Meet AKIR. You may have seen him touring with Immortal Technique, or in recent Mecca clothing ads. If not, it may be because he invokes the spirit of Nas circa ’92. This modern day hip-hop griot has stepped up to the hip-hop batting cages, and he’s swinging lyrical swords. His name is an acronym for "Always Keep It Real," and his rhymes don’t get any realer. Get ready people, AKIR is no joke.
For all that don’t know please introduce yourself and let the readers know a bit about you…
Yo, what up world, this is AKIR (Source: “Unsigned Hype/ Off The Radar”- XXL: “Chairman’s Choice/ Show & Prove”). You may have heard of me on Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary Vol.2 on the One Remix. I am co-owner of One Enterprises, LTD with my brother Southpaw and we have just released a timeless masterpiece by the name of “Legacy”
First off, where did the name come from, I hear it is an acronym for Always Keep It Real?
Yeah it started out as a tag. Everybody had a tag in my crew and I was working out letters one day and found AKIR. I used to write that shit up everywhere. It was also around the time I started rhyming and it quickly became my nickname. Due to the content in my rhymes one day my homie Lazarus suggested that I use the acronym “Always Keep It Real”.
How did you get in to Hip Hop?
Southpaw and I had a radio station in high school and, they would always tell us if we broadcasted dead air we would be kicked off the radio. One day while spinning vinyl the needle broke and we didn’t have music to play. Southpaw started beatboxing and looked at me like do something. I started to freestyle and really the rest is history.
Can you tell us a bit about where you are from?
I grew up for the most part in NYC. Throughout my life I have moved quite a bit to places like: New Jersey, Georgia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Massachusetts
Who your crew are and who they are associated with? How did you get together?
My crew is One Enterprises, LTD. Southpaw and I met in highschool. Myself, Y.G., Dada, and DJ Nfinit all came up together at Howard University together.
I am also down with other crews but, the main other camp I rep for is Viper Records. I been down with Immortal Technique for about 9-10 years now that’s my dude.
Are there any other producers or MCs in your crew to look out for?
DJ Nfinit, Y.G., Dada (The Goldenchild) and, we got our secret weapon in the stash right now.
When would it have been that you first stepped up and started participating in Hip Hop, rather than just listening or spectating, you had wax out back in ’98, what led up to that?
Nah, Politricks was my first piece of vinyl released. I had been getting up on stages with my peoples Dujeous since ‘96. They were the first professional Hip-Hop artist I knew and, they would always show me love on stage.
And you did some battles didn’t you? Howard University’s Verbal Armageddon emcee competition…
I have never been the battling kind. I feel secure in what I do and I feel you should be secure in what you do. Long story short my homies were organizing the event and practically begged me to get in it. I entered in late and ended up being seeded #2 out of 50. Went through a couple rounds and didn’t like the vibe I had to give off just to win. So I quit in the middle of the shit but, I ended up meeting the Heatmakerz there. It was kinda crazy!!!!
What do you tend to write about and what inspires you?
Most of the times I focus on my immediate surroundings because that’s whats real to me. At the same time I try to do it from a broad perspective so not only can more people identify but, so I can peel some of the layers back to reveal issues and/or beauty to the person living in the same environment.
Can you explain your style to us?
I would say I am like a griot, a storyteller, a surveyor.
OK, what is it that is different or unique about you?
I try to instil positive messages in most of my music and, if it doesn’t have a positive slant it is some thought provoking content or raw ass image conveyed.
Who or what are your main influences? I understand that you rate some older school artists such as Run-DMC and Public Enemy, is it these artists that you most look up to or do you have influences outside Hip Hop?
My influences range. I think one thing that makes my camp dope is that we listen to a variety of music. We are very versatile that way and are able to blend sounds of all types together for a beautiful patchwork.
Can you talk us through your releases to date and perhaps elaborate on what you feel are some of your standout tracks?
Well for time sake we will simply start at Street Edition. This project was straight Hustle and Flow. Most of the recordings you hear were done in two sessions. Everything was premixed, then manufactured and sold. The shining moments to me were Best Friend, These R The blues, One, Number Song, Stop Playin, State of The Enemy. For Leagacy everything shines. It is a more solid project and well thought out from beginning to end. Go get it!!!!
Who was it you hooked up with label or finance wise that helped you take the step to getting your material out? How does this relationship work?
One Enterprises, LTD was self sufficient for some time. Barely but, self-sufficient. However, to get to that next level you often need allies for troops, political diversity, and resources. Viper had all 3 and together we decided to take over the world, hehehehehe
What else do you do promotion wise, how do you get your name out there?
I am sponsored by a clothing line called Mecca. You may have seen the ad with myself, Ray Cash, Ra Shaan, and this kid named Unique. The ad was shot by Dave Meyers so it was a pretty big deal. I just finished a promotional tour with Fort Minor, Ghostface, Little Brother, and Apathy. So anyway possible to let people know that I am here.
How do you feel, as artists, about distribution systems like torrents or other P2P software that is out of your control and for which you don’t get any money? Do you think that seeing as the free music genie is out of the bag it could create problems in the future for you as artists to get paid for your work?
Nah, I’m ok with it because I feel that it is free promotion for my shit the same way with bootleggers and mixtapes. Otherwise I would never have such a massive outlet to spread my shit. I just know that I need to make a dope package that makes kids wanna support. If not simply because of the quality and message, for the art and/or the collector feel of the cover.
How do you find the scene in Buffalo and the surrounding areas where you are based compared to central NY and the Bronx? Are there discernable differences or is it all homogeneous now?
I was only born in Buffalo. I cannot remember living there.
Do you have any advice for struggling artists in the UK?
Be consistent, constantly work on your craft and, remember when you start getting shine that’s just the beginning. Don’t Sleep!!!!!!
Would you like to, or do you have any plans to try and get out to the UK to do a few shows?
I’m coming out to the UK with Immortal Technique in June-July. I love it out there. Big shout to Conspiracy, Myst, Deal Real and, the whole UK Massive
I ask everyone about politics, because I think it is important that we have knowledge of what is going on, but most current Hip Hop heads decline to answer. I guess they don’t want to upset anyone. Do you have anything to say on that? Any issues you think people need to open their eyes too?
Watch the resources!!!! You can always print money but, you can’t recreate natural resources.
If you could change something about society, what would it be and why?
I wish people would be more concerned with there yard instead of being occupied with other peoples way of life. That goes for literally neighbours tryna keep up with the Jones’ to countries interfering with foreign issues, warfare, etc. If we would focus on our own shit we would have no reason to disrupt other cultures or destroy civilizations in the process.
Fit all your shout outs and thanks here:
Thank you very much for your time.