Nobody wants to hear that “smarty art” shit. Unfortunately that leaves our children in the hands of ignorance and rudderless down the stream of life. So some choose to take a stand and fewer still stand without a soapbox. Akir is one of those rhymers who can appreciate all aspects of our collective culture while taking a conscious position. Planet Ill caught up with him to talk his upcoming album, the conscious label and what it signifies, and being able to watch Worldstar ignorance and still be for the people. Whatever happend to his Rebel Army crew? Find out in this Planet Ill exclusive. Audio at the bottom
Planet Ill: Akir – Always keep it real. What is real to you?”
Akir: To me, honestly, it’s about being a progressive human being. And whatever perspective that may entail. It’s an identifying space that makes you comprehend that we are just mere mortals; we’re flesh walking around as a vessel for a soul. And that soul has to go on a journey. And you have to encounter these barriers to build who we are as a person. It’s more of a goal and a ruler than it is a statement of a confirmation of being perfect because that doesn’t exist.
Planet Ill: You had a high school radio show back in the day. What’s the difference between being behind the mic on radio and being behind the mic on stage?
Akir: I don’t think there’s too much of a difference at all, aside from the fact that you can hide behind the sonic waves versus having to show your face as a representative of that content. You’re still responsible for entertaining, for informing, and for being a beacon of whatever it is that you’re representing. So, as we can see from the whole Mr. Cee situation, it comes with a very large responsibility.
Planet Ill: How did your life change after the release of Legacy? And why the name Legacy for a first album? That’s like the end of your career.
Akir: That’s exactly why I named it that because I put out Legacy to develop a conversation amongst the Hip-Hop community especially, but also the Black and Brown community at large, that we need to have more inter-generational communication and building and progressive action. I think that oftentimes, the media especially, we often develop these walls. Blockages against these other generations. The elders are now scared to even approach the youth to drop information on them because they’re being fed information that we’re dangerous and reckless.
From their perspective, they’ve lived their life, why should they waste time with someone who’s not going to use their valuable information and time. And so they just shake their head and talk shit about us. Then you have the kids who are like, “Where were you when I was in my most formative stages with all this information that you’re talking about?” So why should I consider it now, when obviously you don’t live up to the thinks that you’re talking about in reference to me? That’s why I made Legacy.
A Legacy doesn’t just start when somebody passes on, or leaves a situation. It’s a forever going cycle. Just like I represent someone’s legacy, I’m also setting up my legacy to come, which in turn is the legacy of my ancestors.
How it changed my life? There’s a few more people that know me, so obviously it opened the doors for me to be able to be a larger professional in my craft and be considered peers amongst people who I’ve looked up to in certain spaces. So I’m very blessed to have that space.
Planet Ill: As an artist, how do you separate the content of the music to the execution? As an artist concerned with the social ramifications of his music how do you separate the two?
Akir: First and foremost as an elder once told me, I can’t be concerned with changing someone else’s progress until I first make an example of my own. That’s number one in terms of the cultural conflict that I see happening then and now. Secondly, we represent a vast diaspora of people, of culture, of vibes, of career paths, of ideas. All those things need to be expressed.
The problem comes when there’s only one part or several archetypes that are taken from our larger community and those are the ones that are being exploited in the largest access points in an overwhelming fashion, which essentially flows over into our youth culture and actions and social response. So that would be number two.
Number three, as a Hip-Hop fan, I love it all. At any point in time I could be listening to NWA and then be listening to Lauryn Hill. There’s got to be that dynamic because again we are human beings. I think that’s something that Pac was so good at and it’s interesting to see a lot of the interviews and the responses because there’s a necessity, especially in a capitalist arena to create these genres of boxes because when you walk into a store and you have so many choices, in order for them to narrow down the choices and in order for the marketing and the sales to go smooth, they want to be able to fit each product and each service into a box.
The thing about Pac was he could do a Dear Mama record and then next minute be talking about running up on our other favorite Hip-Hop celebrity or whatever. And then go into fighting the powers that be to create a better space for the underprivileged. These are all things that are within us.
