Akala (rapper)

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Akala crop 2014.jpg
Akala in 2014
Background information
Birth nameKingslee James McLean Daley
Born (1983-12-01) 1 December 1983 (age 36)
Crawley, West Sussex, England
OriginKentish Town, London, England
GenresBritish hip hop
Occupation(s)Rapper, poet, journalist, songwriter and activist
Years active2004–present
LabelsIlla State Records
Associated actsLowkey
Ms. Dynamite
Durrty Goodz

Kingslee James McLean Daley (born 1 December 1983), better known by the stage name Akala, is a British rapper, journalist, author, activist, poet and political activist.

He is originally from Kentish Town, north London. In 2006, he was voted the Best Hip Hop Act at the MOBO Awards.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Daley was born in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1983 to a Scottish mother and Jamaican father. They separated before he was born.

He grew up with his mother "in the cliched, single-parent working-class family,"[2] in Kentish Town, north London.[3][4] He remembers the day he realised that his mum was white,[5] and was embarrassed by her whiteness, and that she could “never really ‘get it’” when it came to racism.[6] Daley's older sister is rapper/vocalist Ms. Dynamite.

However Daley has said "culturally, I had a really rich upbringing growing up in the Hackney Empire”, a theatre where his stepdad was a stage manager and he often visited before his teens.[7] He also attended pan-African Saturday school. “I benefited massively from a specifically black community-led self-education tradition that we don’t talk about very much because it doesn’t fit with the image [of black families],” he says. When accepting honorary degrees he has said he "would like to thank the entire Caribbean pan-African community that helped me through school and encouraged an intellectual curiosity and self development from a very young age."[8]

A teacher gave each student a piece of paper listing their rights if stopped by police.[9] Daley saw a friend attacked, by a meat cleaver to the skull, when he was 12, and carried a knife himself for a period.[10]

Akala’s state primary school put him at age 6[11] in a special needs group for pupils with learning difficulties and English as a second language. He felt punished for being a “know it all”. However he went on to achieve 10 GCSEs, some at A*, including taking maths a year early. He has said he "was in the top 1 per cent of GCSEs in the country. I got 100 per cent in my English exam."[12]

As a teenager Akala focused on football, being on the schoolboy books of both West Ham United and Wimbledon, and dropped out of college.[13]

Akala did not attend university, but has said he often envies those who do.[14]

Musical career[edit]

2003–09: Early years and breakthrough[edit]

Akala (right) in 2009.

He chose the stagename Akala, a Buddhist term for "Immovable",[15] and started releasing music in 2003 from his own independent music label, Illa State Records. He released his first mixtape, entitled The War Mixtape, in 2004.[citation needed]

In 2006 he released his first album – It's Not a Rumour. This proved to be his breakthrough album, containing the single "Shakespeare" – a reference to his self-proclaimed title "The Black Shakespeare" – which made the BBC Radio 1 playlist. His work was recognised with the MOBO Award for Best Hip Hop Act. Additionally in 2006, a mixtape, A Little Darker, was released under the name "Illa State", featuring Akala and his sister, Ms. Dynamite, as well as cameo appearances by many other artists.[citation needed]

Akala appeared for a live session on BBC Radio 1Xtra where he was challenged to come up with a rap containing as many Shakespeare play titles as he could manage. Akala wrote and performed a minute-long rap containing 27 different Shakespeare play titles in under half an hour. He later recorded these lyrics in the studio and turned it into the single "Comedy Tragedy History". In 2007 Akala followed up his breakthrough album with his Freedom Lasso album, containing the "Comedy Tragedy History" track. The song "Love in my Eyes" heavily sampled Siouxsie and the Banshees' song "Love in a void" with the voice of Siouxsie Sioux. 2008 saw The War Mixtape Vol. 2 released along with an EP of acoustic remixes.[citation needed]

2010–present: Doublethink, Knowledge Is Power, and beyond[edit]

Akala at the Hull Jazz Festival 2015.

