With his debut album GELA, Baker Boy fuses defiance with innate compassion and spirit.
GELA is not just the name of the record, but Danzal Baker’s skin name; in this sense, the rapper’s debut collection of music takes on more significance. It is music delivered with pride and confidence – driven by a strong understanding of vision and heartfelt storytelling.
For those who have been following Baker Boy’s journey ‘til this point though, it comes of no surprise. Baker Boy himself is a spirited individual; spending any amount of time around him, it’s impossible not to feel your own energy shift.
He holds a unique space within the Australian hip hop world: not just a rapper, Baker Boy’s career ‘til this point has been defined by a colourful fusion of dance and a love for mixing up sonic feels. Boom bap throwbacks fit well alongside forward thinking R&B and more pop-leaning points of reference. A prominent yidaki doesn’t feel out of place with chill beats on GELA, nor do moments of romantic reflection alongside pointed politicised lyrics.
Like the album, Baker Boy is not an artist who can merely be reduced to any kind of gimmicky label or one-and-done type of review.
Watch the official music video for ‘Survive’ featuring Uncle Jack Charles
Baker Boy’s journey from the Top End of Australia to the big smoke – first Brisbane and more recently Melbourne – has seen the performer’s formative years marked by massive public moments. Whether it be in the success of early singles like ‘Marryuna’ or ‘Cool As Hell’, or being named Young Australian Of The Year in 2019; Baker Boy’s legacy began to form at a rapid rate.
The onset of fame illuminated internal struggles, moments of self-doubt and a tussle with identity. Balancing his role as a new inspiration for a whole new wave of young artists and First Nations people, with his own connection to family, country and responsibility, Baker Boy’s journey took on more layers of pressure than before.
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We hear it on songs like ‘Survive’ and ‘Somewhere Deep’. The vulnerability and, through it, strength that Baker Boy brings to these moments demonstrate maturation, both personally and creatively.
“I want people to see what my life is like, and where I come from,” Baker Boy has said. “The journey from a remote community to living in the city and trying to adapt, and have that balance, is a lot of hard work, [but] it’s an amazing journey.”
Watch the official music video for ‘My Mind’ featuring G Flip
“It’s really important to share stories and share what we live with daily. On a day to day basis, we come across a lot of systematic [injustices] and we try to overcome them.”
Intrinsically tied with Baker Boy’s musical success has been the rapper’s seamless ability to weave Yolngu Matha language with English. It not only set Baker Boy apart early on, but determined that a new lane of Australian hip hop could indeed be carved and yes, be successful.
“People listen but they don’t understand,” he raps on the infectious ‘Meditjin’. “I’m just a brother reppin’ Arnhem Land…”
Baker Boy’s representation of his culture and the responsibility he’s felt to bring it to the masses is something that audiences have instantly connected with. In this sense, it breathed fresh air into Australian music.
Watch the official music video for ‘Cool As Hell’
It’s not remiss to say that Australian music – largely the industry – still has a ways to go when it comes to the uplifting and prioritising of our talented First Nations artists; further to this, uplifting and prioritising in a non-tokenistic way. The arrival and subsequent widespread success of Baker Boy has proved that it is possible for such a success story to thrive and sustain.
The artist Baker Boy has evolved into is directly linked to this natural sense of self and passionate storytelling mentioned before. His music and voice celebrates vivid dreams and aspirations, while also maintaining the ability to be rooted in a reality not necessarily lived by everyone.
At one point, Baker Boy was fondly referred to as the ‘Fresh Prince of Arnhem Land’. And while that energetic and bright-eyed individual still exists, the artist now beloved across the nation has grown into a figure whose influence is far more dynamic.
There is room at the table for unique storytellers in Australian music, period. And for our First Nations talent, this has never been more true. When it comes to Baker Boy, he represents a unique and exciting moment for First Nations music moving forward, while carrying the rich and storied lessons of the past with him.