Akala: Tour de Force
RnB/Hip Hop |
Tuesday 3rd November 2015 | Joe
With numerous appearances on current affairs shows and political debating chambers such as the BBC's Question Time, Kingsley James Davey - or Akala - is not your typical rapper. He styles himself as much as a writer and historian as a musician - but unlike many of his contemporaries, Akala actually lives up to this billing.
His rap alias Akala is meaningful in itself, coming from the Buddhist word for 'immovable', and the London-based artist has proved to be so in his decade or so in the limelight. Whether it is his TED talks, the hip hop panel discussion he hosted at The British Library in 2010, or his merking of EDL leader Tommy Robinson on the BBC Free Speech programme in 2013 - when Akala speaks, people tend to listen.
The same is true with his music. Akala's slow evolution from grime artist to a political and conscientuous hip hop diamond has increased his popularity. If there is one thing you cannot accuse him of - it is of having meaningless lyrics. As he spits in Murder Runs The Globe, questioning the role of our world leaders, 'There's nothing quite like killing - good riddance to non-supporters.'
Lyrcially, Akala is at the peak of his powers in Knowledge is Power II, released earlier this year to critical acclaim - and fans can expect much the same in his upcoming tour. There is a genuine message behind his bars, usually expertly delivered in his signature triplets, and the idea of Akala the educator is clear to see.
I may not be the most popular person if I argue, however, that this is not Akala's best work. There is a messiness and confusion in the production that seems to take away from the undoubted spitting talent. His collaboration with MIC Righteous in 'The Journey' is a classic example - two of the best rappers around get somewhat drowned out by the instrumental, especially in the mediocre hook.
Akala would be better served returning to his stripped-back semi-grime, semi-hip hop of his earlier albums. Knowledge is Power II contains flashes of this in album songs such as 'Freedom' and 'Sometimes' - but it doesn't happen enough. My advice to Akala: Keep it simple. You're good enough to.
2015 Tour dates