Danzal Baker began 2020 in Tasmania, standing in the crowd at the Marion Bay leg of the Falls Festival, having performed earlier in the evening. The 23-year-old Indigenous rapper, dancer, and artist, who rose to prominence over the last two years as Baker Boy, was chatting to his brother, eating a taco, and enjoying the midnight festivities. But he was also looking ahead.

“Finishing an album is one of my main priorities for this year,” Baker says. “It’s almost finished, so I want everyone to get ready for what’s going to happen.”

Baker Boy, a hip-hop artist who raps in his Yolngu Matha language as well as English.Credit:Getty Images

It’s not easy to be ready for what Baker Boy makes happen. His music has an expressive energy, with Baker alternating between rapping in Yolngu Matha and English, that’s designed to move hips and sway minds via a mix of hip-hop rhythms and traditional instrumentation. A handful of increasingly popular singles over the last two years – including Marryuna, Mr La Di Da Di and In Control – have forged a prominent career, making his forthcoming and as yet untitled debut album one of the year’s most anticipated recordings.

“Last year was huge, but I guess went overboard with trying to get things done,” says Baker, who has relocated from his childhood home on Milingimbi Island, 440 kilometres east of Darwin, to Melbourne. “I’d rather be at risk of doing too much than not doing it at all. You need new music for everyone each year because if they’ve been listening to one song for ages it gets easy for them to move on.”

In Canberra recently, Baker passed on the title of Young Australian of the Year he received in 2019. He has been working 14-hour days, recording from 10am to midnight, using different producers on songs in a room that is “is full of imagination”. The more tracks he cuts for the album, the more his music evolves. Recent single Meditjin adds a coolly contemplative veneer to his exuberant sound.

“I like to try new things and challenge myself,” Baker says. “Plus, I get really annoyed with my old tracks, because I have an annoying voice. I don’t know what others think, but when my song comes on the radio I think to myself, ‘Oh no, here we go’.”

It’s a problem that’s not going to go away any time soon.

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