Akala's third album Doublethink was released in 2010, and holds a strong theme of George Orwell's popular novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Doublethink contained tracks such as "Find No Enemy" and "Yours and My Children" detailing some of the sights he saw on his trip to Brazil. In November 2010, Akala headlined a live performance at the British Library, to launch the "Evolving English" exhibition and featured performances by British poet Zena Edwards, comedian Doc Brown and British rapper/activist Lowkey.

The live event also included Akala taking part in a hip-hop panel discussion alongside Saul Williams, U.S professor MK Asante and Lowkey. Akala appeared on Charlie Sloth's show on Radio 1Xtra on 18 July 2011, performing "Fire in the Booth", and after the great reception it received (over 4,000,000 hits on YouTube[16]), he returned again in May 2012 and provided "Part 2".[17]

In May 2012, Akala released a two-part mixtape, Knowledge Is Power, containing "Fire in the Booth", and followed the release with a promotional tour in the autumn of 2012. In March 2013, Akala announced via his social media feeds that his fourth album, The Thieves Banquet, would released in May 2013, pushing back the future EP The Ruin of Empires to later in 2013. His fourth album, The Thieves Banquet, was released on 27 May 2013, including the songs "Malcolm Said It", "Maangamizi" and "Lose Myself" (feat. Josh Osho).[citation needed]

Live performances[edit]

Akala performing at Blissfields 2015.

In 2007, Akala was the first hip-hop artist to perform his own headline concert in Vietnam.[18]

He has performed at various U.K. festivals, including V Festival, Wireless, Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds Festivals, Parklife, Secret Garden Party and Isle of Wight, and has supported artists such as Christina Aguilera, MIA, Richard Ashcroft, Audiobullys, DJ Shadow, The Gotan Project and Scratch Perverts on their U.K/European tours.[citation needed]

In 2008, Akala featured at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas, as well as performing in New York, Los Angeles and in Brazil. In 2010, Akala toured the U.K. with Nas and Damian Marley on the "Distant Relatives" tour, which included the British rapper Ty.[citation needed]

In November 2010, he embarked on his own headline tour of the U.K, with 20 dates overall. He was present at the "One Love:No Borders Hip Hop" event held in Birmingham, England in April 2011, with Iron Braydz from London, Lowkey, Logic and other up-and-coming UK artists. In August 2012, he performed at the Outlook Festival and in November 2012, he performed at the second edition of NH7 Weekender music festival in Pune, India.[citation needed]



In May 2018, Akala published Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire. The book is part biography, and part polemic on race and class. The overall ideological framework of the book is a pragmatic, socialist-oriented Pan-Africanism that seeks the liberation of all humanity from oppression and exploitation. At the same time, it highlights the shared problems faced by African communities worldwide in a global system of imperialism.[19]

Akala takes his escape from poverty not as proof of personal exceptionalism but of the vagaries and chaotic injustice of race, class and privilege. There is no blindness to the fact that a different fall of the dice might have led to a radically different outcome.[20] Akala asserts that Britain is not a meritocracy where the barriers of race and class can be simply overcome through hard work and perseverance. He explains his success as the absurd and unexpected consequence of an unequal system that allows the rise of a few while leaving behind the many, no matter how brilliant they are. He points out several times that some of his friends could have been academics or scientists if the obstacles of structural racism and class oppression had not been there.[21]

One important idea that emerges from Natives is that, in spite of Britain’s record of violence, slavery, genocide and colonialism, there is nonetheless a longstanding progressive trend that is “rooted in ideas of freedom, equality and democracy”.[22]

Political views[edit]

In June 2016, Akala supported Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn after mass resignations from his cabinet and a leadership challenge. He tweeted: "The way these dickhead Labor MP's are snaking @jeremycorbyn eediat ting."[23]

