Covering Notion 92, rising rapper BackRoad Gee takes us on a tour of the influences that have shaped him — from the sounds that filled his childhood home, to collaborating with Puma.
Though he keeps his true identity close to his chest, London’s latest rap prodigy BackRoad Gee is documenting his story through music. From the sounds that filled his childhood home to working with JAY-Z — and hopefully one day, Adele — he reflects on the influences that shaped him, both as an artist and an individual.
Very few artists come around and make an impact on the music industry in a short amount of time, but when they do, it is incredibly special. BackRoad Gee is a prime example of this, and whilst he remains an enigma, the more you find out about the artist, the more you want to know. Preferring to keep his real name hidden, it feels as though his reluctance to project his personal identity only heightens the allure of BackRoad Gee. The secrecy entices audiences further, enhancing the mystery of the man and encouraging listeners to invest in the phenomenon of the artist.
parts of London, picking up a multitude of different influences that would go on to play a key part in who he is now. None was more formative than his home life, where he honed his musical talents from early on. His mother’s love for Congolese music, as well as her extensive music collection stretching across the world, guided him through his younger years and formed him into the artist he is today. He explains: “I’ve always been involved around music from a very young age; my whole life, from age five or six, I’ve been into music. I grew up listening to everything. My house was just like a pit of music — African music, American music, UB40, all of that stuff.”
The rapper enhances his lyrics with his parents’ native language, Lingala, and occasionally flexes his French vocabulary — which to many might seem no more than effective ad-libs, but those who know BackRoad Gee are aware he’s paying homage to his roots. Talking on his upbringing and paying respect to his heritage within his music, he states: “My background has influenced me a lot. That was the first music that ever got played to me. Those are the structures that I understand. It played a big part back then, and still to this day. It was Congolese music getting played that pushed me into music. It taught me how to play the drums and guitar, and that’s what shaped me into the man I am today. Now I’m showing it in different ways.”
Having accomplished so much already — with highlights including collaborations with the likes of Pa Salieu and Ms Banks and the release of his exceptional 2021 album, Reporting Live (From the Back of the Roads) — it was his link up with one of the biggest artists in the world that amplified just how highly rated the rapper is. Working with JAY-Z on the colossal track “King Kong Riddim” for The Harder They Fall (The Motion Picture Soundtrack), BackRoad describes the studio session as a truly beautiful experience, emphasising: “I thank them for letting man even be a part of that situation. It was a blessing. It opened my eyes to help build myself.”
But it’s not all studio sessions and hours behind the scenes. Alongside his musical achievements, BackRoad has also landed some incredible brand deals, which the rapper comically jokes are “overdue!”. Having been approached by Puma, who have also collaborated with artists from Dua Lipa to Davido to DJ Snake, he tells me the partnership has seen him jetted out to various incredible locations. Working with the brand, the artist has performed at the Puma store in Berlin and been flown out to shoot a campaign in Malta, which he describes as a “truly crazy experience.” On his personal Puma picks, he shouts out the RS-X trainers, Slipstreams, and the CA Pros.
Despite finding fame and success, BackRoad Gee remains as humble as ever. Displaying his compassionate side, when I ask him to choose any superpower in the world, he calmly suggests that he’d be a healer — looking after those who need it and providing a much-needed boost to anyone struggling. And on the topic of how he spends his downtime: “I just like me time. Relaxing, eating some food and spending some time with the family.” It is this sense of humility that has carried him throughout his career, and is part of why he has built such a devout fan base — fans he’s dedicated to boosting in the same way his alter ego superhero healer would. “I want them to feel uplifted,” he insists. “Energised. Ready to kick on with their day and fight on throughout the whole year.”
It’s easy to see why it’s all going his way, and why so many want to work with this energetic, enigmatic artist. With undeniable talent, a clear vision, an infectious personality and charismatic charm, he possesses the ideal combination to navigate a strong, consistent rise to the top.
In his eyes though, there is still so much to achieve. BackRoad has big plans, and even bigger collaborations on his mind. “I’m still waiting on Adele,” he laughs. “And I’ve got a couple of other people that I want to hook up with.” He envisions selling out shows at the likes of The O2 Arena — an ambitious goal, but solidly achievable. Until then, he remains relatively coy about what’s to come next year, but promises “a lot of craziness coming for the rest of 2022.” Despite not being able to expand further on what the future holds for BackRoad Gee, one thing is for certain: it will be fuelled by the same electric energy that’s propelling him to become one of the biggest names on the scene.