Deeper than Rap: Akala on music, history an race


I was granted a special privilege of interviewing one of the brightest minds in UK hip-hop. Akala came down to talk about everything form the history of the slave trade to being an independent artist.

What are your thoughts on the news about Jamaica requesting reparations for slavery?

I went on radio to talk about this and they was guy saying its money money money. He clearly has not read the statement, precisely what they are asking about is the alleviation of debt and the building of infrastructure, they are not saying give me all the money in your treasury. They are raising the deliberately forced underdevelopment, the transfer of skills- the way in which the Caribbean education system has been kept at a very basic level. Were not producing engineers, all we are doing in Jamaica is we are training people to go and work in the tourism industry, even if they are perfectly capable of doing other things apart from a tiny elite. Changing the fortunes of the country and allowing it to help itself.


Of course money is part of it slavery was a humongous business and in many ways the bedrock of the modern British economy. The analogy I always give to people, Japan and Germany the two countries the allies fought in World War 2, when the war was over they were given terms of trade way more favorable than any third world country was given. Jamaica didn’t gas 6 million Jewish people to death, didn’t destroy half of Europe-neither did Kenya or Zimbabwe. Germany was given terms that would enable it to redevelop. When it wasn’t given those terms after world war one what was the result, hyper inflation people taking wheelbarrows to the market and eventually the rise of Hitler. So when we think about it its logical that some of these countries have not been able to develop in the current global system, as they haven’t been given terms enabling them to do it. And really what’s being asked for in reparations is exactly that and I don’t think that is unrealistic.


What would say to those who would argue that it was in the Allies national interest and the fear of Germany and Japan rebuilding their armies?

That’s an argument, it’s not a very good one. We gave 700 billion to bankers who almost ruined the economy. We have no issue paying out to people, we have an issue with who we feel should receive payout. Corporate welfare in this country far exceeds welfare of poor people. The state interferes in the economy and we call that the free market as long as it interferes on the people it is supposed to. If cooperation’s are giving low tax rates and protected that’s the free market. If technology is developed at the taxpayer’s expense then given to arms manufactures that all fine. So that doesn’t seem like an intellectual comeback to me. Also Japan was not allowed to build its army until recently and then only now to act as an American counterweight to china. So you can say national interest, so is it in Europe’s national interest to keep black and brown countries underdeveloped, if that’s the case say that plain. I just want the truth.

Would you describe yourself as a feminist and how do you feel about the rise in popularity of female rap artists like Lady Leshurr?

I think we need to promote women in all industries and Hip-Hop is a reflection of the general sexism that exists in the world. Hip-Hop is held up as the most misogynist thing in the world, when was the last time you saw a female rock band, women are invisible in rock music. Even though the pioneers of blues solo guitar playing were not African American men, but African American women. Memphis Minnie Rosetta Tharpe. So women have been erased particularly women of color from many things, they just did a suffragette film and didn’t include any Indian women even though Indian women played a huge role in the suffragette movement. “They never existed we will just have all white women”. How can you claim to be a feminist and then erase women who don’t look like you, seems a bit odd to me. Leshurr is like my sister I am really good friends with her and she worked with us in Hip-Hop Shakespeare. I am really enjoying the facts that her and little Simz (ill be frank) two dark skin black women are being hailed currently as one of the main icons from a female perspective. There is a fetishization of being light skin have become so normal we don’t question it. I would be interested to hear what they said in sexism of the industry.


David Cameron recently gave a speech in which he referred about refuges as swarms, and I am curious to know whether you think peoples opinion are changing?

Firstly it’s important to understand historical context, when the Jews were being persecuted in Germany the same things that are being said about Syrians and Libyans were being said about them. And it is terribly embarrassing because no one wants to admit that but go back to the daily mail and the terms they are using is very similar. This embarrassing legacy is there. This year we had black South Africans murdering other African migrants in South Africa on mass. “Taking our jobs” this is the language they are using, not murdering Indians or whites only other black African migrants. They see them as powerless they see them as easy targets, the very same country that inspires the world with their anti racist struggle.


This is part of the religion of the nation state, whenever you go to the border of a country you realize how stupid the idea of a border is. You go to the boarder of England and Scotland you see its just a patch of glass. You understand how much of a fiction a boarder is. But also the public narrative has said very little on the role our foreign policy has played in creating the so-called migrant crisis. We intervened in Libya on the behalf of people who were terrorists. They murdered people in public with no trial and no evidence, sodomized him with a knife and that was celebrated in our national newspapers. They then stole Gadhafi’s cache of arms and went across western Africa murdering people. That is part of the legacy of our foreign policy. If your next door neighbor comes from Pakistan its much harder to hate people from Pakistan. If you look at where Ukip has been successful it is an inverse map of where immigrants live. I am really inspired seeing how people are not falling for the rubbish.



Part 2 will be continued soon.


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