My Australia: The rising hip-hop star staying true to his first language

Baker Boy grew up in a remote community of Australia with English as his second language. This year he's supporting 50 Cent on tour.

‘My Australia’ is a special SBS News series exploring cultural heritage and identity, and asking what it means to be Australian in 2018.

For Danzel Baker, language and culture is everything. The 21-year old-rapper known as Baker Boy hails from the Milingimbi community in north-east Arnhem Land.

Fusing his first language, Yolngu Matha, with some English in his rhymes, he is a rising star of the Australian hip-hop scene. 

Baker says he didn't want to let his limited English hold him back.

"For me it is way better to rap and to even write songs (in Yolngu Matha) because it’s easier for me … it's way easier than writing in English," he told SBS News. "In English, I pretty much, sometimes struggle." 

Baker Boy raps in a mix of English and Yolngu Matha.
Source: Baker Boy / Facebook

Danzel is a former member of renowned Indigenous dance troupe Djuki Mala and brings his dance moves and athleticism to the stage as Baker Boy. 

Last year he won a Triple J Unearthed Indigenous artist contest and performed at the National Indigenous Music Awards. 

He says he uses his rap to showcase the living nature of Indigenous languages. 

"It's something different and especially to round the world it shows that Australia has native languages here and everyone still speaks it," he said. 

He has signed a record contract for his first album, which is due out in the middle of 2018. He also plans to tour extensively and will join English hip-hop star Dizzee Rascal and US musician and actor 50 Cent on their Australian tours in February.

Baker now spends his time between remote communities and Melbourne, something he describes as living in "two worlds". 

"For me leaving in the bush is easy to live and in the city is more challenging. But I like to challenge my self," he said. 

When he is not on-stage he works mentoring Indigenous youth in remote communities through outreach group Indigenous Hip-Hop Projects. 

Witiyana Marika is a relative of Baker's and a founding member of the band Yothu Yindi, who shot to fame with the song "Treaty" in 1991. He says it's time for the torch to be passed on to the next generation of Indigenous musicians.

"It's nice to see the young generation coming up and leading the way. I think it's their battle now,” Marika said.

Baker Boy hopes his music will inspire Indigenous kids in remote communities.
Source: SBS

For Baker, he simply hopes his music will provide an inspiration to children living in remote Indigenous communities.

"Even keeping teaching all the young generations to keep that language strong and learn more language and also learn more in school. Because knowledge is power," he said.

Published 18 January 2018 at 6:25am
By Jarni Blakkarly