7 June 2023

“I’m a man that’s lost most of my friends to the system and incarceration” — Hak Baker lays it bare on debut album

The East-London raised singer songwriter sits down with HUNGER ahead of the release of ‘Worlds End FM.’

For Hak Baker, honesty is of the utmost importance. If he’s feeling joyous, you’ll know about it; if he’s finding himself in a period of unrest, you’ll know about that too. His unfiltered musings on his personal life and the world around him have endeared him to an army of loyal fans, all waiting to see what tales of the East-end Baker will conjure up next. The self-proclaimed ‘G-folk’ singer has built up the reputation of a poet for the people, willing to speak on topics including gentrification, the government’s treatment of the working class and surveillance with visceral commentary. In its essence, Baker’s music is like going for a pint with a man that’s lived a lifetime, riffing off on the good, the bad and the ugly of all of his experiences. However, Baker will tell you himself he’s no role model, nor does he intend to be, which is exactly what makes his guitar-laced rhythms so compelling – what you see is what you get, whether you like it or not. 

Baker came onto the scene in 2017 before releasing his debut project Babylon in 2020, cementing him as one of the UK’s most promising rising talents. Then came his 2021 EP Misled, which saw Baker expand his musical palette, delving into various sonics with improved focused lyricism. Fast forward to now, and Baker is gearing up to release his debut studio album Worlds End FM, which lands this Friday (June 9th). The LP marks Baker’s boldest and most experimental project to date, with joy-filled tracks like ‘Doolally’ – which sees the artist taking us on an unhinged night out – followed by the touching ‘Windrush Baby,’ an ode to the power of generational community. As the album progresses, Baker leaves no stone unturned, exploring the downfalls of the UK government, his disdain for technology, and most powerfully, the cost of succumbing to his vices on ‘Dying to Live.’ Here, Baker talks us through his debut album, the importance of being a voice for the voiceless, and more.

I guess we should start with your debut album, Worlds End FM, which releases this Friday. Did you approach it differently to your previous projects?

Baker: I don’t think I approached it too differently until I started to realise that there was a theme between the songs I was doing. Once I worked that out with the batch of the songs that I was doing, then I thought, okay, yeah, cool. Then just put the icing on the cake, really. And then that was that. When I’m writing, most of the time, it’s coming from a place of unconsciousness. So, I already knew what I wanted to say before I consciously recognised what was going on, if that makes sense.

Do you feel like there was any added pressure on you given that the project comes with the title of being your debut album?

Baker: Not really, man. I believe in what I do. I believe in what, say I believe in my style. It got me this far, so if I start putting pressure on it I might break what I already have. I’m just trying to just write really and be myself.

Your Jamaican influence and heritage have always been present within your music, especially on this project with the song, ‘Windrush Baby.’ How important is it for you to put your Jamaican roots at the forefront?

Baker: You can hear it in some of the lingo and whatnot that I’m proud, and my parents are proud of where they come from, so I’ve always wanted to hit the nail on the head with that. And I feel like, naturally, it came out on ‘Windrush Baby.’ Again, I don’t ever think about things too much. I’ll just listen to the guitar that I’ve made, and that’s what came out. I said that I’ve always wanted to strike that but in my own way, not in the conventional way of the West, like doing a big reggae tune or something.  

I was reading your essay on the Wind Rush generation as well, and you were saying that Jamaica’s your happy place. What’s the feeling you get there as opposed to here in London and in the UK?

Baker: Well, you can breathe and chill. You can take time. There’s no rush. It takes time to get places, you know? So, you make a plan for the day, and then you do it and enjoy it and then relax. You wake up early in the morning, enjoy the morning, have conversations and chill. You know, it kind of makes you realise what the actual gift of life is, and that is just to exist. Existing within itself was like a privilege, a huge, huge privilege. And I guess in a place like London and England, you forget that the prize is tickling the senses 24/7. If you just take time to realise that, it gives you a sense of happiness that you can’t really find here when you’re rushing about too much.

You’re never afraid to get political in your music and covering a variety of topics, especially on this album. Do you feel you are responsible for being a voice for the people who don’t have one?

Baker: Yeah, I didn’t really at first. I was just talking about what my own truth was, and then I slowly realised with the people that were listening that something was happening. People started to believe in me and put their efforts into me. I guess there’s a pressure that comes with that, really. Because, you know, I’m just trying to figure out how to stop being so horrible to myself, you know? So, when people build you up, and you think, “why are you doing that for me?” I’m just this; I’m just that. Do you know I’m going through this and that? But I guess you just got to put on your cape and fly innit.

