Dallas Woods and Baker Boy consider each other family. In fact, Baker Boy (born Danzel Baker) spent some of his school years with Woods’ childhood friends in Wyndham—a small town of about 800 nestled along the coast of the East Kimberly. They didn’t meet each other until 2014, at a camp run by the Indigenous Hip Hop Projects (IHHP). Dallas, a Noongar man, is only couple years older than 22-year-old Danzel, but he plays the dual roles of friend and mentor in Danzel’s life. It was Dallas who encouraged Danzel to look beyond dance and pursue music: “I said I couldn’t rap but Dallas told me to,” he recalls, “So I did.”
The IHHP is a big part of the Danzel-Dallas story. Both spent their teen years dancing with the community group, attending week-long dance camps where they’d learn the choreography that they’d go on to teach other Indigenous young people through the IHHP’s programs. Denzal and Dallas taught dance programs in schools, youth centres, and remote communities, often travelling together. The pair often reflect on their time touring the country with the IHHP, where their friendship—and Denzal’s desire to pursue music—really solidified.
Today, of the four songs Baker Boy has on Spotify, three have well over a million streams. Dallas’ first single ‘9 Times out of 10’ landed in July of this year, and that same month the pair shared a collaboration called ‘Black Magic’. Dallas co-wrote Baker Boy’s bouncing third single, ‘Mr La Di Da Di’, and usually plays hypeman during his live appearances. Last month, they performed a collaborative set at a Spotify’s Front Left Live Playlist gig in Sydney, sharing the spotlight with a natural ease. After the show, backstage, we caught up with the pair.
Hey guys, it’s really special to get the chance to speak with you together. Baker Boy, do you remember meeting Dallas? How long after that first meeting did you guys come to collaborate?
Baker Boy: Me and Dally met each other when I came down to Melbourne for an Indigenous Hip Hop Projects artist camp. It was my first artist camp, so I was a bit nervous. I was just focussed on dancing and learning all the routines. We had to do this thing where we’d sit in a circle and introduce ourselves. I found out that Dallas was from the same area that I went to school, and he was friends with all of the guys that I was friends with. I found out that he stayed at the same place in WA—East Kimberly, Wyndham. From there, he kind of took me under his wing. It took awhile for me to get comfortable talking to people, since I was away from home and only I knew a few friends from the performing arts school. Dallas and I did some [IHHP] tours together, and we became like brothers pretty much. What do you reckon Dally?
Dallas Woods: I saw you and, like you said, it was your first artist camp. I’d been through many before and I know what it’s like to come from a community and not have that sense of home in a big city. So I made sure that that wouldn’t happen to anyone else. We call each other ‘Ali’ now which means ‘Bro’. I used to say to him “Brother. Don’t be scared now I got you, you’re alright. If you need me to talk to anyone, I got you. Professional or even personal, I got you.” We started touring together and we started realising that we had that connection. Like he said, we went to school with my little brother’s friends. He knew a lot of my lingo and I knew a lot of his lingo—it was easy to talk. We ripped stage together a long time ago, and now we’re still doing it so…
Baker Boy: [Laughs] Yeah, we’re still here.
That’s awesome! How did you both get your start in music?
Dallas Woods: We’ve been dancers our whole lives, so music was always a part of us. On the IHHP tours, we used to play this game, “I heard you could freestyle.” Someone would be like “Hey Dallas, I heard you could freestyle.” Someone would beatbox and you would just have to rap. Freestyling was freedom to me. You could say whatever you wanted—there was no right or wrong. Every time I toured with someone who liked music or liked to sing, I’d be like “Hey, let’s freestyle!” They’d say “Oh I can’t freestyle,” and I’d be like “Just do it!” I was doing that with Danzel, and he really enjoyed it but he’d say, “I’m no good at it.” I’d say to him “You gotta break through that. You go home and write something, you won’t like it because no-one likes the sound of their own voice. I’ll tell you if it’s good.” When it comes to hip-hop I don’t lie. I’ll tell someone if it’s good. And he was good, so I told him to keep pursuing it and look where he is now. It’s good to be along for the ride.
Baker Boy: Yeah, Dally has always inspired me. The majority of the [IHHP] tours [I was on] were with him, and during our free time I would listen to him bust out some bars and freestyle. Like he said, I went back home and started writing. When I came back and rapped for him he said, “Yeah that’s good. I’m really proud of you. You did something new, for the first time, and you did it alright.” He supported me with that. It made me feel proud, so I wanted to do more. From there, Dion Brownfield from the Indigienous Hip-Hop Projects got me into the recording studio, and we started recording ‘Cloud Nine’. It was the first song I ever wrote and ended up being in the Hottest 100!
That’s really amazing to hear. Do you have any upcoming collaborations on the way?
Baker Boy: At the moment we’re focusing on making our own EPs. We both help each other out, though, Dally even helped me out with my first track, ‘Cloud Nine’. All through the songs he’s been helping out. We know we’re gonna do something together again.
Dallas Woods: It’s been over a year that we’ve been collaborating, performing, and travelling the country together. To me, collaborating has a lot of different meanings; it can mean writing, it can mean just being in the same room and vibing off each other. Every time we’re together, there’s never that negative vibe. It’s always good vibes. For me, in the future, collaborating just means seeing him keep excelling in his Black form, making better music for himself, and watching his growth. Collaboration is just supporting each other the way through.
It sounds like there’s a lot of mutual respect here. What is it that you most admire about each other? What have you learnt from one another?
Baker Boy: For me, it’s how Dally is loud and proud—he really doesn’t care what everyone thinks about him. He’s just himself. That gives me more confidence to be myself around other people. That I don’t have to be anyone else to make myself look good. And when it comes to work, Dally is always switched on. He’s always like “We have to do this. No mucking around!” We might have a little joke, but then it’s straight back into it. That’s what I love about Dally. He keeps me going. He’ll tell me if I need to do this or that to be better, but he’ll also say “I’m really proud of you for doing this.” [Laughs]
Dallas Woods: That’s pretty much what I feel for you, but in the older brother version. You take constructive criticism really well. You know that people like me, and certain people around you wouldn’t tell you that stuff out of spite. You just get better and better. That’s the other thing, I love seeing you grow. I’m so far from home, I’ve got little brothers, it’s so good to have little brother with me that I can see growing.
That’s really sweet! Are there any other Australian or International hip-hop artists that you’re loving at the moment?
Baker Boy: Manu Crooks and REMI are great. Ziggy Ramo too. Internationally, at the moment, it would be A$AP Rocky, J-Cole, Drake, Kendrick Lamar. Those are the people I’m listening to at the moment.
Dallas Woods: For me, I’m really starting to get into Kaiit—her voice is amazing. I hope she keeps doing what she’s doing. With Australian hip-hop, I love a lot of alternative artists. Really you can’t go past all the old school guys like Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Eso and all that. They paved the way. New school, you got B-Wise, Manu Crooks like Danzel said. They’re keeping Australia on the map but they’re doing it their own way. I love Sampha—she’s as talented as they come. Internationally, I’m a very big advocate when it comes to lyrics. When it comes to rappers, I like to pick the ones that are legit. To me J-Cole is the best rapper in the world right now when it comes to this generation. I’m loving a lot of Joyner Lucas. And Baker Boy!