For New York–based MC/producer Akir, words aren’t just words—they’re credos, rallying cries, a way of life. His name, for example, an acronym for “Always Keep It Real,” has nothing to do with tired rap clichés, or a small-minded view of what rap is and can be. For Akir, “reality” isn’t some gangster fantasy—it’s real life. And if there’s one thing that comes across in Akir’s music, it’s real life.
This focus on the authentic, the everyday, the real, started in the beginning for Akir. In 1998, after he ranked second out of 50 in Howard University’s Verbal Armageddon MC competition, Akir hit the studio and cranked out a pair of powerful, aptly titled mixtapes, Street Edition Volumes 1 and 2. The album showcased Akir’s trademark raspy flow, his intricate, nonstop rhyme patterns, and his ear for soulful, dramatic beats, many of them self-produced. Both albums, true to their name, soon spread hand to hand and ear to ear along the underground hip-hop circuit, first from D.C. to New York, both places Akir has called home, and then to the entire East Coast.
Akir set the bar even higher when he linked up musically and professionally with Viper Records and its controversial MC/provocateur Immortal Technique, an old friend. In 2007, Akir releasedLegacy, his first national release, through Viper, and critics, listeners and venues came flocking. The album pushed Akir to numerous accolades in high places: The Source’s: Unsigned Hype and Off the Radar and XXL’s: Show & Prove and Chairman’s Choice among them. Meanwhile, Akir hit the road like never before. He’s rocked over 1000 shows, completing 7 international and 10 domestic tours, including Paid Dues in 2011, Rock the Bells from 2006 to 2008, the Vans Warped Tour in 2004, and tours with Fort Minor in 2006 and Redman in 2007. He’s also performed with other such landmark artists as Lauryn Hill, Snoop Dogg, Rage Against the Machine, Nas, Wiz Khalifa, Kool G Rap, Tribe Called Quest, Rakim, KRS-One, Wu-Tang, The Game, Talib Kweli, and Yelawolf. He even added model to his rapidly growing resume: Mecca 5star apparel reached out to Akir to appear in ad campaigns in magazines and billboards in 2006. All this activity kept the buzz for Legacy so strong that Viper partnered with Koch Enterprises to re-release the album in 2008. He kept the movement going in the fall of 2009, when he released a mixtape entitled The Secret, mixed/hosted by DJ Static and Statik Selektah, and also co/produced “Lick Shot” ft. Crooked I & Chino XL with producer Southpaw for Immortal Technique’s 3rd World album
But it’s never just been about music for Akir. In 2008 he was named the head of artist relations at the Hip Hop Caucus during the Respect My Vote ‘08 campaign, which featured such celebrities as TI, Chris Brown, Maino,DJ Green Lantern, Dawn Richard, Keyshia Cole, Sean Kingston, The Simmons Sisters and Pharoahe Monch. AKIR also found himself working with at-risk youth teaching writing, production, and recording with the non-profit organization Art Start, working in a studio donated by Bruce Willis, Russell Simmons and Queen Latifah.
2013 finds Akir bringing the spotlight back to music with two new projects: Focus, an EP (internet release only) and The Plan, a full-length hitting stores in this year. And again, words aren’t just words, and album titles aren’t just album titles. “Focus,” isn’t just some cool catchphrase—it’s a rallying cry for him, his music, and his listeners. “Focus was made to reintroduce myself to the world. A new sound, a new clarity, a new focus,” Akir says. “And The Plan is just that,” he continues. “My map for a musical journey on the way to be becoming better.” Both albums are produced in majority by Akir and beatmaking collective The Sound, with addition contributions behind the boards by producers Omen and Ty Steez. Focus Features Che Grand and TL Cross, while The Plan features “Rebel Army” brothers Immortal Technique, Poison Pen and, Swave Sevah, with vocals by TL Cross and Sheena Grier. Both are a major step forward for the evolving lyricist, and promise to make 2013 a huge year for Akir. “These albums have another level of musical presence, taking my pre-existing formula to a larger audience,” he says. “My first project, Street Edition, was for the streets. But now I’m aiming for the world.”
-Written by: Alex “Apex” Gale
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