Hak Baker found his freedom in songwriting. A former member of East London’s grime collective Bomb Squad, he picked up a guitar during a short stint in prison, swapped cyphers for songs of cockney freedom, and he’s never looked back. “When I write songs it’s the most fearless version of me I can muster,” he explains, “I can just be honest with myself even if others haven’t got a Scooby about what I’m on about.” It’s a freedom he’s wholeheartedly embraced, crafting rebellious, anthems that combine the near-ancient traditions of British folk with stories of modern-day east London.
“It’s fun. That [attitude] has indirectly transferred into what I wear, what I do, who I hang about with, and how fucked up I get. I don’t give a shit anymore, at all. It’s how you’re supposed to live I reckon” he muses. “On the edge, not the pillows; that’s dead.” There’s a cheekiness running through his music, an almost old-fashioned wink and nudge hiding behind every lyric and statement, indebted to the humour and culture of his beloved East.
Indeed, nearly everything about Hak Baker’s career feels like it’s from some old East London tale you’ve heard a million different versions of down the pub. He’s the everyman, a bard in the vein of some of Britain’s most celebrated songwriters, impossible to tell what’s fiction and what’s fact. Baker doesn’t shy away from it either, on his second single ‘Conundrum’ he details his upbringing and his decision to leave home as a teenager. “Leaving home early was the best thing I could have done,” he says of his flying the nest. “My mum was a strict old school Jamaican. Furthermore, my dad – who I’d always put on a pedestal – had disappeared, so I went AWOL and just went on an adventure. It enabled me to really be young and wild and live this kinda fairy-tale teenhood dream with other young renegades. Without those experiences, I couldn’t write half the songs I have and half the ones I ain’t made yet.”
Don’t mistake this worldview for mindless hedonism, however. Like his music; his attitude is the latest evolution in a long line of anti-authoritarian, pro-party troubadours. Hak evokes the spirits of Johnny Cash and Ronnie Drew when he declares his closing thoughts; “I stand for individualism, rebellion, togetherness and truth, man. People should smash pints and shout ‘Oi Oi!’ and smoke weed together!” he laughs, before giving a small caveat to his otherwise uncompromising manifesto – “In moderation though, we’ve got to be productive.”
Hak Baker wears top C.P Company @18Montrose
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