Southampton’s reputed Cellar is packed to the brim tonight, in anticipation of the self-styled ‘Black Shakespeare’. Akala, a veteran of the UK toilet circuit, has fittingly landed a spot at Southampton’s prime Electronic music and hip-hop venue. In attendance is everyone from track-suit clad stoners to neatly preened camo jacket wearing hipsters, to everyone in between, the crowd stand united in their love for Akala’s particular brand of conscious hip-hop poetry.
Somewhat dodgy sound problems plague the first few songs, possibly the problems associated with having to mix more than 3 channels of sound at a hip hop show, possibly lacklustre sound tech’s, probably a mixture of the two. Despite this, Akala shines through the muddy mix and delivers the message of his words.
Akala’s presence on stage is as captivating as his eloquent wordplay; his natural charisma comes out as he tears through tracks such as ‘Thieves Banquet’ and ‘Shakespeare’, moving with the music in a trance like state. His flow rides alongside his locked in tight backing band in a musical collage far exceeding most live hip hop acts. It is in fact his live band which brings a further air of authenticity to proceedings, standing at the back in true hip hop fashion as they allow Akala to be the focal point of the live performance. Their natural sounding beats propel songs like ‘Find no enemy’, with its melancholic melody losing nothing in the live translation.
Akala’s gift with the spoken word shines through even between songs, with the artist delivering meaningful mantras in between songs, never once boring an audience member with meaningful but concise and beautifully delivered messages on everything from the Conservatives to the value of education. Never once does Akala seem to pander on his massive success, seeming as down to earth in all of his messages as a regular human being, despite all this Akala has the crowd eating out of his hand.
Words by Richard Lowe