Backxwash Wins 2020 Polaris Music Prize For Album Released On Richmond’s Grimalkin Records
This past Monday night, Canadian-based artist Backxwash won the 2020 Polaris Music Prize for her album God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out Of It, an album that was originally released by local label and QTBIPOC collective Grimalkin Records.
Released this past May, the Zambia-born trans rapper’s album began to build up momentum with features on Exclaim, Bandcamp Daily, The Needle Drop, and other influential publications which praised the music’s bold and fierce take on horrorcore rap, a brand of rap music that relies on supernatural & occult themes laced with metal & hard rock samples. It’s a genre Backxwash, real name Ashanti Mutinta, put front and center in her initial response to winning the award, the excited tweet “OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!! NO HOMO BUT WE DID ACTUALLY BRING HORRORCORE TO THE POLARIS,” a more excited reference to her tweet from July after being revealed as part of the shortlist for the award.
The excitement in that statement mirrored many in the local and global trans community, who rightfully view this win as a major milestone in their fight for inclusion and acceptance of their true selves, something Backxwash touched down upon in her inspiring statement released to Polaris after her win:
“Be as honest as you want to be and create the art that you want to.”
Backxwash joined Richmond’s Grimalkin Records in early 2019 and her first release with the collective, Deviancy, came out that July. Deviancy marked the first of four releases Backxwash put out in collaboration with Grimalkin, which also included the November 2019 single Black Magic and STIGMATA EP, the August follow-up to her now award-winning album and her last release as a member of Grimalkin.
Nancy Kells, Grimalkin co-founder who also records under the moniker Spartan Jet-Plex, worked closely with Backxwash on a number of projects and was overjoyed by her tremendous success. “Everyone at Grimalkin is happy for her success,” Kells stated. “It was great being able to help her release music and we are excited to see what she does next. We wish her all the best in everything.”
Established in 2006, the Polaris Music Prize is awarded every year to the best full-length release from a Canadian artist based strictly on artistic merit. Its short list of nominees was released this past July and included artists such as U.S. Girls. Caribou, Lido Pimienta, Caribou, Jessie Reyez, Pantayo, and more. In winning, Backxwash not only joined an illustrious list of past winners such as Arcade Fire, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Feist, and Tanya Tagaq, but also took home the cash prize of $50,000.
As mentioned, this win is a major milestone for trans artists in the world and should be celebrated for its historic inspiration. On another level, this is also a win for the DIY community and small record label community, two communities that have been ravaged in 2020 due to the pandemic and social unrest, but will surely bounce back better than ever before.
Take the time today to listen to the monumental record God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out Of It if you haven’t already. Afterwards, make sure to take some time and re-visit some of Grimalkin’s other releases, including their most recent one, Procuram Quati by South American duo Pedroso & Pedrosa released earlier this month. If you like what you hear, make sure to check out their Bandcamp page at grimalkinrecords.bandcamp.com for more releases and their Patreon at patreon.com/grimalkinrecords for exclusive content.