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.”
14-track album Gela will include ‘My Mind feat. G Flip’ as well as previously released singles ‘Meditjin feat Jess B’, ‘Move’, ‘Cool As Hell’ and ‘Ride feat Yirrmal’. New tracks on the album feature friends and collaborators Lara Andallo, Jerome Farah, Thando, the revered Uncle Jack Charles and notable co-writers Dallas Woods and Rob Amoruso with Jerome Farah, Pip Norman, and Willie Tafa producing tracks off the album.
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 Baker Boy was first introduced to adoring fans in 2017, and has 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. Sudden fame released 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. Gelais 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.
The record’s striking album artwork, by iconic street artist Adnate, is a perfect encapsulation of this concept, featuring a split portrait of Baker Boy. “I want people to see what my life is like, and where I come from,” Baker Boy says. “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.”
True to that duality, Gela is a breathtaking portrait – a coming-of-age tale, a powerful political vessel, and a story of a variegated, fascinating life, all in one.