POLARIS MUSIC PRIZE 2020 WINNER
God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It: Backxwash CONTENTS
REACHING BEYOND THE MAINSTREAM AGAIN
Polaris Prize winner features passionate flourishes of heavy-metal-hip-hop and its first transgender woman artist
The Polaris Music Prize’s penchant for reaching beyond the mainstream in choosing Canada’s best album of the year continues with its $50,000 annual award going to Montreal-based artist Backxwash for her album, God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It.
Zambian born, Backxwash is the stage name of Ashanti Mutinta, the first transgender woman to win the Polaris.
“My existence itself is political, my livelihood is political, and the livelihood of my sisters is political,” she said while accepting the prize.
“We just want rights, and we have to go through so many hurdles to do that, and I feel very connected to that struggle.”
In recent years the award has increasingly recognized BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists.
The Toronto Star’s report on the win notes: God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It stood out from the other competitors for the elements of horror woven into the lyrics, frequently evoking religious imagery.
“The album uses distorted samples of metal legend Ozzy Osbourne performing in Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and In Heaven a song from David Lynch’s film Eraserhead, alongside pointed words about her life experiences.”
Past winners are Haviah Mighty (2019), Jeremy Dutcher (2018), Lido Pimienta (2017), Kaytranada (2016), Buffy Sainte-Marie (2015), Tanya Tagaq (2014), Godspeed You! Black Emperor (2013), Feist (2012), Arcade Fire (2011), Karkwa (2010), Fucked Up (2009), Caribou (2008), Patrick Watson (2007) and Final Fantasy / Owen Pallett (2006).
About the Polaris Prize
Since its founding in 2006 the Polaris Music Prize has courted controversy with its unpredictably fluid criteria and sometimes idiosyncratic winning choices. The $50,000 prize is awarded by jury to the best new Canadian album of the year based on artistic merit alone.
The 10 acts on this year’s shortlist feature a gender diverse group evenly split between men and women and including seven BIPOC artists. Five of them have been shortlisted previously with three of them winning. The other five artists are all newcomers.
The nominees were Jessie Reyez, Kaytranada, nêhiyawak, Pantayo, Backxwash, Caribou, Junia-T, Lido Pimienta, U.S. Girls, Witch Prophet.
24 October 2020
GOD HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS LEAVE HIM OUT OF IT
Turning hip hop on its head
By Scott Simpson / Exclaim!
Backxwash‘s emergence as an artist to watch has been as meteoric as it has been prolific. Her string of releases, which includes debut EP F.R.E.A.K.S, follow-up BLACK SAILOR MOON, and debut LP Deviancy, you hear the sound of an artist honing in on their identity and sound.
Her music is intrinsically linked to her performance, which you can trace back to her start performing at Le Cypher jam nights in Montreal. Whereas earlier releases seemed composed with the stage in mind, God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It marks a shift towards something more restrained and focused without abandoning any of her earlier bombast or aggression. With most songs clocking in at under three minutes, this release has a real sense of immediacy and urgency while still managing to weave a compelling larger story.
This work is a culmination of the themes explored on previous releases, especially the intersection between faith, identity and queerness. The way the album explores identity, through the self and through other people’s perspectives, is as smooth as Backxwash’s flow, here on full display. She shies away from any oversimplification for the sake of narrative, instead revelling in a duality that feels menacing without being alienating.
If you want an idea of the album’s vibe, look no further than the opening title track: built around a bone-chilling Black Sabbath sample, it’s a short but bold introduction to what is a sometimes challenging but cathartic listen.
Backxwash’s lyricism, rhyme patterns and imagery are as sharp as ever; the wit and double meaning of lines like “I think it’s pretty sick how I lost a family” cutting through anybody who’s struggled with familial relations, especially queer kids. But it’s the production that stands out as assured, deep and layered, especially the clever use of a smorgasbord of samples, ranging from gospel choirs and church sermons to broken glass and Patti Smith.
The album’s two instrumental interludes, “Hell” and “Heaven,” present two beautiful contrasts — the former a soft art rock song ripe for a Godspeed-type extended cut, the latter a dark and warped vocal loop that leads into the stunning album closer. “Redemption” is an arresting piece that centres on a melodic, scratched country loop and a vocal sample of a pastor offering a sermon about the emotional and physical power of forgiveness. It’s a fitting end to Backxwash’s opus. Her anger is palpable, but not unfettered or untamed, instead it’s channelled carefully and forcefully through the project’s 10 tracks.
Because ultimately,God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It is a tale of forgiveness — or, in Backxwash’s words, a “version of forgiveness and things that I need to face in order to reach my version of that.” This is Backxwash at her most raw and unfiltered, a feat in itself for an artist whose career is built on those principles, who’s managed to internalize her influences, from vapourwave to Death Grips, in a way that feels natural and cohesive. All of her releases — four since 2018 for those of you counting — have been fully realized works, and now with God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It, Backxwash borders on the prodigious, showcasing an artist in full control of her craft and her story. (Grimalkin)