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When you get the opportunity to sit down for 90 minutes with the English rapper, poet and journalist Akala, you’d better fasten your seatbelt and bring your passport because your destination is unknown.
Akala is probably the most well-read and historically-versed person I have met in my entire life. Whether he’s breaking down the evolution of the Wu Tang Clan, discussing the socioeconomic implications of the British public school system, or discussing the history of slavery in Jamaica, he has the facts at his fingertips and constructs compelling arguments with incredible agility.
I kept thinking to myself “Is this what the late Christopher Hitchens was like in person?”
As I composed the video trailer above I was reminded how his performance art has spanned many genres from ballads to hardcore to spoken word. I can only imagine what Akala will be doing in the next 10 years but I believe it will be in the pursuit of making us all better understand each other and love one another. Peace to you Akala.
1:25 Brian’s thoughts on the episode.
9:02 Brian’s Introduction.
11:00 Growing up in Camden and how it has changed.
13:44 Key factors which affected the life progression of members of his pier group.
18:06 Society is designed by the cultural appetites of the thinkers and maintained by the powerful.
19:22 Difference in expectations for public and state educated children. Benefits of the Saturday morning schools.
21:22 What attracted Akala into choosing music over a football career.
26:10 Football is very political.
28:07 Hip Hop went from history, philosophy and culture to money, cash and hose.
30:43 Choosing to maintain his integrity rather than aspire to commercial success.
32:38 From BBC Radio 1, the gate keeper, to a MOBO Award and the benefits of the internet.
38:54 Music industry notorious for scam deals with artists.
42:05 Independent marketing option for artists whose political message conflicts with agenda of music industry controllers.
44:39 Interaction between musicians and entertainers and power has always been there.
45:30 Akala’s association with William Shakespeare and why he finds him an interesting character.
50:39 The re-writing of history by the ruling power is very powerful.
55:27 Expressing his views influenced by his background and marvelling at cultural differences.
55:49 The UKs relationship with Jamaica, its culture and heritage.
1:07:13 Rastafari and Akala’s views on the Marley film.
1:11:10 Did the Marley film introduce the world to Rastafari?
1:14:01 The attraction of the Calabash International Literary Festival.
1:15:41 Visiting Jamaica and interacting with the culture.
1:17:31 Did Snoop Dogs visit to Jamaica do any favours to Rastafari?
1:20:32 The beauties and contradictions of Brazil.
1:29:00 Language is massively powerful. Akala argues against use of the N word.
1:35:37 How maturing to age 30 is influencing Akala’s behaviour and outlook.
1:14:31 Akala heading for America again after 7 years.
1:42:56 ‘It Takes More’ by Akala’s sister Ms Dynamite.
1:46:34 Advice to the 20 year old Akala.
1:48:56 Best advice he has ever received.
1:50:35 Advice to the young person wanting to get into the music business.
1:52:04 Next projects for Akala.
1:52:59 Brian’s summing up.
Akala on Twitter
Akala on Facebook
Akala music on YouTube
Akala ‘Hip Hop and Shakespeare?’ TEDx talk
Akala ‘The Evolution of Emcee’ TEDx talk
Akala on Wikipedia
Akala ‘Fire in the Booth’ Charlie Sloth video.
It Takes More by Ms Dynamite
The Shakespeare Hip Hop Company
West Ham United Football Club
Hackney Empire Theatre
Saturday School 1994 article
Wu Tang Clan
‘Enter the Wu Tang’ (36 Chambers)
‘Break on Through’ by the Doors
BBC Radio 1
Channel AKA (formerly Channel U)
MTV (UK and Ireland)
Thirty Seconds to Mars
‘All You Need to Know About the Music Business’ by Donald S Passman
The Garage, Highbury, London
Baconian theory of Shakespeare authorship
Broadwater Farm Riots, Tottenham
Autobiography of Malcolm X
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
‘Catch a Fire’ by Timothy White
‘Rasta and Resistance’: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney by Horace Campbell
‘The Rastafarians’ by Leonard Barrett
Calabash International Literary Festival
Rocinha Favela Brazil
‘Dao de Ching: The Book of the Way’ by Moss Roberts
People mentioned in this episode:
Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Tyler, The Creator
Kareem Dennis (Lowkey)
Eric Williams author of ‘Capitalism and Slavery’
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o