Akala is no ordinary artist and nor was his show. After 10 years rapping, releasing six albums and four mixtapes, performing at hundreds of live shows across the world and lecturing in various universities, he commanded the crowd with ease.
Rather than simply coming on stage and playing an opening track, there was a short video shown from a projector of influential and inspiring figures from history such as Muhammed Ali, Bruce Lee and Malcolm X. These images and short clips also included Akala’s past music videos, interviews that he’s done (including silencing Tommy Robinson, the ex-EDL leader in front of a live audience) and childhood pictures. This buoyed the crowd up so that when Akala came on stage and performed his first song ‘Bang with us’.
With "flows as cold as winter was in hand-me-down clothes,’ to quote the man himself, Akala performed 'Electro Livin’,” and ‘Sun Tzu,’ both with fierce choruses. The crowd became most vocal when ‘XXL’ came on as Akala got the crowd jumping in time. The music videos of all his songs were played in the background and this certainly enhanced the performance. The lyrics came to life as Akala energetically moved around on stage with psychotic zombies in “Electro Livin’” and Bruce Lee in ‘Sun Tzu’ flipping numchucks.
Akala’s set slowed down for ‘Sometimes’ from The Thieves Banquet and ‘Absolute Power,’ from Knowledge is power. These reflective tracks mellowed the crowd. Akala’s lyrics in many songs are almost as if he’s preaching and sound more like poetry than traditional boastful rap. The crowd singing ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ - the chorus of ‘Absolute Power’ - after singing the chorus of the DMX style track ‘Bang with us,’ was quite surreal.
During the set, Akala also performed poetry, made the crowd laugh with anecdotes and also gave his insights on racism, politics and education through his lyrics. Seeing Akala live is like having a history lesson from an academic and a veteran MC displaying a lyrical smorgasbord all in one show. It felt like if you looked up ‘polymath’ in the dictionary, it says ‘Akala,’ as the definition.
Akala is on his 10 year anniversary tour which ends at the end of October so book tickets if you want to see him quickly.