Akala played the O2 Academy Birmingham on 24 April. The tour had originally been due to start in November 2017 but had been rescheduled.
Support came in the form of Deacon and Denzel Himself. They seem to have a lot of potential as artists and both are releasing new music this summer. Both acts were successful at “warming up” the crowd and Deacon repeatedly asked the crowd if they were ready to see Akala. He was determined to make sure he was “doing his job” so that everyone was enjoying themselves. By the end of his set, he had done just that, and the crowd were ready to see the main act-Akala!
An introductory video was shown on screen (Chapter 1 of the ‘Visions’ EP) and I could see Akala through a gap in the door, waiting to get on stage. He was jumping up and down in anticipation and was ready and raring to go. If the crowd were excited, Akala was equally as excited to be there. It was clear that he loved performing, although he has other interests, such as being an author. His new book, ‘Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire’, will be released in May.
Akala revisited tracks from the ‘Visions’ EP during the gig, whilst also performing some older songs like ‘Bit by Bit’, ‘Dat Boy Akala’ and ‘Electro Living’. A huge favourite with the crowd, and something I really enjoyed too, was a medley of his legendary ‘Fire in the Booth’ sessions. The ‘Fire in the Booth’ sessions were done for BBC 1Xtra and the first freestyle rap has gained over 4.1 million views on Youtube alone.
Akala’s music carries a message and always has done. He is extremely knowledgeable about politics, history and current events, among many other things. He uses his platform to speak out about racism and inequality. These topics are incorporated in his music and during one song, Akala spoke about how he could feel the pain of all the victims of all the conflicts that had taken place over time, and are still taking place. He seemed quite emotional by the end of the performance. He is very passionate about his raps and this is conveyed when he is on stage. So much so that I left as an even bigger fan than I was when I entered, and I didn’t think this was possible. His flow was incredible.
He took the time to engage with the audience, encouraging them to let loose and have a good time at his show (“If you go to work/uni/college tomorrow and you haven’t lost your voice, you’ve f*cked up”). ‘Visions’ is an incredibly personal EP. A parent suffering from cancer, growing up around criminal activity; there were no topics left uncovered on the EP.
During the show, Akala also told stories from his life too. This was mostly done to lighten the mood, especially after one of the sombre performances mentioned previously. These stories, though light-hearted, also carried a message.
The show was great fun. There was so much energy and everybody was there for a good time. Akala is an intellectual rapper and it was great to be at a show that was not only enjoyable, but meaningful too. Being a fan for over a decade, it meant a lot to see some of my favourite songs performed live by a man I greatly admire.