Right, let’s get this out of the way first because everyone dwells on it far too much. Yes, Akala is Ms Dynamite’s brother. There, now we’ll move on. The Barfly’s crowd wasn’t bad, it wasn’t packed but it certainly had enough people in there to create a good vibe, and it didn’t take much to persuade them that it was time to get moving. As his live band started the proceedings, Akala, decked out in a white hoodie, popped up on stage, told everyone to move forward and then he got busy.
I admit, I was looking forward to this show, based on the two tracks I’d heard from him, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed, in fact, he far outdid my expectations. From the first beat of his DJ, the first crash of his drummer’s cymbals and the first chunky riff of the guitar, he was on point, bouncing, jumping, hyping himself up. The heavy Shakespeare was as tight as Scrooge before meeting the 3 Christmas Ghosts, the fuzzy bumping of the beat and the chug of the guitar pounded him up and down on the balls of his feet as the London MC compared himself to the renowned playwright.
His belting single Bullshit was an obvious highlight as the crowd interacted throughout, screaming “Now that’s bullshit” right back at him, waiting for the mic to come their way. This isn’t a song that gets you hooked on the chorus, this is a song where every line ends in its own mini-chorus, it’s a sure fire winner, and proved to be better live than on record, which is no mean feat.
He ended the night with The Edge, bringing the delightful Niara on stage as she floated her vocals around his rapping, again slotting in over the crunching guitar. And all the while he did this with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step. It’s clear this fella loves what he’s doing, and with good reason, because what he’s doing is brilliant.
His set wasn’t the longest, but in the time he was on stage he showcased his enviable talents, from joking with the crowd through rocking the live band past rapping in untouchable double time to throwing in a song about how great London is. And if there’s one thing that’s going to get me on your side, it’s bigging up my home town. Akala is one of the most promising sounds I’ve heard lately – now that AIN’T bullshit!