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Akala - Introducing a new UK hip-hop star


Feature by Jack Foley

THE streets gave birth to hip hop and the streets are where it lives. But the corporate world stole rap. Now Akala, a new North London artist, is stealing it back.

“Garbage,” is how Kingslee ‘Akala’ Daley describes “what was once, not that long ago, the most charismatic, enigmatic, energetic, lyrically creative music on the planet”.

The 22-year-old believes the medium has now turned into a reflex idiolect for plastic players with false values and arid imaginations, who know the price of bling but the value of nothing.

With his debut album, It’s Not A Rumour, due for release on April 24 through Illa State Records, Akala attacks a lazy, retrograde rap scene from all sides, intent on moving it both forward and back into what it was in the first place – a generational voice for change, empowerment and salvation, for himself, his people and for the streets.

It’s Not A Rumour is designed at crystallising everything that’s gone before it and smashing through current rap conventions.

It draws on a spectrum of influences from balladry and soul to trance, punk and far beyond, having been influenced by the likes of Jay-Z, Curtis Mayfield, Sil Austin, Naughty By Nature and cult NY folk band, The Honey Brothers.

It also promises to explore a territory unfamiliar to rap: elemental guitar rock built on distorted chords and thundering drums.

Fans can already hear an example of this on current single The Edge (out March 27) which attempts to fuse rap with the radio-friendly rock of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Whie album tracks like This Is London take off where The Clash’s London Calling left off.. Stand Up, meanwhile, takes an incendiary Van Halen-style riff and uses it to put forward a call-to-arms for every UK ghetto.

And on Yeah Yeah Yeah Akala samples doomy, Black Sabbath-style guitars and attacks modern fakery in all its forms.

So who is Akala? Kingslee Daley chose the name because it represents a Buddhist moniker that means ‘immovable’.

He has always been very talented yet unable to sit still, determined to challenge himself and excel in whatever he does.

In school, he achieved straight As at GCSE, while on the sports scene he played for West Ham and Wimbledon. He then briefly worked in the fast-food trade, running an Ayia Napa jerk joint – all before he turned 20.

Now, he is concentrating his energies on hip-hop, producing his own videos, distributing white labels, mixtapes and founding his Illa State label.

Akala designed the Illa State logo: a Union Jack in the black, gold and green of the Jamaican flag. This colour scheme couldn’t be more appropriate: in the Jamaican original, gold represents natural beauty and wealth; green signifies resources and hope; black denotes hardships endured.

Akala started as he meant to go on – controversially. Back in 2004, he rapped from the top of a police car in the video for his breakout white label, War/Banga 4 Da Streets.

While on his incendiary mixtape, he spat hot-blooded Phd grammar over C.R.E.A.M, Dead Prez and other bangers. By early 2005, he booted Roll Wid Us out across London’s pirate radiosphere, tore up clubs and supported 50 Cent.

His debut album stems from his tough upbringing on the ragged streets of Camden, where he claims to have endured being hassled by police, humiliated by teachers and watching his mother deal with breakup, cancer, discrimination and poverty.

His writing style is, in fact, a non-writing style, given that he has never committed a single lyric to paper.

When he downloaded years of internal dialogue, reflection and intuitive lyricism into the Chelsea studio of production partner Reza Safinia – collaborator with for Wu-Tang Clan, Timbaland and Kylie Minogue – It’s Not A Rumour is what resulted.

Talking about his inspiration and the decision to draw on guitars for his rapping, Akala says: “The only new music which seems to capture my imagination is rock. I’m listening to a lot of different shit, from White Stripes to Editors; yet still my all time favourite has to be the Chilli Peppers, their old shit’s still on a whole other level to everyone else.

It’s Not A Rumour is hip hop, but not as we know it. When I make music, I strive to make hip hop in the truest sense of the word,” he continues.

“Hip hop is music that knows no boundaries, music that effortlessly fuses contradictive cultures, styles, genres, and points of view. Rap – hip hop’s long lost son – has forgotten all of those things and failed to recognize the family traditions of integrity and honesty.”

The album hits the streets on April 24, 2006. Watch The Edge video