Home Graphic novel On My Radar: Akala’s Cultural Highlights | Akala

On My Radar: Akala’s Cultural Highlights | Akala


Kingslee James McLean Daley, better known as Akala, 38, is a rapper, author, activist and poet from Kentish Town, North London. In 2006, it won a Mobo for best hip-hop group; in 2009, founded the Shakespeare Company hip hop; and in 2015 won a Bafta for a BBC Two series on romantic poetry. His publications include the 2018 bestseller Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of the Empiregraphic novel Visionsand YA novel The Dark Lady, about street life in Renaissance England, now available in paperback. His conversation about this with Mustafa the poet can be seen on the Southbank Center website until March 6.


Lila Ike: the experience

“Like a Jamaican Lauryn Hill”: Lila Iké. Photography: RCA Records

Lila Ike is a Jamaican reggae artist – she’s like a Jamaican Lauryn Hill, in a way: plays guitar, sings, raps, is an extraordinarily talented and high quality songwriter. She released an album titled The experience, that I listen to a lot. Star alignment is probably my favorite song. It’s just a really beautiful love song: it reflects that moment when you meet someone for the first time and you feel like the stars have aligned to bring you closer, you have butterflies in your stomach and you can’t really look at the other person because you feel a little embarrassed – this almost adolescent love.

2. Film

The more they fall (by Jeymes Samuel)

Regina King, Idris Elba and Lakeith Stanfield in The Harder They Fall.
Regina King, Idris Elba and Lakeith Stanfield in The Harder They Fall. Picture: Netflix

I went to the premiere of this movie, with Idris Elba and Regina King. It’s basically a noir western – Jeymes Samuel mixed the stories of different real-life black cowboys and created this fictional story around the central character of Rufus Buck. It’s really well written, funny and action packed – just a great movie. I haven’t seen Idris do a villainous character since Stringer Bell [in The Wire]apart from a brief appearance in american mobster. So it was nice to see that aspect of his acting again.

3. Television

Billions (Sky)

Damian Lewis as Bobby 'Axe' Axelrod and Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades in Billions.
‘Just a fantastic actor’: Damian Lewis, left, with Paul Giamatti in Billions. Photography: Jeff Neumann/Showtime

My current favorite TV show, which stars Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. It’s about a hedge fund billionaire who’s in conflict with a lawyer; they’re both in love with the same woman, so it’s partly a love triangle. And it’s also really a philosophical discussion of market capitalism versus the state, in the embodiment of these two characters. Lewis is just a fantastic actor. There is a scene at the end of the first series where the two protagonists have a face to face confrontation – their Pacino De Niro Heat moment. It’s a big scene, with incredibly crisp dialogue.

4. Live broadcast

Verzuz music battles

Jim Jones and Jadakiss, The Lox verzuz Dipset Madison Square Garden, New York, last August.
Jim Jones and Jadakiss in the clash between the Lox and the Dipset at Madison Square Garden, New York, last August. Photography: MediaPunch/Rex/Shutterstock

I haven’t been to a gig in a while, other than mine. But during lockdown I felt like everyone in my world was listening [US webcast series] Verzuz: cultural clashes between various icons within the music of the African diaspora. So for Jamaica they did Bounty Killer vs. Beenie Man, for neo soul they did Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott. As a concept, it brought such cultural enrichment. The highlight for me was Jadakiss’ performance in the Dipset vs. Lox clash – it was lovely to see him have a resurgence with a moment like that.

5. Book

The Status Game: On Social Position and How We Use It by Will Storr

Will Storr's status game.

It’s a really interesting book on how we use and view status. He examines social media and how it brings out our more argumentative and status-seeking side, but also what Storr calls achievement games, which he says are the best kinds of status games – if you are, say, Lionel Messi or Stevie Wonder, at least your form of status brings joy to others. He argues that even when we’re not aware of it, we treat people differently based on our perception of who they are, their accomplishments, their backgrounds – that it’s human nature to play games of status.

6. Arts

Tupac Shakur: Wake Me When I’m Free on Canvas, LA Live, Los Angeles

A visitor to Wake Me When I'm Free at LA Live.
A visitor to the Wake Me When I’m Free show at the Canvas, LA Live, Los Angeles. Photography: Jim Ruymen/UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

It is a very good, extensive exhibition, and shows you everything Tupac has achieved at the age of 25. He has all of his lyrics written out, the business ideas he was dealing with, and the audio of Tupac speaking. It takes about an hour to walk around – it presents Tupac as the artist of stature that he was. It’s hard to think of another hip-hop artist, dead or alive, for whom this scale of a show could be made. I believe it has to come to London at some point, so people should pay attention to it.