Fr, 08.09.2023
Einlass: 19:00 | VVK:20EUR | TICKETSmiley face | AK: 24 EUR
Hak Baker does not, on the face of it, seem like an obvious candidate for apocalyptic thoughts. To
encounter the acclaimed Isle of Dogs native and self-styled ‘G-folk’ star – all devilish grin, infectious East
End charm and whirling tales of youthful mischief – is not to be immediately put in mind of a jittery
doomsday prepper, stacking canned goods in a bomb-proof shelter. But appearances can be deceiving.
And now, Baker’s forthcoming progression as an artist, an extraordinary creative leap tailor-made for an
era of social inequity, internet addiction and post-pandemic disillusionment, arrives shaped by his belief
that (figuratively, at least) only societal collapse can pave the way for a better, brighter tomorrow.
“We’re bombarded with information these days and everywhere you look things are going to shit,” he
says, flashing that trademark smile. “Communication is dying, generic people skills are in the ground.
People are scared to do things because they’re scared of the incoming war. But it’s on the tip of
everyone’s tongue and on the edge of every phone screen. Everyone’s a diplomat and all about this
talking. But I really feel like things have to be completely burnt and destroyed before they can come back

The result of this urge is the fittingly revolutionary World’s End FM: a debut album of staggering scope,
ambition and scuffed melodic gorgeousness that introduces the wider world to Baker’s singular, mercurial
folk-poetry in the manner of a molotov cocktail being ‘introduced’ to a window. Its premise alone is hard to
resist. Building on the street-level stories and bruised geezer confessionals of his output since 2017’s
career-launching Misfits EP, World’s End FM takes the form of a pirate radio broadcast from the edge of
armageddon. Executive produced by Hak and Karma Kid and compiled from two years of prolific sessions
with in-demand producers including Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey, Shrink and Misfits producer Ali
Bla Bla, the record crackles as the genre dial is twiddled from rip-snorting post-punk to lilting roots
reggae. A rolling cast of friends and family (including Connie Constance and Allan Mustafah aka Kurupt
FM’s MC Grindah) drop by for phone-in skits; and there, at the centre of it all, is Baker – a one-man Greek
chorus and cackling conduit, leading the listener through this unsettling, exhilarating, and unexpectedly
life-affirming apocalyptic fantasia.

Even set against Baker’s recent career achievements – co-signs from the likes of Annie Mac, Skepta and
Mike Skinner, playing on a Stratford rooftop to inaugurate the the BBC’s new East Bank live session
studio, roping in Pete Doherty for a rambunctious, mosh-swelling version of A Message To You Rudy on
the Other Stage at last year’s Glastonbury – it is a gigantic artistic swing that recalls other iconic,
high-wire creative accomplishments. It is a kind of good lad, m.A.A.d City; or A Grand Don’t Come For
Free for the extremely online era. And if this is all sounding dangerously like a concept album then, well,
that’s another c-word that Baker is all too happy to embrace and employ.
“Oh it definitely is,” he says, beaming again. “I remember loving Busta Rhymes, Method Man and Lauryn
Hill albums back in the day – the ones where they had loads of skits and interludes that you wouldn’t skip
because they were part of the experience. I thought it would be a good part of the armoury, really. So that
was why we whipped it all together.”

That Busta Rhymes’ 1998 LP Extinction Level Event would provide the unlikely partial inspiration for a
suite of spiky, quintessentially British modern folk songs tells you a little something about the eclectic
nature of the erstwhile Hakeem Baker’s influences. And, also, the unconventional nature of his path to
success. This is, after all, a young man who was weaned on Bob Marley, who sang as part of Southwark
Cathedral choir even as he came of age amid nicked cars and egged windows in the isolated wilds of
E14, first tasted fame as a 14-year-old part of Channel U-approved grime crew B.O.M.B. squad (“We
thought we was big, big boys, going to MC at these little clubs in Romford,” he says. “Don’t forget that
Moet cost 30 quid back then so we were having it large”) and only fell in love with the guitar when, during
his time as an inmate at HMP Portland, he won his first one in a prison raffle.

Those eclectic collisions are evident throughout World’s End FM. Especially so on Telephones 4 Eyes: an
itchy, pulsating howl of bovver booted rock that takes aim at our perma-scrolling, surveillance culture, was
brought to life by director Mulhern’s body-horror visuals, and marked Baker’s first collaboration with Dan
Carey (maverick cohort of Fontaines DC, Kae Tempest, Warmduscher and many more). “Dan’s this crazy
punk man and so when we started making a tune about revolt, that was just what came to me,” he says.
“Everyone has that feeling where they just want to dash their phone across the room because it’s pissing
them off. But then you do that and then in 45 seconds you’re going to collect it again.”

