Akala returns with his latest album ‘DoubleThink’ on May 3rd. In hip hop circles this is something of a rare beast, a concept album that not only embraces a multitude of genres but takes its lyrical cues from the contemporary literary canon. Books like Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ may be long established works but this audio and lyrical reinterpretation has never seemed more appropriate.
Whether it be the assimilation chant of ‘Welcome To Dystopia’ or The Prodigy influenced rock tear up of ‘Faceless People’ Akala delivers with the lyrical dexterity that we have come to expect from him. This time round he delivers on a number of levels, bypassing the usual hip hop bling swagger that has become so predictable and brings forth wry and intelligent content and dare we say it displays a level of vulnerability both in lyrical content and some of the experimental stylings of the album (evident with the classical leanings of the ‘Intro’ and ‘Interlude’). Tracks like ‘Psycho’ almost seem in danger of weakening the potent mix of styles and lyrical content but gain a last minute reprieve courtesy of some lyrical dynamics in the latter part of the track. Close call.
Of course tracks like ‘XXL’ (the previous single) are safe as houses. Taking rapid fire abrasive delivery and setting it over breakbeats makes for a winning combination that can’t fail (and if it does you’re dead from the neck down). Tracks like ‘I Don’t Need’ are Akala’s proclamation that he is not the ‘biggest baddest man on the planet’ and he concedes that he no longer needs to ‘follow his dick around’ (which is always nice to know). Perchance a slightly contrived message to boost his new man credentials or genuine thoughts, you decide. Further in ‘Find No Enemy’ is an intelligent namecheck that spans musical and cultural heritage interspersed with social commentary on the state of the rap game as it stands today, possibly one of the strongest cuts on the album.
Its an ambitious album that works as a whole. Sometimes the lyrical message still falls slightly short of the mark but you can’t fault Akala for his effort. A bold attempt to bring lots of different genres to the table and mix contemporary rap and in places poetry into a cohesive whole. On that basis alone I can recommend it.