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Ashley Charles

Dressed in dark jeans and an ‘Illa State Records’ T-shirt to advertise his independent label, Akala’s propensity for self promotion is evident from the moment he walks into the dressing room. “Are we playing?” he asks, picking up the Playstation 2 controller. He challenges me to a game of ‘Pro Evolution Soccer 5’, trash talking his opponent with the arrogant wit of a young Muhammed Ali.
But behind Ali’s public alias was the humble beginning of Cassius Clay; in this instance, we have Kingslee Daley, 22.

Having strayed from the shadow of his older sister Miss Dynamite, Akala is intent on proving his credibility without affiliation.

No jewellery or visible tattoos, Akala is every bit the non-conformist, far removed from the commercial vices of mainstream hip hop. He condemns the superficial state of the industry and refuses to be bound by clichés.

Emblazoned on his black tee is the Union Jack with the traditional red white and blue converted to black, yellow and green creating a hybrid Brit-Jamaican flag; representing both his dual-heritage and his tendency to re-define the status quo.

He’s arrived late for his PA but still finds the time to squeeze in a quick game. “Akala, Radio 1 would like an interview with you.” The event co-ordinator tries, unsuccessfully, to make herself heard over the game’s commentary. After repeating herself, once, twice or maybe five times, he responds nonchalantly, “I’ve gotta finish this.”

I’ve been warned that he can be a bit difficult. But Akala is by no means a masculine diva. If he starts something, he refuses to leave it incomplete, and for that very reason, he was an accomplished entrepreneur before he turned 20.

One of few rappers to perform with a smile on their face, Akala has every reason to be content. The Situation caught up with him at the Pre-MOBO Launch in central London.

So tell me about the album, it’s been out for a while…
The album’s been out for about three months now; got really, really good critical acclaim.

Tell me about the content itself; what can people who have yet to buy the album expect?
Music; music from my heart and my soul. Myself and my producer Reggie did the bulk of the album. It’s different, it’s definitely different. I don’t only listen to hip-hop and I want that to be reflected in the music I’m making. The best hip-hop is hip-hop that takes influences from other types of music and that’s the hip-hop I’m trying to make. There’s a lot of rock influences on there, a lot of soul; the current single ‘Shakespeare’ is a house sample.

Now you’re nominated for a Music Of Black Origin award in the category of ‘Best Hip Hop Act’ alongside Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, Kano and Sway. If you were making the decision, honestly, who would you give it to?
(Laughs) If I was judging it and I wasn’t Akala? I would give it to Kanye. To be fair, I think he’s the only artist out of America that is still trying to do something imaginative and different. I got love for Kano and I’ve got love for Sway, but Sway won it last year and Kano’s album came out last year…

Sway’s MOBO last year in the same category was a controversial one. Do you think he deserved to be awarded ‘Best Hip Hop Act’ in 2005?
(Laughs) Erm… Can we go onto the nest question please?!

Ok… I’ve listened to your song ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’, which is a pretty harsh damnation of your U.S counterparts. How would you define them in comparison with British acts?
In comparison, I would define them as b****cks.

So do you think the British Hip Hop scene is making significant progress now? To be fair, there has been some stagnation and a lack of credible success stories…
Look at Sway and myself who sold tens of thousands of albums on our own. No major label, no nothing, just us and the man dem. That’s the equivalent of an American artist doing like forty or fifty thousand albums. So things are moving forward.

How was your independent label Illa State Records conceived?
Basically the first thing we did was we got some album tracks together, my friend has a studio in his house and all the work we do from there. We got some really good songs together and his business partner came on board as a financial investor.

So are you reaping the benefits yet or is that still to come?
I’m reaping the benefits in that people know who I am and as an artist I’m building a career for myself. But am I rich? No.

I understand the name ‘Akala’ means ‘immovable’ - how would you justify that as a fitting description of yourself?
I’m immovable because I’ve got principles and morals. There’s a way that I do things and I can’t be budged on that. If I feel like doing the Irish jig naked in my video then I’ll do it. I don’t give a f**k what anyone else thinks. You just gotta be you… and be you to the death.

Akala’s ability to articulate his every thought and sentiment is reflected in the intricacy of his lyrics. Evidently well educated, the straight-A student has achieved in 22 years what many talented rappers will fail to do in a lifetime. He’s his own boss, producing his own videos, negotiating his own arrangements and making his own decisions. His talent can be summed up by the fact that he will be sharing a stage with (arguably) the greatest rapper of our generation; supporting Jay-Z on tour.

Unimpressed by Hip Hop’s current condition, Akala is the constructive critic the industry has been waiting for.

Akala’s debut album, ‘It’s Not A Rumour’ is out now on Illastate Records. For more information, please go to:

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