Tuesday 16 November 2010
Academy 3, Manchester
Over the last few years Kingslee ‘Akala’ Daley, 26, has emerged from London’s hip hop underground and into the mainstream as one of the leaders of a new British artistic renaissance. Bursting into the underground scene in 2004, he made history by being the first unsigned artist to have a video appear on MTV UK’s ‘TRL’. 2006 saw his first album ‘It’s Not A Rumour’ drop with trance-sampling smash single ‘Shakespeare’ being play-listed and championed on BBC’s Radio 1 via the support of influential DJ, Zane Lowe. The album received critical acclaim and earned Akala the ‘Best Hip Hop Artist’ award at the 2006 MOBO awards, beating out Kanye West. Reflecting the disorder and flux of contemporary life, Akala’s second album ‘Freedom Lasso’ was an energetic visionary essay on modern life, drawing influences from the whole spectrum of music – rap, rock, electro and punk. Summer 2010 see’s Akala return, poised to flip-turn the UK music scene once again with his third effort: DoubleThink.
It's not often that an album comes along that shares debts to Radiohead, Aphex Twin and Depeche Mode as strongly as to Public Enemy, the Wu-Tang Clan and The Fugees. This artist, label-owner and social-entrepreneur made it his life's work to challenge preconceptions and buck prevailing trends; refusing to be squeezed into any kind of mould. Akala was the first rapper of this new generation of hip hoppers to seriously experiment with multiple genres. DoubleThink proves he has now fused them into his own inimitable cohesive sound – it’s as if Wu-Tang, Prodigy and Rage Against The Machine all got together for a musical orgy and out screamed Akala. Breaking down the culture of cliché and stereotypes that smothers the genre is a major part of his mission, giving impetus to this collection of pointed, perceptive hip hop music from a convention-defying emcee.
DoubleThink is partly a concept album inspired by the three classic novels of dystopian fiction: George Orwell's ‘1984’, Aldous Huxley's ‘Brave New World’ and Yevgeny Zamyatin's ‘We’. The record takes its overall tone – the edgy paranoia, sizzling menace and spine-tingling tension – from these literary classics and transmutes it into musical form. From Welcome to Dystopia's static-laden distortion to Peace's simple, sparse piano accompaniment (a collaboration with the classical pianist Paul Gladstone Reid, MBE) provides musical and atmospheric contrast to the juddering electro-rooted rap that sits either side of it, via the electro-funk keyboards and metal guitar riffs of Faceless People, the breadth of musical ambition is matched by the rich variety of topics Akala addresses.
Race, politics and social conditioning are among the recurring themes presented as barbed comedic satire. In tackling those topics Akala finds himself confronting the issue of the decline of hip hop as a social and political force, angrily restating the genre's credentials as the best, most powerful means of delivering what KRS-ONE calls Edutainment.
Edutainment is a familiar concept to Akala: releasing music on his own Illa State record label, he’s established a highly effective model – from producing music and videos in-house, to creating an impressive (BT Digital Music Award-nominated) online presence, touring and merchandise strategy. He also quenches his thirst for spreading knowledge by launching The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company in 2009, the hotly-tipped music theatre production education company. His prowess at communicating effectively with young people has resulted in collaborations with Arts Council, London 2012, the National Youth Theatre and numerous appearances on BBC2’s “Newsnight Review”.
Akala, alongside his renowned drummer, Cassell “The Beatmaker” have developed a reputation for stellar live performances. Having supported M.I.A., Christina Aguilera, Jay-Z, Richard Ashcroft, DJ Shadow and Siouxsie Sue on their U.K. tours, headlined three full UK/European tours, numerous festival appearances including (Glastonbury, Wireless and V Festival) and played venues at 2008’s SXSW. Akala has also had numerous T.V. performances on T4 and BBC2, worked with the British Council promoting British culture abroad, performing a series of concerts in Nigeria and in Vietnam as the first-ever hip hop artist to perform live.