On the track ‘Telephone 4 Eyes,’ you’re going against l the surveillance state, and as you were just talking about the freedom you have in Jamaica – how do you feel about the state of freedom here in the UK?

Baker: I’m a man that’s lost most of my friends to the system and incarceration. It’s an infringement of people’s privacy with all the information gathering, and it’s just constant, you know? I just feel like we don’t need that. All it really is is the powers that be just spying out on all of us. We’re just trying to live a good life. We don’t need that infringement. We don’t need that intrusion. We’re just trying to get on with it. You know what I mean? Then people start to live their life through the telephone, and then they can’t love. They can’t see, as I was talking about, the blessings they already have; they can’t recognise them because they’re not digitalised, or they don’t get enough likes, or some shit like that. People need to realise what we have right in front of us – we’ve got it all here, mate.

Another hallmark of the album is not only showing off the good times that partying can bring, but also the darker side of overindulging. Do you feel you have a responsibility to give both sides of the story and not just glorify these things?

Baker: Oh yeah, definitely. Oh my God, I do them both innit, so I feel both. I feel happy and then I feel the glum on the other side. I mean, it would be foolish to be just sitting there screaming and shouting about something that ultimately is quite negative without keeping and highlighting the other side. When you start to realise that people are starting to listen to you, you can have a certain influence. So, I’ve always got to make that very clear. If you’re going to do this, just understand that they go hand in hand.  

What would you say was the most difficult song for you to write on the project?

Baker: ‘Dying to live.’ Again, that reflection on life and realising that the things that I seem to enjoy doing always lead me to a fucking horrible deathly state, you know? I’m very aware of the damage that I’m probably doing to my insides, but I can’t help it. It’s like a double entendre, really – dying every time I feel like I’m having a good time, which is only when I’m fucking obliterating myself. There’s been a lot of bereavement happening around me. My grandma’s very, very old. The other day I went there, she didn’t recognise me. And my uncle died recently. So yeah, COVID was a dark time, coming out of that and losing people. I’m just trying to highlight those pains. I think you must go to the darkness, and when you feel pain, you must go towards it and accept it. You can’t run away from it.

How do you think your younger self would feel about the position you are now in, in music and life?

Baker: We take things very nonchalantly. It’s a gift and a curse, and I don’t really realise when we’re doing anything wicked and don’t praise it or whatever, we just get on with things, you know? It’s what most of my friends are like, so we always know that we’re very blessed, and we don’t take things to heart; we don’t cry over spilt milk. We just get on with things. So, my younger self would probably say to myself, “we always knew we were gonna do something — well-done boy, and just crack on.” I don’t need to revel in my self-loathing; there are other cunts that would do that. I just wanna get on with life.

So moving on to the summer, you’ve got a massive show coming up with Jamie T at Finsbury Park. How are you feeling about that?

Baker: I respect Jamie T; I know him personally, so I’m very happy. Just to see that I’m getting places now and my music’s getting me places is amazing. I’ve never changed how I view things, and it’s enabling me to play the biggest gig of my life. With those moments, you can give yourself a small pat on the back and say well done.

Later in the year, you have your European and UK tours. How does it feel going around the world knowing that these people are coming out specifically to see you?

Baker: Again, a small pat on the back [laughs]. Being on stage is when I’m the happiest, you know? I’m so happy when I’m on stage, so I look forward to the happiness that will come to me then. I don’t really get excited beforehand. I get excited when I’m there on the day, and I’ll try not to get drunk. They go hand in hand with me.

What’s on your rider for a show?

Baker: We have Patron, tequila, some beers, lemon and ginger for the throat, and that’s me, brother.

Do you have a goal in mind in all of this, or are you just taking everything as it comes?

Baker: My goal is to take my mum back home [to Jamaica]. She wants to go back home. So, if I can manage to take my mum back home and build on the land that she has acquired from her mum it would enable myself and her to live that happy, simple life that I talk about. Then, we’re good, man. I mean, I don’t need that much money in Jamaica. You can get by, man. You just need to have somewhere to live, and then you’ll be okay.

Hak Baker plays Finsbury Park with Jamie T, IDLES and more on 30th June, tickets are available to purchase here.

  • Writer Chris Saunders

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