Follow Us on Twitter

Akira The Don - When We Were Young

Akira The Don, When We Were Young

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

AKIRA The Don is nothing if not obscure. There’s no easy way to pigeon hole him, given the eclectic nature of his recordings so far.

Part hip-hop, part urban, occasionally rap and sometimes indie-based, the artist is something of a minor wonder, especially given the use of his inventive artwork.

His debut album When We Were Young has been on its way for some time, so now that it’s finally arrived, it’s fascinating to be able to lift the lid on what’s inside. And, for sure, it’s a weird, occasionally wonderful mix that, at the very least, confirms Akira as one of the most fascinating artists of the moment.

If you like your music offbeat, yet capable of flirting with the mainstream, then this is certainly worth a listen. It’s packed with inventive beats – some of them catchy, others surreal – and big, sprawling dance numbers that’ll infect you with their energy even though you might not immediately appreciate everything.

The album is consistently interrupted by samples of movies, sometimes featuring the voice of Brian Blessed, which only add to the surreal vibe. But just as you’re ready to write it off as an experimental album for the leftfield brigade, it surprises you with catchy cuts that are easy to admire.

Former single Clones is a classic case in point. Produced with James Brown, the studio engineer for Nine Inch Nails, the song is constructed around an Alice Cooper sample and includes an industrial James Brown backdrop loaded with live instrumentations over which Akira drops some verbal bombshells with his trademark acerbic wit.

As usual, the targets are evil politicians and sick celebrities, while helping him out on this occasion is North West London MC, Bashy, who lends the track a distinctly urban flavour.

Opening track, Liverpool, meanwhile, recalls one of Akira’s adventures when he ran away from home as a youngling. It has been remixed by Keith Tenniswood, Andy Weatherall’s production partner, and is suitably dark and sinister, with a really in-yer-face mix of beats and guitars.

Both tracks effectively contrast the diverse nature of the album – charming and breezy one minute, hard-hitting and assertive the next.

In truth, it’s at its very best when keeping things light. Back In The Day, for instance, is a veritable joyride of a track that tosses in samples, urban rap, child choruses and tinkling piano chords with an almost giddy abandon. It’s endearing for all the right reasons, endlessly inventive and requiring of several listens to fully appreciate.

Likewise, the dark but catchily delivered Thanks For All The Aids, which instrumentally makes light of the darker agenda behind its themes – namely, the proliferation of sexual diseases that threaten the promiscuous youth of today and the scandalous lack of funding available for treating it.

1234567 is built around a backgound melody that’s oddly reminiscent of the Wham! rap, only much more trendy, and the haunting Dead Babies drops some haunting piano chords amid a sharp, snappy beat and some of the darkest lyrics on the long-player. It maintains a vice-like grip on your attention, though, which is impossible to deny, especially by the time the chorus kicks in.

There’s a hint of Jurassic 5-style hip-hop on penultimate offering Hypocrite, which also embraces the urban English values that are currently making so many people take notice of rappers such as Akala and Plan B.

Yet no matter what he’s doing, Akira The Don ensures that you’ll be paying attention to what he has to say, while simultaneously shuffling along to his infectious beats and melodies. When We Were Young is therefore a pretty amazing experience that keeps getting better and better the more you hear it.

Track listing:

  1. Intro
  2. Liverpool
  3. Clones
  4. Oh! (What A Glorious Thing)
  5. Love
  6. Bankers
  7. Thanks For All The Aids
  8. London
  9. Back In The Day
  10. 1234567
  11. Dead Babies
  12. Hypocrite
  13. Outro