New York-based artist Baba Ali has been on our radar ever since he impressed us with ‘Nomad’ his illuminating EP from back in 2017. Having shared the emphatic uptempo grooves of I’ve Been Voodoo’d later the same year he marked his return earlier this week with the moody experimental funk of ‘Nothing’. Accompanied by an equally moody yet fun visual, the track evokes George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” with shades of Prince’s “Black Sweat” – but don’t get it twisted, this is no copy and paste as Baba Ali who has expanded his musical palette by teaching himself guitar puts his unique spin on the track. A more than welcome return, we caught up with Baba Ali to talk about new music, videos, musical inspirations and more.
It’s a little while since the Nomad EP, what have you been up to? Fingers crossed a new EP!
It has been a while! Well when I first put out the Nomad EP, it was right before I got accepted to study art at Goldsmiths. I had no idea the music would get such a strong response! I moved out to South London for two years… I got to do a lot of opening slot gigs in London and also all around England and Europe. Art school was cool… it gave me an opportunity to perform music and work with sound in a slightly different context and I think the freedom to experiment and push my limits really opened up new understandings of what it means to be a performer and how that energy can connect with an audience. Back to the music though! Last autumn I shut myself in and wrote endlessly and got a whole album’s worth of material so that’s exciting! I was just out in LA for a while working with a really dope producer (not gonna reveal who it is just yet!). Following this new release, ‘Nothing’, I’m set to have a productive year as I will gradually reveal my debut LP with more single releases and visuals dropping in the following months.
How has your style changed or developed since creating Nomad?
I think the essence and my approach has remained true to what I originally set out to do with the first EP. I always love it when a song or an artist has a stripped-down, no-nonsense vibe… it always feels more immediate and urgent yet also confident and edgy. I’d say that I’ve just kept zeroing in more to that feeling but I’ve also started mixing that with more traditional songwriting approaches… I’ve been slowly learning how to play guitar too, and I’ve been working with a friend who plays guitar and bass so that’s become an additional feature in the new music and my live act. We met while we were both bartenders at a gin pub down in Whitechapel, and I always used to dig the music he’d play while we were on shifts.
What’s the concept behind the video for ‘Nothing’?
Well, it started out with the idea of making a lyric video, but I usually find lyric videos a bit boring and lazy so I wanted to make something that was fun and dynamic but also has an edginess to it that reflected the vibe and mood of the song. I switched up my singing style for this song to a kind of cold robotic thing, so the idea of a digital screen delivering the lyrics immediately came to mind. And for some reason this image popped up in my head of a slo-motion shot of me hopping around on a pogo stick…. it just seemed to make sense for the final chorus—sometimes you just gotta follow your gut!
You’re currently without a record label. If you could sign for one record label who would it be and why?
I don’t wanna jinx myself by naming any particular labels but I will say that I’d love to sign for an independent label that has a smaller team and a family vibe to it. Since the Nomad EP, I’ve been guided by the management team from Wichita Recordings and I love it because the relationship is professional but at the same time its a real friendship which is something I value a lot in how I operate in the music scene.
Who have been some of your biggest musical inspirations and how have they personally influenced your music?
I honestly listen to so much music all the time, that the influences are hard to pinpoint so I’ll just say this: On one day I’ll be listening to J Dilla and the Wu-Tang Clan. On another day I’m listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Then the next day I’m listening to Sleaford Mods and King Tubby. Then the next, I’m onto Prince and Tom Tom Club. But then I’ll be obsessed with “Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks while also listening to SonnyMoon, Tom Waits and Omar S. But I always return back home to the music of my childhood, Fela Kuti!
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. Any last words?
Thanks for your support! Make sure to keep an eye out for me and keep listening. Hope to see you at a gig soon!
Nothing/ Running is out now. Buy here.