Backxwash has won the prestigious 2020 Polaris Music Prize for her metal-infused hip-hop album, God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It. The award is presented annually to the best Canadian album, as decided by a jury of Canadian music journalists and broadcasters.
The Montreal-based, Zambia-born rapper had some steep competition this year, beating out records from Jessie Reyez (Before Love Came to Kill Us), Kaytranada (Bubba), Lido Pimienta (Miss Colombia), and more. Backxwash, whose real name is Ashanti Mutinta, also makes history as the first Black transgender woman to take home the grand prize in the award’s 15-year run. Prize winners receive $50,000 CAD.
In an interview with Complex Canada last month, Backxwash noted that while she’s gained a following among metal heads and experimental rap fans around the world, she’s felt largely ignored by Quebec’s hip-hop scene.
“I was having a talk with someone from SOCAN, and they said my album is the first English rap album from Quebec to make the Polaris shortlist,” she said. “That’s cool. But when you look at how hip-hop in Quebec looks at it, it’s more I’m the first trans rapper to make it to Polaris. They’d rather say that than claim me.”
Speaking with Complex Canada following her Polaris win, she elaborated on the situation, adding that she hopes her victory might change they we she’s received in her home province.
“It’s like I don’t even exist in the Quebec hip-hop scene and I can’t pinpoint why,” she said. “The Anglo scene [there] has been looking for a rapper to get behind, and I’m not saying I’m that rapper, but I’m just surprised that they haven’t shown me as much support as my friends. But if this gets me on their radar, that would be awesome as well.”
Backxwash—who couldn’t stop smiling in a video conference with Canadian media following the Polaris victory—added that being awarded the grand prize felt like the ultimate validation.
“It’s symbolic because this is the most myself that I’ve been ever since I started living on this earth,” she said. “It’s just incredible to think about. It’s very symbolic [of] the world just telling me to be myself.”