in sight either. After touring the Groovin the Moo circuit in April and May, playing solo shows across the country and heading to Splendour in the Grass in July, Baker Boy will kick off a tour of Norway (his first ever visit to Europe). Oh, and there’s also a new EP in the works.
Baker Boy, I was talking with the boys from [dance troupe] Djuki Mala when they were here, and they’re all foodies. They’re all your cousins, and you’re a former Djuki dancer, so is the real reason you’re living in Melbourne is for the food?
Well that’s the other reason! Plus I get to experience all different types of culture. But yeah, there’s more opportunities here than back home, which is a remote community up in Arnhem Land with only about 800-1,000 people living on it. There’s probably about seven jobs, and that’s it. I still love back home though. I get to go hunting up there, and I love hunting and fishing. It’s the best.
How do you fare in Melbourne then? Do you get homesick?
I’m starting to actually feel like I’m home here as well. ’Cos I’ve got friends and family here. This is my second home. One day I’ll bring all the family down to show them around.
I read somewhere that some of your influences are old school, like NWA and Public Enemy.
Yeah, when I was growing up my dad and all them always played that stuff on the stereo, a little cassette tape. It came in handy when I started doing hip-hop stuff. I like old school, because old school talked about the struggle.
Do you see the work you’re producing as political?
Not really. I’m more showing people what we can be. I love what AB Original do, I really love it. But for me, I’m just making a song where everybody enjoys it and doesn’t feel like they getting attacked.
Now, where I’m from, country music is massive among community. Can we expect a country music album from you at some point in the future?
[ Laughs] I grew up with country music too! But nah, I can’t. I reckon my bruthaboi Dallas Woods can! He’s one of my MCS. He’s an upcoming artist.
What about your time in Djuki Mala? Did performing as part of that troupe prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Yeah, definitely. It taught me confidence to perform in front of thousands of people. It all came in handy when I started doing my own thing – working with both Djuki Mala and also Indigenous Hip Hop Projects. I mean, I started rapping because of Indigenous Hip Hop Projects. Now, I’m going around remote communities working with them. Seeing all the struggles that kids have in remote community – all of that stuff really inspires me. ■ à Splendour in the Grass, North Byron Parklands, Yelgun 2481. www.splendourinthegrass.com. Fri Jul 20. Dark Mofo, Hobart 7000. darkmofo.net.au. Sat Jun 15.