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Kate Watkins

Akala first burst on to the music scene last summer with his double-A side single ‘Banga 4 Da Streets/War.’ He immediately received attention from MTV and fans around the UK, quite a feat for an unsigned artist.

Even with the success of that single, Akala remains true to himself as an individual artist. “I’m not part of the garage or UK hip hop scene,” said Akala, whose name is the Buddhist term for ‘immovable’. “I’ve been influenced by the US but I’m not a specific genre. I’m just me.” He continued, “I know a lot of artists say that, but if you listen to my music, I don’t fit into the things on MTV Base. In fact, my music would probably fit into the MTV2 scene better.” When asked how he would describe his music, Akala hesitated before giving his answer. “It’s movement,” he said. “It’s innovative and it’s lyrical.”

Akala’s music is an influx of inspiration. One of his idols is Jay-Z and he has been compared to the US rapper’s writing strategy. Akala described the process he goes through as he writes. “When I write, I have to have the track in mind, without lyrics,” he said. “But you can’t have a good track and a bangin’ beat without the lyrics either. You need to make music and use the lyrics to compliment it.” Twenty-one-year-old Akala grew up in North London, and uses his own life experiences when he writes. “All of my music is life,” he said. “My music is very autobiographical.” Another of his favourite artists is the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. “I love them! They are unique and different, and I would love to work with them sometime.”

When Akala was a teenager, his success in Mathematics led to a place at the Royal Institute. After deciding Maths wasn’t his thing, he ran after another passion and won a football scholarship. But even with a successful football career on the horizon, having played for West Ham and Wimbledon as a youngster, music was always a constant with him and he could not let go of it. However, it was only after an injury forced him to take a break from the pitch that he thought about taking the music career seriously. “Music was in my face,” he said. “The drive became so strong and I had to move forward.”

When his video started appearing on Channel U last summer, people immediately took notice. Akala revealed that his last video ‘Banga 4 Da Streets’ was not a piece of high video craftsmanship. “The last video I made was ghetto,” he said. “But it did well on TRL. I think people liked it because it was real life.” Humble as he is, what Akala doesn’t mention is that ‘War’ made history as the first video by an unsigned artist to feature on the flagship MTV show.

Over the last few months, Akala has been working on his debut album, and has also created his own independent record company. The first single, ‘Roll Wid Us’ is due out this month, and the album is set to hit stores this summer. Despite all his other business enterprises, including a Jamaican restaurant that he opened in Ayia Napa at the age of 18, Akala is adamant that he will keep on performing, the part of his music that he likes the best. “I love performing and getting the reaction from people,” he said. “I’ve never had a bad reaction from people. Yeah, people have been cold to it but pretty much every reaction is good. Performing is the best part of what I’m doing.”

Even with his success, Akala is not stupid; he realises that he has to stay true to himself, show some grace and remain cool when things get chaotic. “If you are mainstream, people wanna approach you in the spotlight but you’ve got to be humble,” he said. “People are gonna have demands of you but you gotta keep as humble as possible in the spotlight.” Akala also gave his two cents on the music business. “I think the goal of most music is to be mainstream. If you make music that touches souls, even in some fashion, that music becomes mainstream. I want to be true to myself as an artist. Anyone that tells you they don’t want to be mainstream is lying. I want to be mainstream but true to myself.”

So, as Akala moves forward on his musical journey, he will no doubt continue to stand by his originality and his desire to remain real by keeping it all in perspective.

Akala’s new single ‘Roll Wid Us’ is out on May 16th on Illastate Records. For more information on Akala, visit his official website,

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