Backxwash wins the 2020 Polaris Music Prize

The Montreal-based horrorcore rapper wins the $50,000 prize.

The Montreal-based horrorcore rapper wins the $50,000 prize

On God has Nothing to do With This Leave Him out of It,' the Montreal-based hip-hop horrorcore artist attempts to reconcile everything that haunts her and fills her heart. (CBC Music)

Montreal-based rapper Backxwash has won the 2020 Polaris Music Prize for her album God has Nothing to do With This Leave Him out of It.

Today, a grand jury of 11 Polaris voters from across the country convened online to decide the winner of this year's big award, which is handed out every year to the best Canadian album of the year.

Backxwash, whose real name is Ashanti Mutinta, makes history with this win as the first hip hop-meets-metal artist and the first Black transgender woman to take home the grand prize in the award's 15-year run. 

"My existence itself is political, my livelihood is political, and the livelihood of my sisters is political," Mutinta said in an interview with CBC Music's Saroja Coehlo, immediately following her win.

The advice I'd give any trans person making music now is don't second-guess yourself and don't listen to what the machine says. Make music the way that you want to.- Backxwash


Last year's Polaris Music Prize winner, Haviah Mighty, made an appearance to announce Backxwash as the winner and briefly reflected on her own journey to victory last year.. 

"Absolutely incredible, I remember the bright lights like it was yesterday," Mighty said. "And just the opportunity to be so validated in the work that I created last year… and just get many many opportunities based on the fact that I won the Polaris."

In a press conference following Backxwash's win, Polaris Music Prize's executive director, Claire Dagenais, conducted her own interview before opening it up to the media. 

"I don't believe it!" Mutinta exclaimed. "It's trippy. It's awesome. It's symbolic because this is the most myself that I've been ever since I've started [as an artist]…. I think it's very symbolic of the world just telling me to be myself." 

Mutinta laughed and added, "I'm still shocked at it because I have so many self-esteem issues so it's hard to know if people actually like the work."

When asked how she plans to spend the $50,000 prize money, Mutinta revealed that while she doesn't have any plans yet, a new Backxwash record is already in the works. This time it will be a horror anthology. 

"Each track is going to take different characters inspired by real characters in my life," Mutinta said. "I'm producing it all. It's going to be gothic … there's going to be a few rock samples in there as well." 

She anticipates the new Backxwash album will be ready next spring or early summer. But the real question is about the real-life inspirations for these horror characters: Will she be putting people on blast, or will it be a loving tribute?

"A bit of both," Mutinta admitted with a laugh.

Backxwash - God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It (Short Film) | Polaris Prize 2020

1 year ago
Polaris and CBC Music present God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It, a short film by Ashanti Mutinta and Chachi Revah. 5:10

In an interview with CBC Music earlier this month, Mutinta reflected on this album resonating so deeply with a wider audience.

"It's kind of weird that this album got traction because as a queer person putting out music, you're constantly screaming into the void. It's ridiculous how many other funding programs and music prizes don't understand the importance of having women, trans and non-binary people on their short list. I like how Polaris is moving because all those groups are being highlighted and that's important." 

Mutinta also shared her thoughts about resisting conformity personally and creatively, and her advice to fellow transgender musicians. 

"Moving throughout the industry, my outlook now is this experience has given me much more confidence not to ever conform to the music machine. If I'm making honest art, the final message is very important. The advice I'd give any trans person making music now is don't second-guess yourself and don't listen to what the machine says. Make music the way that you want to."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.



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