Wonderland.

BAKAR

The genre-spanning guitar band led by a frontman determined to write a new narrative.

Bakar lying on floor

T-shirt MIDNIGHT STUDIOS X SEX PISTOLS, vest ALYX, trousers SUPREME, loafers STUSSY X DR MARTENS 2018

Bakar lying on floor
T-shirt MIDNIGHT STUDIOS X SEX PISTOLS, vest ALYX, trousers SUPREME, loafers STUSSY X DR MARTENS 2018

At street level in Finsbury Park there’s a security guard pacing outside Poundland in the way that only jobsworths do: stalking the scorched pavement hawk-eyed, hands clasped behind his back. A real Employee of the Month type. 20 foot above his line of vision, musician Bakar and his band of Bad Kids are appearing between chimney pots and attic room window sills, slipping out onto the flat square of the store’s roof, their feet blurred by the rising shimmer of the summer heat as they skulk around. The Poundland protector is clueless.



Three weeks prior, Bakar had been treading a different kind of terrain. The musician was the fourth face out of the gate at Virgil Abloh’s debut runway show as Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton; he wore a white on white monogrammed suit, and joined a curated class of creatives fronting the show including A$AP Nast, Steve Lacy, Kid Cudi and Dev Hynes. Not bad for someone who’d just dropped their debut tape. Hynes was a particularly significant comrade for Camden-raised Bakar, having grown up listening to his sonic evolution from Test Icicles’ nu-rave hyperactivity, to the indie sensitivity of Lightspeed Champion.  



“I was saying to him, like, ‘Yo, I was a kid in the crowd watching you be Lightspeed Champion,’” Bakar tells me, remembering the much beloved — and since departed — Underage Festival that acted as an introduction to live music for many London kids in the noughts. “He couldn’t believe it,” Bakar continues. “And that was a big thing for me, to see a black dude on stage doing weird shit… I was into Bloc Party too, ‘cause the music was fucking sick, but there was definitely something about seeing a black guy front a band in such a white dominated scene.”

Jacket ALYX, trackpants NIKE X MMW

Jacket ALYX, trackpants NIKE X MMW

Like Hynes and Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke who soundtracked Bakar’s adolescence (officially, his age remains a mystery: “infinity”, he replies when I ask for a number), as the frontman of a guitar-led band he’s now holding a position not all that commonly filled by artists of colour. Often mis-labelled as rap, the sound of his May-released mixtape Badkid is too complex to condense into one genre. Produced by Zach Nahome, the punk-y collection of anecdotes and observations undulates between the cushioning of layered vocals and abrupt, half-barked hollers. “I knew I wasn’t going to be a rapper or anything, so I was just trying to figure it out,” he says, explaining his teenage appetite for indie bands led him to investigate what his own musical style would eventually be, sparked by Foals’ 2008 debut Antidotes. “That was a game changer for me, that album. It was the album where I understood guitar music. Chili Peppers helped me understand that kind of music, it just made sense to me. It was like [lead singer, Anthony Kiedis] was rapping.”



After uploading songs to Soundcloud anonymously in 2016, Bakar put his name to a track for the first time last year. “Sharing Is Caring” exists in the same vein as Badkid; an ode to young romance, best expressed by going twos on a Camel. Recent headlines will have you believe we millennials are all paragons of virtue who abstain from drink, drugs and sex in favour of #wellness, but the feverish, switching tempo of Badkid is a snapshot of hedonism on a budget, with its scruffy love songs and stories of downing pints, popping pills and getting mugged. “I was the bad kid at school, just with authority in general,” he expands on the title choice, “then even deeper than that, if you see the cover, my dad’s face is vandalised with my little character. It’s to signify I guess what represents a lot of black kids – that empty space, that missing parental figure in your life. Then becoming the naughty kid or the bad kid, being misunderstood.”


Bakar and band group shot

[L-R] Kwame wears trousers VINTAGE, t-shirt STUSSY. Jack wears shirt RAF SIMONS 2003, jeans VETEMENTS X LEVIS. Bakar wears t-shirt MIDNIGHT STUDIOS X SEX PISTOLS, vest ALYX, trousers SUPREME. Lones wears overalls STUSSY, Kieran wears t-shirt CACTUS PLANT FLEA MARKET, trousers VINTAGE.

Bakar and band group shot
[L-R] Kwame wears trousers VINTAGE, t-shirt STUSSY. Jack wears shirt RAF SIMONS 2003, jeans VETEMENTS X LEVIS. Bakar wears t-shirt MIDNIGHT STUDIOS X SEX PISTOLS, vest ALYX, trousers SUPREME. Lones wears overalls STUSSY, Kieran wears t-shirt CACTUS PLANT FLEA MARKET, trousers VINTAGE.

Bakar ended up in boarding school in Surrey for his secondary education. “When I first went there I’d come from state school and shit, I hated it… I was like, ‘What’s all this grass?’ I didn’t like the authority, it was way more strict than normal school. So at first I hated it, but then I’m the kind of person that’s a clown. I got into it and I made friends.” His dorm mate’s older brother would pass down burnt compilation CDs of the burgeoning bands at the time; Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks, The Maccabees, Klaxons and Mystery Jets. “People don’t give bands like The Maccabees and the Mystery Jets enough credit for raising a generation,” he bemoans while we both reminisce. “It helped,” he continues, “just going outside of London in general — not boarding school in particular — but going outside of London and hearing other tastes and how that can relate to me, it definitely did something to me.”


Now he’s found his own lane, and success with it, Bakar has set his aspirations astronomically high in-line with his rapid rise. “I want to have the number one album in the country, that’s my goal. I’m bored of all this Ed Sheeran shit…” Thank god someone said it. Bakar and his band, Kwamz (drums), Jack (guitar), Kieran (guitar) and Lones (bass/keyboard) might not be the most polished performers yet — they’ve only existed as their current unit for five months — but their unpredictability and anarchic charm might rouse listeners determining who tops the charts from their sanitised pop slumber.

“I want to be the alternative, be the example, be the leader of the whole new thing,” he enthuses. “The narrative of black musicians in this country right now is just – I don’t even want to say the ‘u’ word, but the narrative is so condensed into one tunnel. And that’s cool, I love all that shit as well, but I’m just like, ‘Yo! There’s a whole other thing going on.’ My thing is just to bring light to that… I’m really trying to compete on a big scale. I’m trying to compete with The 1975 and shit like that.” Already selling out shows in the UK and with gigs further afield TBA, in case I missed the message, Bakar assures me before we depart: “I’m not here to play around.” You’ve been warned.

Taken from the Autumn 2018 Issue; out now and available to buy here.

Hoodie PSYCHWORLD, vest and jacket ALYX

Hoodie PSYCHWORLD, vest and jacket ALYX
Photography
Elliott Wilcox
Fashion
Jordan Vickors
Words
Lily Walker
Makeup
Lauren Griffin @ The London Style Agency using MAC Cosmetics
BAKAR

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