There’s a similar full-throttle snarl and attitude to album opener Doolally (a half-rapped, funk-tinged
plunge into the bleary haze of an triumphantly messy Friday night), the raw, guitar-driven thrust of
Brotherhood and, perhaps most pivotally, the FIFA-approved summer 2022 single, Bricks in the Wall: a
positively enormous, Billy Bragg-worthy underclass anthem of such defiant, earworming heft that it has
taken Baker a while to acclimatise to the effect it has on audiences. “I was a bit fearful about playing it
because it’s big, innit?” he notes, almost sheepishly. “It was the first intro into bigger-sounding tunes and
so it was really inspiring to see the response.” Produced by Karma Kid (Biig Piig, Rudimental), it builds on
the spare, tuneful nostalgia of Misled (the post-lockdown, 2021 project and follow-up to second release
Babylon that marked their first professional link-up) while also acting as a timely call to arms for the global
community of disenfranchised, big-hearted ‘Misfits’ that form Baker’s core, rampantly loyal audience. The
same goes for I Don’t Know, with its seesawing whistle-along melody, finger-picked guitar, and typically
quotable skewering of modern melancholy (‘I don’t even get high,I get heavy/Sat and watched the day go
by, no telly’).

Yet on one of the record’s most arresting moments Baker widens the lens to pointedly put his life and
career in historical context. Borne by a sun-warmed, shuffling groove and enriched by a closing voice
note from Baker’s mum (“She’s got a very sharp tongue and she sent over some big old paragraphs that
we had to cut down,” he notes), Windrush Baby was an opportunity for this fiercely proud son of the
Docklands to fully mark out his lineage and proclaim his Jamaican heritage. “I think people get confused
and they don’t really know where to put me,” says Baker, who remembers being nicknamed ‘Cockney’ by
fellow black inmates in prison because of the supposedly confusing way he spoke. “I’m from east London
and I love it but, before that, I’m double Caribbean. My mum made sure I knew a lot about myself. I never
had any inferiority about what I could do and I was always in tune with how powerful I am and what I
come from.”

It’s the straight-spine afforded by Baker’s upbringing as a Caribbean-heritage, working class east
Londoner – the muslim dad who always reminded him to look a man in the eye; the older sister who
bailed him out of jail when his mum refused to; the hard-won, cross-cultural unity that he helped foster
between the factions of white kids and black kids on the Isle of Dogs – that makes him the man that he is
and suffuses World’s End FM with its humanity and warmth. It can be heard in Collateral Cause: a driving,
lush hymn to defiance in the face of threats to the body and spirit. It is there in Run (a live recorded,
Caribbean-infused back-a-yard Western of a tune that first existed in demo form six years ago) and in the
closing track, End of the World, which features a sprawling chorus of voices giving their last rites, Baker’s
poetic, Gil Scot-Heron-like pronouncements and a typically unflinching, necessary conversation about
depression and male suicide (“I’m trying to help the boys better themselves and drop their guard,” he
notes, his voice cracking. “Me and my friends are good people and that’s the kind of world we like to
create”). And it is very much there in Almost Lost London, a sumptuous, widescreen coda of ragged
strings and swelling melodies, that feels like Blur’s Universal amid the wreckage of revolution, and
underlines World’s End FM’s paradoxically hopeful message. A message that, disillusioned as he was
after a few years living in rapidly gentrifying and unequal parts of east London, Baker needed to deliver to
himself as much as to anyone else.

“I don’t serve no tick box merchant – I serve myself first and working class people that struggle for a
reason to smile and believe in themselves,” he says, in a quiet voice. “That song is about normal people
who make music maybe making a little bit of money so they can represent London and how they feel.” He
pauses to gather himself. “Maybe we can put money into youth clubs, give a bit of a public bollocking to
the government and also ask why it’s the working man and working establishments that should be bled
dry first when cuts are being made. We’re the cogs of this whole place and the city is relying on us.” Hak
Baker’s debut broadcasts this message of unity, protest and collective power loud and clear, while also
announcing him as a vital, inimitable voice for those often denied one. Rip it up and start again. The end
of the world has never sounded so bold, so imaginative, or so thrillingly full of the glorious, chaotic wonder
of life.
Alle Termine

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