AKALA, the award-winning and socially conscious rapper, producer, writer and pioneer of the Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, which merges Shakespearean works with modern day Hip-Hop, has delivered a brand new album this year, his fourth studio record, titled The Thieves Banquet that shows a major growth in his craft and career work. With a massive fan base that trails from Brazil to Australia to Indonesia, the London native reaches out to an audience that is as diverse as the singles he produces.
“If you ain’t got something to die for you never lived” is the very memorable hook on the album’s lead single titled “Malcolm Said It” that immediately captures the listener’s attention. The song begins with Akala mentioning the names of historical figures such as Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Muhammad Ali in his chants, as though he was shouting into a speakerphone and addressing a large cheering crowd. This is a track that educates as well as entertains, with Akala’s poignant lyrics and dramatic guitar strums captivating the listener throughout the track along with minimal drum patterns and haunting backing melodies, while the hook is simple, soulful and stirring. The figures of black history that Akala mentions on this song will be familiar to the majority of his listeners because of their individual contributions to black people’s progression and development, from the slavery period to the Civil Rights movement.
“Malcolm Said It”:
On “One More Breath”, Akala speaks about giving it your all before there is no more time left for a life filled with purpose. Akala does a lot of self-reflection on this track as he asks himself a series of deep questions like “what’s life, a game that we just play with two plain dice?” and with lyrics such as, “by judging a man by just what’s in his hands or his land, or his tan and that’s just cause we can“, Akala also show how materialistic we are as a society, and how we value the possessions someone has over their mind and souls. The musical backdrop on this track is Rock-led, especially in the chorus as it builds in intensity with a thrashing bass, something not conventionally used on a rap track. This makes the song a more intense experience as the bass guitar rises and slows in its intensity according to lyrics. Akala’s flow is incredibly sharp and he makes his listeners hang on to his every word.
“One More Breath”:
The album’s title track “The Thieves Banquet” has a concept so unique and distinct from the other tracks and with good reason too. The intro to the song is told as a short story in which the Ddvil invites the wicked of the world to a banquet, the four verses that follow, highlight four evil criminals from mankind’s history trying to convince the devil that they were the most evil of human beings to have ever lived because of their crimes against humanity. Another genre that Akala ventures towards on this album is Opera Music as this is the style of vocals that the chorus of “The Thieves Banquet” is sang in. Having the chorus sung in an Operatic tone excellently adds to the drama of the track because of Opera Music’s natural association with incredibly dramatic storylines and plots. Akala gives life to each character in the verse gloriously, especially the religious leader where he uses an eerie whisper to deliver his versed plea to the devil.
“The Thieves Banquet”:
Akala is consistently pushing boundaries and expectations with his work and always showing his vast distinction from most of today’s Hip-Hop artists and he does so again on his new album The Thieves Banquet. Akala’s album is worth purchasing because Akala makes himself completely accessible and relatable to people of all backgrounds of society. Anyone listening to the album will find a track they enjoy, can relate to, or learn from. For listeners that want a track with a more laid-back vibe, “Old Soul” is one soulful groove that will provide exactly that, reminiscing on the era of musicians gone by such as Miles Davis and Nina Simone. “Another Reason” is an uplifting track about looking within yourself to find motivation to be the best and challenging the status quo in your own life while “Maangamizi” is a brief but detailed synopsis of African history, slavery and colonisation portrayed brilliantly by Akala.
Overall, this album surpasses my expectations in delivery, flow and content. Akala manages to educate without boring his audience and maintains a skilful flow that many MC’s of today would envy. The variations in pace, harmonies and music styling keeps the interest of his listeners and will definitely earn him new fans. With his Knowledge is Power mixtape from 2012 being well received, The Thieves Banquet builds upon that and is another success story that educates his audience and gets them to challenge the preconceived notions that are marketed to them on a regular basis. This Hip-Hop artist is most definitely out on a mission to educate the masses and he is succeeding. Akala will be embarking upon The Thieves Banquet nationwide tour in November but before then, you can catch him performing at the Hull Jazz festival this Saturday.
Purchase: Akala – The Thieves Banquet (iTunes)