Just because people think that I hold a more concerted responsibility to provide this type of conscious content doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments where I go and check out Worldstar or be at the strip club. Or even that song that I know has the most garbage content that I would never listen to because I’ve been beat in the head with it on the radio or on the TV so much, but when I get in the club and I see a woman twerking her ass that I’m not responding to it. We all have these various spaces to us and it’s important to Hip-Hop to be able to express all of it.
So I love it. On a different note, it also depends on how you approach it. If you’re looking for someone, like for instance, Jay-Z and expecting him to provide you with information on political prisoners then you did yourself a disservice.
But if you’re in a progressive mindset and you see what Jay-Z has set up as an example of young entrepreneurship and what it means to Black and brown people in terms of not waiting on their 40 acres and a mule but developing a financial infrastructure and business infrastructure that sets the stone for confident progress and a steady progress and then you can be in different spaces to the people that normally you wouldn’t have access to; to be able to create other doors to open up.
Everybody has their own method in terms of what they’re doing and how it’s being done. You look at Lil Jon, I think it was real cool how Dave Chappelle alluded to it in that skit where he’s talking to Lil Jon and Lil Jon is all “YEAAH!” and all that but then he engages in intellectual banter with him. But as you see him doing more from a business perspective, you can tell the brother’s very intelligent. Now I don’t know what he does in terms of his social activism or what not, but in terms of his financial prowess and his business acumen, you know it’s obvious that he has something else going on. So I think it’s also about the perspective.
Planet Ill: What can we expect from the new album?
Akir: You can expect growth, both lyrically and musically. I think on this one I focused more on simplifying my message without watering down the content. I worked on my musicianship. A lot of people don’t know that I’m a producer. This time around I wanted everybody to know that. And I kind of upped the ante in that phase of my profession. I was also able to connect with other talented musicians and artists in different spaces to create a guild called The Sound. We all came together on a lot of the different songs, just making a hybrid of where I was in the past like Legacy what not.
This album I took a lot of challenges personally, which promoted the topics I’m speaking on. I’m in a different space now; I’m also a father. It was important to me that this record could spin different demographics so to speak. So I wanted to be able to make something that…obviously I’m a grown man and I see the world’s ills and I want to express that in certain ways so there’s emphatic moments where of course I’m going to use profanity. That’s just part of my build and makeup.
I’m also intelligent enough to find alternatives for those word choices but I wanted to make something that with those edits, a parent could play for their child and would be something that would be enriching. But also I wanted that same record to be able to play in the streets or at an event or in a club or in a car. That was the main challenge, just finding something that stands in all of those places.
So from this, you definitely will experience growth and the plan is about me finding different pillars to what I would like to achieve in my process as a man. As I’m working on them, I’m hoping to share them with my community, who I call a network; my supporters or what have you. I wanted to share that with them almost as a motivational tool.
Planet Ill: If you were an assassin with a bullet that could change history, if you have one shot, where do you go and who do you aim at?
Akir: Wow. Great question. Personally I ‘m more about, in terms of violent action, I’m more about defense than about offense so me, with one shot? I’d be sitting on the porch. And I’d have everybody inside the crib and I’d be rocking back and forth waiting to see who’d cross the line. I don’t wish anybody death, man so that’s a difficult question for me. I don’t want to avoid the question, but I would be waiting for who crossed that line. To protect my family.
I know it sounds like a cliché but all these things happen for a reason and I’m much more vested in progress and building and nurturing than I am in terms of tearing things down. And that’s no disrespect to the people that have to bear that responsibility, but each of us has a specification in terms of how this thing works and on that, I can’t be confused.
Planet Ill: Whatever happened to Rebel Army? Are you guys still down with each other?
Akir: Of course! Rebel Army is strong, kid! We out there right now. We got Tech, Pen, Swayze, GI Joe, Southpaw. They’re all out on tour right now. Chino was out with them on the West Coast. Hasaan Salaam is out right now with them. CF just came back home from rocking with them. Me and him just rocked at the Bronx. I was at the Bronx Sunday with CF and Kool Herc introduced me and shit! It was a big moment for me. We doing things man, collective and apart. Me and Diabolic are trying to plan a European tour. Everybody’s working. We the Hip-Hop superheroes!