In May 2017, he endorsed Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. He wrote in The Guardian: "So why will I be voting now? Jeremy Corbyn. It's not that I am naïve enough to believe that one man (who is, of course, powerless without the people that support him) can fundamentally alter the nature of British politics, or that I think that if Labour wins that the UK will suddenly reflect his personal political convictions, or even that I believe that the prime minister actually runs the country. However for the first time in my adult life, and perhaps for the first time in British history, someone I would consider to be a fundamentally decent human being has a chance of being elected."[24]

In November 2019, along with 34 other musicians, Akala signed a letter endorsing the Corbyn in the 2019 UK general election with a call to end austerity.[25][26]

Lectures and speeches[edit]

Akala has given guest lectures at East 15 Acting School, University of Essex, Manchester Metropolitan University,[27] Sydney University,[28] Sheffield Hallam University,[29] Cardiff University, and the International Slavery Museum,[30] as well as a workshop on songwriting at the School of Oriental and African Studies.[31] He has also spoken at the Oxford Union.[32] He has also been involved in campaigns to "decolonise" the curriculum including giving a talk at the University of Leicester.[citation needed]

Advice to peers[edit]

When speaking to schoolchildren or prisoners, or writing lyrics, Akala’s message is always to work twice as hard. “My analysis of institutionalised racism is not ‘oh, this is an excuse to fail’ – quite the opposite. The earlier you’re aware of the hurdles, the easier they are to jump over.”[33]

Honorary degrees[edit]

Akala has received honorary degrees from Oxford Brookes and Brighton universities.[34][35]



Album Information
It's Not a Rumour
  • Released: 1 May 2006
  • Singles: "Roll Wid Us" "Bullshit" "The Edge" "Shakespeare"
Freedom Lasso
  • Released: 1 October 2007
  • Singles: "Bit By Bit" "Freedom Lasso" "Electro Livin" "Comedy Tragedy History"
  • Released: 3 May 2010
  • Singles: "XXL" "Yours and My Children" "Find No Enemy"
The Thieves Banquet
  • Released: 27 May 2013
  • Singles: "Lose Myself" "Malcolm Said It"
Knowledge Is Power II[36]
  • Released: 30 March 2015
  • Singles: "Mr. Fire in the Booth" "Murder Runs the Globe"


Album Information
10 Years of Akala[37]
  • Released: 23 September 2016
  • Singles: "Giants"


EP Information
Acoustic Remixes - EP[38]
  • Released: 13 October 2008
Visions - EP[39]
  • Released: 28 July 2017


Mixtape Information
The War Mixtape
  • Released: 1 August 2004
  • Singles: "Welcome to England" "War"
A Little Darker (with Ms. Dynamite)
  • Released: 4 September 2006
The War Mixtape Vol. 2
  • Released: 22 September 2008
Knowledge Is Power Volume 1
  • Released: 28 May 2012


  • "Welcome to England" (2003)
  • "War" (2004)
  • "Roll Wid Us" (2005) – UK No. 72[40]
  • "Bullshit" (2005)
  • "The Edge" (featuring Niara) (2006)
  • "Dat Boy Akala" (featuring Low Deep) (2006)
  • "Shakespeare" (2006)
  • "Doin' Nuffin" / "Hold Your Head Up" (2006)
  • "Bit By Bit" (2007)
  • "Freedom Lasso" (2007)
  • "Where I'm From" (2007)
  • "Comedy Tragedy History" (2008)
  • "XXL" (2010)
  • "Yours and My Children" (2010)
  • "Find No Enemy" (2011)
  • "Lose Myself" (featuring Josh Osho) (2013)
  • "Mr. Fire in the Booth" (2015)
  • "Giants" (featuring Kabaka Pyramid & Marshall) (2016)

Songs used in other media[edit]

  • The song "Roll Wid Us", was used in the 2006 British film Kidulthood.
  • The song "The Edge", from Its Not A Rumour, was used in the NBA 2K10 video game.
  • The song "Shakespeare" was used on a Channel 4 advert for their Street Summer.


