HAK BAKER tickets


Hak Baker is a documentarian as much as he is a songwriter. Whether chronicling his own experiences or those of the people around him, his music offers an indispensable insight into the struggles of the working classes in 2019. The injustices, the hustle, the heartache: it’s all there to be discovered on ‘Babylon’, a 12-track mixtape which the 29-year-old singer showcasing his vast creative vision and astonishingly unadorned vocal talents.
“​There’s no fairy tales in East London,​” he rues on the title track in his thick cockney dialect, foreshadowing the hard truth that happy endings are in short supply. And yet Baker’s backstory is proof that real life is often as extraordinary as fiction. For, from chorister to convict, grime MC to folk singer, his protracted path to this point has been anything but predictable.

The third youngest of seven children, Baker was born in Luton before moving to the Isle of Dogs aged one, where he still resides today. His introduction to performing came as part of the Southwark Cathedral choir, which he joined at the encouragement of his mother. By his early teens Baker was gravitating towards grime, becoming part of the BOMB Squad crew for a few years, who achieved breakout success with support from the now-defunct urban music champion Channel U.
It was during this period that Baker began rebelling against his strict upbringing, getting into scrapes with the law, and by the age of 15 he’d left home and was getting by bunking on the floors of friends. With no rules to adhere to things spiralled out of control quickly, resulting in spells in prison. Discussing the experience today, Baker accepts full responsibility for his actions: “The things we got into, we put ourselves there: no-one forced us to do anything. They were difficult times, but that was the path that I took and I don't regret it. I learned so much.”

It was while incarcerated, aged 21, that Baker reignited his love for music, signing up for guitar lessons and further developing his technique via YouTube tutorials. The first song he learned to play on guitar was ‘Youth’ by Daughter, before he began branching out into his own compositions. The shift from grime to - what Baker terms - “g-folk” might initially feel like a wrench, but it’s less so when you consider how diverse his tastes have always been. Indeed, he speaks fondly today of a childhood spent being exposed to everything from reggae, dub, and jazz to classic pop, R&B, soul, and bashment, via various friends and family members.

Music mostly remained a private pursuit for Baker until 2016 when, at the behest of friends, he applied for and won a place on the Levi’s Music Project. Headed up by Skepta, the initiative provided Baker and 10 other aspiring musicians with access to equipment, mentors and studio time, and climaxed with a showcase at the V&A. The experience spurred Baker into action, and his debut single ‘7AM’ arrived in May 2017, followed by the ‘Misfits’ EP that November.

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