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WPGM Commentary: AKS On ‘Up & Up (Heavens Above)’ And Rediscovering Purpose

My name is Akinbami but generally speaking people know me by 3 Letters, AKS. #NothingMoreNothingLess. As an artist in this digital age, I wear many hats; I’m an independent hip-hop artist, web developer, editor but most importantly, a father from South-East London.

I recently released “Up & Up (Heavens Above)“, the front-running single from a new project I’m working on entitled As Plane as Day: Departures & Arrivals and to be quite honest the single itself was a bit of a labour of love and ultimately a triumphant moment for me.

It comes off the back of a lengthy hiatus from releasing music. One in which, for a good proportion of it, I’d battled depression. I’d pressed pause on releasing music following the birth of my son (he’s now 2 and a half, going on 25).

Part of that choice was born out of the new found responsibilities as a father and wanting to be totally present in that. But as time ticked on without my musical creativity being an outlet, and with the increased pressures that those around me (beyond my immediate) placed on me, I began to crumble.

Everyday slowly chipping away. I slipped into a period where I struggled to find purpose beyond my financial contributions and lost a level of the confidence and self-belief I had once had as an artist.

Those belligerent ideas of purpose and destiny were replaced with self-doubt and apprehension, and with this new little man I was now responsible for, I questioned what legacy I’d ultimately leave for him.

What footsteps I’d leave in the sand pursuing a creative aspiration which may never yield dividends and often had been a burden financially (music money is long and often slow, especially for independent artists).

Throughout this time I’d had short bursts of creativity in which I’d put together some loose ideas which now form the basis of the new project. Albeit that I’d written most of the track and produced the skeleton of the record, I had this habit of not recording.

After a particular stint in therapy (which I can’t stress enough how much helped), I woke one morning with the idea that I’d force myself to carry at least one song through to its completion.

I reached out to guitarist and friend, Adrian Remedy, and shot him over the initial idea for the track. I’d already scribed the majority of the lyrics so I sent him voice notes of where I was going with it.

He found some resonance with the lyrics and topic as it mirrored some of his feeling and relationship with his daughter. He sent me back a barrage of amazing guitar licks and chord progressions which I sat through and pieced together to mirror the uplifting feel I was going for.

At that point, since we were in the middle of lockdown with nowhere to really go, the most organic thing was connecting with people digitally.

There was something in that first experience that I wanted to continue, so I just kept on reaching out to my musician friends who I’ve been wanting to work with for a while.

Next stop was Benjamin Muralt, who laid down the bass elements; and then Ade Keys who played a beautiful piano accompaniment for the end of the track.

Myself and Ade have a lot of affinity with one another. He’s slightly younger than I am but some of the life experiences he’s currently walked through are things that I too experienced at a similar age to him. I met him at the back end of last year, on a trip out to Amsterdam. It was around that time that I was really struggling mentally and having to acknowledge that I was depressed.

He himself had experienced something tragic days before the trip and just in being able to speak to his experiences helped me with my own sense of purpose and the importance of sharing through this art. It’s poignant that when I shared the track with him, he had some ideas of where we could take the ending.

He shot me back a couple piano pieces; but one in particular set me on a path towards writing a whole new verse. It’s funny because I was sure that the song was 100% complete. However, something about that synergy triggered an outpouring.

At over six minutes, the track is probably way too long; but that last verse where I’m rapping over Ade’s piano breakdown is the most reflective part of the track and potentially my favourite part because of it. Definitely something I needed to share.

Cool! So, mission accomplished! Track done and it speaks of my journey and says all the things I want it to say!… It’s subsequently mixed and mastered (shout out to Chemo).

I sit down at my laptop and with my son watching YouTube videos, which mimic those sing-along songs of yesteryear, and I spend hours tinkering with Final Cut Pro X and a bunch of plugins to create a lyric video and live performance piece that creatively delivered the message visually but also felt nostalgic.

Imagine, my first ever visual release was a song called “The Monologue” and it had a kinetic typography visual. As this was my re-emergence and almost a re-introduction to AKS, it felt fitting to have that be a full circle moment and display where I’m at creatively now and how that’s transitioned artistically.

Like I said, this one’s been a labour of love and is a triumphant moment for me. It’s me stepping out of the darkness and convincing myself and the world that the God given gifts I have as an artist and the experiences I’ve lived (both good and bad) have a purpose that I carry into the art that I make.

It’s a rallying cry to anybody feeling like they’re playing small, or at rock bottom that they can change their trajectory and some of that is born out of circumstance, but also out of will!

I’ve learned so much from allowing myself the space to create this, and being open to letting it fly. Many of the points at which it’s been embraced by the listeners and platforms have been testament to that. I hope the record speaks to people and gives them the confidence to pursue the things that are on their heart in the same ways.

Listen to “Up & Up (Heavens Above)” below!

Words by AKS // Follow her on Twitter + Instagram

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