  1. ^ Chris True. "Akala". AllMusic.
  2. ^ Daley quote from his book Natives.
  3. ^ Kate Mossman, "Akala: Dynamite by any other name…", The Observer, 2 June 2013.
  4. ^ Brian Rose, "Fight the Power — Akala and the Power of the Word", London Real Academy, 20 October 2015.
  5. ^ http://socialistreview.org.uk/438/natives
  6. ^ https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/akala-s-race-polemic-up-for-oldest-literary-prize-6xl7vq6f8
  7. ^ https://www.last.fm/music/Akala/+wiki
  8. ^ https://archive.voice-online.co.uk/article/akala-receives-honorary-doctorate
  9. ^ https://www.newstatesman.com/2019/04/akala-i-don-t-enjoy-explaining-black-people-are-human-beings
  10. ^ https://www.newstatesman.com/2019/04/akala-i-don-t-enjoy-explaining-black-people-are-human-beings
  11. ^ https://www.last.fm/music/Akala/+wiki
  12. ^ https://www.newstatesman.com/2019/04/akala-i-don-t-enjoy-explaining-black-people-are-human-beings
  13. ^ https://www.last.fm/music/Akala/+wiki
  14. ^ "He told graduates: “I can’t lie, I often envy those of you who do get to go, people like you … who are about to remake the world, or at least this country. That’s how serious these four years are. What will you do with the time you spent here and the education you have been privileged to be loaned by the rest of society?” https://www.brighton.ac.uk/about-us/news-and-events/news/2018/07-31-akala-urges-graduates-develop-good-habits.aspx
  15. ^ "Akala interview on "The Situation" website". Archived from the original on 12 September 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  16. ^ "Akala – Fire in the Booth". YouTube. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  17. ^ "Akala – Fire in the Booth Part 2". YouTube. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  18. ^ "Akala". BBC. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  19. ^ https://www.invent-the-future.org/2018/05/book-review-akala-natives/
  20. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/may/24/natives-race-class-ruins-empire-akala-review
  21. ^ http://socialistreview.org.uk/438/natives
  22. ^ https://www.invent-the-future.org/2018/05/book-review-akala-natives/
  23. ^ "The way these dickhead Labor MP's are snaking @jeremycorbyn eediat ting". Twitter. 29 June 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  24. ^ "By choice, I've never voted before. But Jeremy Corbyn has changed my mind". The Guardian. 12 May 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  25. ^ "Musicians backing Jeremy Corbyn's Labour". The Guardian. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  26. ^ Gayle, Damien (25 November 2019). "Stormzy backs Labour in election with call to end austerity". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  27. ^ "Bringing hip hop to the lecture theatre". Manchester Metropolitan University. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  28. ^ "Akala and Artists in conversation". Sydney University. 9 December 2016. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  29. ^ "From hip-hop theatre to lecture theatre". Sheffield Hallam University. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  30. ^ "Slavery Remembrance Day 2016 talk". National Museums Liverpool. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  31. ^ "SOAS Writing Week". School of Oriental and African Studies. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  32. ^ "Akala, Full Address and Q&A, Oxford Union". Oxford Union official YouTube channel. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  33. ^ https://www.newstatesman.com/2019/04/akala-i-don-t-enjoy-explaining-black-people-are-human-beings
  34. ^ https://www.johnmurraypress.co.uk/contributor/akala/
  35. ^ Bastable, Bex (27 July 2018). "Albion boss to receive honorary doctorate from Brighton University". Brighton & Hove Independent. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  36. ^ "Knowledge Is Power, Vol. 2". iTunes.
  37. ^ "10 Years of Akala". iTunes.
  38. ^ "Acoustic Remixes - EP". iTunes.
  39. ^ "Visions - EP". iTunes.
  40. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 18. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.

External links[edit]