Review: Akala

Award-winner: Rapper Akala who recently performed at the Belgrave Music Hall.
Award-winner: Rapper Akala who recently performed at the Belgrave Music Hall.
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Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

By Nick Ahad

It’s an impressive crossover. In the past couple of years, thanks to significant national liberal media coverage and an appearance at the Oxford Union, rap artist Akala has made some large strides into the mainstream.

A politically conscious, eloquently angry artist, Akala has made videos about the industry of racism for the Guardian and lectured Oxford undergraduates on their own turf about the legacy of slavery.

He has plenty to say. Which is fortunate as he throws out his words with the power and pace of a machine gun set to rapid fire. At the Belgrave Music Hall, surely one of the city’s coolest new music venues (it’s taken over the mantle of The Cockpit effortlessly), Akala drew a crowd that could have been designed to explain the definition of eclectic. All ages and races were represented at the sell-out gig last weekend, although the kind of energy being pumped out by the charismatic Akala might appeal to those either young or young at heart. Ten Years of Akala, the tour, celebrates a decade since the release of his seminal album It’s Not Rumour. Firing out hits without a pause for breath, Let it All Happen, Electro Livin and Sun Tzu, it’s a high energy performance. The rapper takes liberties with the crowd, tongue-in-cheek telling us that we’re a rubbish, boring audience: it’s the kind of banter you can only earn with longevity and a surprisingly warm stage presence. He also takes liberties by bringing everything right down and performing a poem about the legacy of war. The crowd hangs on his every word in near total silence. It’s the power of the poem and of the performance that earns this kind of reverential atmosphere. It’s been earned over a decade and well earned it is.