Music | Review: Akala – Knowledge is Power [Volume 1]

Terrence Elliott-Cooper reviews the latest release from scholar, activist and UK Hip-Hop artist, Akala.

Music & Dance, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Monday, June 18, 2012 0:00 - 1 Comment

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Knowledge is Power is Akala’s fourth mixtape

With Mic Righteous and English Frank releasing mixtapes earlier this year, and Lowkey’s recent announcement that he is taking a break from music, Akala’s new ‘Knowledge is Power’  is the mixtape fans of ‘conscious’ UK Hip Hop have been waiting for. Having said that, from his freestyles Akala has already warned us off: ‘Don’t try brush man off as just conscious/come out of my face with that nonsense/tug revolution, that’s what it is.’

The mixtape kicks off with an incredible seven minutes -as featured on Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the booth- that show Akala at his best, providing the listener with exactly what the title of the mixtape promises – a sharing of knowledge.

Anyone who has listened to Akala’s music or, in particular, has seen his F64 on SBTV will know that he has an immense talent for relaying some astonishing historical and political content, all delivered within sophisticated rhyme schemes.

There are ten tracks on the mixtape, which features Come from English Frank on ‘Educated Tug Shit’, and Durrty Goodz on ‘Are You an MC?’.

Absolute Power is a highlight of the mixtape, with Akala taking a more mellow tone over a stringed sample. Another change in flow comes on ‘I’m so cool’, where Akala reminds us that he can still portray the arrogant MC while maintaining the high calibre of lyrical content we hear on the other tracks.

The choruses. however, on ‘I’m So Cool, and ‘Are You an MC?’ could be deemed the only flaw on the Mixtape, with both missing the melodic rhythms of flows in the verses. All of the beats are impressive, with strings and brass sounds providing the samples. ‘Who else can make intelligence seem sexy?’ is a line that initially made me chuckle but then made me think about the point; mainstream hip-hop tends to glamourise aspects of stupidity – Akala does the opposite.

The mixtape ends with an upbeat celebration of the history of Hip Hop – Akala talks about its African roots, and again astounds the listener with facts about the cultural and historical context from which the music developed. Knowledge is Power Volume 1, is simply an example of Akala doing what he does best, entertaining whilst educating on what’s important; history, politics and revolution.

When not making music Akala spends some of his time running the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, a music theatre production outfit he founded. The HSC deliver education programmes and live performances in schools and theatres around the country, aiming to engage young people and help them develop skills in performing arts.

Last year at a Ted X event Akala showcased some of the work that the Hip Hop Shakespeare company does, beginning with ‘Guess the Lyric – Hip Hop or Shakepeare’. He then went on to quote a Shakespeare sonnet over the beat of Comedy Tragedy History, showing how well the two genres of poetry fit together.

Such instances showcase how it is Akala’s love of language, not just his knowledge, that make both his music and message all the more poignant and powerful. In such a context, it seems evident that Knowledge is Power: Volume 1 is destined to be an era-defining contribution to an always-morphing, always-necessary artistic form.

 

Terence Elliott-Cooper is a writer and student activist.

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Harry G.
Nov 27, 2012 0:08

He may be an intelligent, “conscious” artist (whatever that’s supposed to mean), but his rhyme schemes are generally pretty basic and monosyllabic, and his content lacks any real nuance and subtlety. It’s all very heavy-handed and self-righteous in my opinion. He’s less of an artist and more of a lecturer speaking through the medium of rap.

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