Baker Boy, rapper, Yarrabah Music and Cultural Festival

! Indigenous languages are so important and it is important to keep language strong, so hopefully me showing people out there that I can have mainstream success will inspire them to write, sing, rap in their first language too ...

Few artists have set airwaves alight quite like Danzal Baker, known to legions of fans as Baker Boy. Hailing from Milingimbi in northeast Arnhem Land, Baker Boy – a young Yolngu man – caught ears with his infectious blend of hip-hop, which sees the artist mixing the traditional language of Yolngu Matha with Indigenous cultural elements and current modern culture. Since breaking through in 2017 with hit singles ‘Cloud 9’ and ‘Marryuna’, Baker Boy’s following has skyrocketed, earning accolades and high-profile festival slots in the process. Baker Boy will be taking the stage at the Yarrabah Music and Cultural Festival on Saturday June 15 as part of the Queensland Music Festival, and we took the opportunity to pitch some questions to the artist about his whirlwind career, his inspirations and acting as a role model to the next wave of Indigenous artists.

Growing up, who were some of your biggest musical aspirations?
There were loads! Eminem, Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Bone Thugs and Harmony, Afrika Bambaataa and NWA. Lyrically, I just loved hearing their stories and how they told them with such flow and energy.

The past few years have seen you achieve lots of success – not to mention loads of festival slots! What’s been the best ‘pinch me’ moment in your music career so far?
There’s so many – it has been a whirlwind experience to be where I am, I’m so lucky to get to do what I do every day, sometimes it seems surreal! Opening for 50 Cent and opening for Dizzee Rascal were both pretty huge moments – getting to meet both of them, I was super starstruck!

You’ll be performing at the upcoming Yarrabah Music and Cultural Festival, which has a stacked line-up! Who else are you keen to check out on the line-up, and why?
Thandi Phoenix – her voice is fire, so powerful. I haven’t seen her perform before so keen to get around to that!

Can you share any hints about that show, such as crowd favourite tracks or new songs you might have on the setlist?
Dancing! There’s always lots of dancing, so the crowd better get ready to move with me. You never know, a couple of unreleased tracks might make the set – I can’t share too much, just come along and check it out.

‘Marryuna’ was the first ever track featuring Indigenous language to crack the Triple J Hottest 100 Top 20, do you think we’ll be seeing a lot more Indigenous Aussie music hitting the mainstream in the future?
I hope so! One of the main reasons I do what I do is to show people that it is possible! Indigenous languages are so important and it is important to keep language strong, so hopefully me showing people out there that I can have mainstream success will inspire them to write, sing, rap in their first language too.

You’re a strong role model and give a lot back to the community, from guest spots on Playschool to working with kids as an Indigenous Hip Hop Projects teacher, what key messages do you hope to instil in our youth?
Be strong and believe in yourself. It is so important that kids know that they have opportunities, and although it might not be easy for them to succeed, if they keep pushing themselves then they will. I always use myself as that example – I have worked hard to be where I am but I am still working hard and pushing myself. It is important that kids know that they have a voice that deserves to be heard, and no matter what race or gender that they are valid people, so they can grow up to be strong adults.

Congratulations on being named the 2019 Young Australian of the Year! What do you hope to achieve under that title?
I want to keep just pushing my message about keeping language strong. Just yesterday I spoke at David Jones’ collaboration with Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation’s (ALNF) campaign; ‘Literacy is Freedom’, which was awesome. It is just about getting the conversation started and educating people about the importance of Indigenous Languages and how important it is that we keep them alive. 

No doubt you also have a long career ahead of you – do you have any music-related goals on your bucket list?
An album in the future is definitely on the cards! I’ve been in the studio a lot this year making new music, so hopefully I will be able to share that with the world sometime soon. Other than that, I would love to break overseas markets – show the world some of the talent that comes from Australia and also continue to share my language.

Who would you most love to collaborate with?
I might already a few amazing collaborations in the works, I can’t say too much but there are some really exciting things happening. You’ll just have to keep your ears out!

The Yarrabah Music and Cultural Festival is taking place on Saturday June 15 at the Jilara Football Oval in Yarrabah. The festival boasts a line-up including Baker Boy, Yothu Yindi (re-forming for the first time since the passing of M Yunupingu), soul queen Thandi Phoenix and local legends the Yarrabah Brass Band.


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