Hak Baker

Selected by: James Keith

Name: Hak Baker

Where He’s From: Isle Of Dogs, East London

When He Started: 2015 (but really, 2003)

Genre: Acoustic/Indie/Folk

File Next To: Jeshi, Kadiata, Monster Florence

Sounds Like: “We call it G-Folk. It’s a mish-mash of an array of sounds. I can’t read music, I didn’t have schooling on the guitar, but I just use my ears. I know what sounds decent and with that, I just go and take inspiration from wherever and glue it all together, like a broken china plate.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “I’ve made music for ages, but in terms of what really inspired me to play guitar and sing—it was Daughter’s ‘Youth’. I was going out with this half-posh bird at the time, even though I pulled her at Carnival [laughs]. Anyway, she showed me and after that, that was my mind made up. That ghostly sound had me entranced and sold.”

Hak Baker’s story, just like the man himself, is an unconventional one. The first rumblings of his career as an artist began way back in 2003, over a decade before he would release “Try Me” in 2015. Before he picked up a guitar and blessed us with his golden vocals, he was working with his close friend and collaborator Ali in the days of the short-lived but hugely influential grime crew Bomb Squad. Though he’d wanted to sing for some time, he admits that this idea was met with derision and laughter in the macho world of grime. Thankfully, his girlfriend at the time persuaded him to ignore the opinions of others and bought him his first guitar. Having been given that figurative kick up the backside, he approached Ali again (another soul receptive to Baker’s ideas) and in 2016, the two began creating the music that would soon be released under the Hak Baker moniker.

Even though his friends in the early 2000s were surprised that he wanted to pick up a guitar, the signs were already there, plain to see. Baker’s first love has clearly always been emotionally-charged songwriting and delicate melodies. His musical education on reggae, soul and Michael Jackson came from his mother: “Sunday was a serious treat in most Caribbean households; Vibes FM playing and my mum singing in the kitchen. You knew something special was getting whipped down if she was singing ‘6th Street’ by Louisa Marks.”

Based on that solid gold foundation, a fire was lit inside Hak Baker and he eventually joined the Southwark Cathedral Choir. Despite not getting a ‘formal’ education on reading sheet music and so on, Hak Baker now had all the tools he needed (a powerful voice and a profound understanding of the emotive power of melody) and a bag of ideas that he needed to get out. After the release of “7am” in 2017, the rest of the year would be filled with a steady and relentless stream of music. In fact, that first year of releasing music was jam-packed with success and would ultimately lead to a stellar appearance on Later... with Jools Holland.

Fan favourites “Conundrum”, “Skint”, “Like It Or Lump It”, and the Misfits EP all came out within his first 12 months of releasing music—and it still feels as if he’s just getting started. Two years later, and Hak Baker is successfully uniting fans of just about every genre with what he calls ‘G-Folk’ and his profoundly incisive songwriting that touches on heartbreak, addiction, and the contradictions and absurdities of life in 2019 Britain.

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on June 05, 2019