"Experience, go through things, then create..."

“When I make a song I use all my energy,” explains vocalist Bakar, from his home in Camden. His debut mixtape ‘BADKID’, which dropped earlier this year, lives up to that claim - channelling the ramshackle, punkish energy of his home borough. A whirlpool of lethargic xan-rap, indie rock and nu-rave, it balances reflective moments with a Bloc Party- esque, claustrophobic urgency.

“Sometimes when I leave the studio I’m musically and emotionally drained,” he continues. “I can’t be there every single day, I get bored. I need to live life. I think time outside the studio is just as valuable, I’ve learnt that.”

A lifelong hip-hop fan, he experienced something of a musical awakening at the age of 14, when his mum sent him away to boarding school in Surrey “for just being a cunt.” There, he discovered the Popworld-championed indie bands making waves at that time, in part thanks to a friend whose brother would burn mix-CDs for the pair.

“Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, the nu-rave kind of era too. Hadouken were out,” he recalls. “That was my entry point and I just loved everything around it. I guess as a teenager I gravitated towards sub-cultures. When I think back to some of the records that made me a bit more informed, for instance hearing ‘By The Way’ by Chili Peppers, that just made sense to me because I was like, ‘Oh, he’s rapping anyway.’”

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By the time GCSEs came around, he was hitting up as many festivals as he could, seeing everyone from Rage Against The Machine to Jay-Z. A decade on, he’s starting to play them himself. “I’ve never been to Glastonbury with a ticket,” he says, laughing. “I’ve been four times and every time I’ve been I’ve climbed over or found some way to get in. And pretty much every time I’ve been there I’m just selling drugs. So when I go to play, for my friends - I’m talking about like 80 people my age group, not just from North London, that really did this festival thing - it will be such a big thing to see one of our own on stage.”

Having done a few smaller shows this summer - notably at Amsterdam’s Appelsap, an incubator for hotly tipped hip-hop acts - he is currently developing his live craft. “I think at first I was running out and playing a bunch of tunes in a really garage band way,” he says. “But now it’s a bit more thought out. It’s still really raggo; I know there’s gonna be a transition point from us just tearing these songs to absolute fucking shreds to trying to work out how I make them sound as big as I can.”

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It might start from a conversation or it might just happen randomly...

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Part of the allure of Bakar’s music is the twisting instrumentals, which, in the mould of contemporaries like Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar and Kojey Radical, sound perfectly crafted to his vocals, rather than bolted together. These are the product of a tight collaboration with a single producer, Zach Nahome, from neighbouring Highgate - although their paths only crossed when they were connected by a mutual friend from America.

“Right at the start Zach had a batch of beats and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this guy has the sound,’” Bakar remembers of their first meeting. “But more so nowadays I’ll be there with him and we’ll start something together, it might start from a conversation or it might just happen randomly. Being the kind of artist that doesn’t really shackle myself to one genre, I needed someone across the board who could do what I wanted to do, but do it at a high level.”

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Having close friends who “speak the same language,” and who he can bounce ideas off, is vital, he explains. “Sometimes I show him a song and he hates it. You need that. It’s not like some ultimate kindredship. I think he’s more opinionated; he really knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like. I’m a bit more unsure.”

A touchstone for both Bakar and Zach during the making of ‘BADKID’ was Gorillaz’ ‘Demon Days’. “That’s just one album I remember thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to try and go in this direction,’” he says. “I loved that there were songs on that album that went massive, but it was actually a crazy concept album. It also had these moments where it proper connected.”

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I’ve never been to Glastonbury with a ticket!

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So, after several “births and re-births” ‘BADKID’ was released online in May, and Bakar’s name is now on the lips of luminaries ranging from Elton John to Skepta. “I’m about to go on tour in America in January,” he reveals. “I wanted ‘BADKID’ to make us play worldwide, which is exactly what it’s enabling us to do.”

But while he’s happy to have proven himself, he doesn’t want to become complacent. “I think pressure is important. I always put pressure on myself to make better songs that connect more,” he admits. “It took me a year to make. I just needed to live life, go through things; it’ll be the same with whatever I do next - experience, go through things, then create. I know if I do that, I will make another excellent body of work.”

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Words: Alex McFadyen
Photography: Liam Hart
Fashion: Beatriz Maues

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