Gela. Say it out loud, say it with pride, with the honour and respect it deserves: GE-lah. You’ve met the bright-eyed, ferociously talented rapper Danzal Baker under a handful of names — the Fresh Prince of Arnhem Land, Baker Boy, the “proud blak Yolngu boy with the killer flow”. Now, he’s ready for you to meet him as Gela: his skin name, and one of the truest markers of his identity. Miles Davis famously said that an artist should only release a self-titled record when they know themselves well, know themselves truly, and when their music can reflect that. So there was only one obvious, perfect choice for the title of Baker Boy’s long-awaited debut, a blistering, joyful record that paints the young rapper more vividly than ever before: Gela. “Gela is who I am,” Baker Boy says, “and it’s my story.”
The journey to Gela has been winding and sometimes intense, with extreme ups and downs — though, Baker Boy admits, “more ups than downs.” Raised in Arnhem Land and now based on Wadawurrung Country (Ocean Grove), Baker Boy was first introduced to adoring fans in 2017, with the one-two punch of debut singles “Cloud 9”, featuring Kian, and “Marryuna”, featuring Yirrmal. The entirety of Baker Boy’s art, from his infectious flow to his music’s modern-throwback production to the jaw-dropping dance moves he perfected as part of the Djuki Mala dance troupe, connected instantly. With each successive release — including favourites like the feel-good, ARIA Gold-certified “Cool as Hell” and “Better Days”, with Sampa The Great and Dallas Woods — Baker Boy continued to establish himself as a deft, talented rapper, with charisma and verve inherited from the genre’s greats.
The Fresh Prince of Arnhem Land’s freewheeling joy was only one part of the story, though. With Baker Boy’s sudden fame came an internal struggle, between his ties to his community back home, and his love for his art and the inspiring figure Baker Boy was becoming. It’s a struggle undoubtedly familiar to anyone who’s moved from somewhere remote to the big city, but one uniquely heartbreaking for First Nations people who move from remote communities to more populated areas. Gela, then, is the story of Baker Boy overcoming this conflict, and coming to terms with himself both as Gela and as Baker Boy — an inspiration and beacon of light to his fans, his family, and most of all, himself.
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