Akai $olo is not a cookie cutter rapper.
His rhymes feel more like spoken word but retain a funky rhythm that’s hard to define. His delivery is as brutal as an East Coast winter but he can flex over mellow soul beats with the best. Over productions as varied as his rhymes the Brooklyn MC has been causing a ruckus in the scene for the last few years. With the upcoming release of his newest project ‘2GALES’ we sat down with him to get the core of his art.
‘2GALES’ is coming on the 4/5. What can you tell us about that project?
Yeah it’s the first project since I changed my rap name. It's about duality but not in a linear fashion. I wanted to observe different instances and give thoughts on them. Man and Woman, Might and Weakness, Night and Day, Despair and Happiness, Oppressed vs Oppressors. I always find it way too simple to make a project about just one thing. So I want to talk about a multitude of things at once because a plethora of things are simultaneously occurring. My last project was beginning the counterattack on the conventional mentality when it comes to Hip Hop. It was also my first real attempt at a project. This one is stepping into phase 2. While using what I've learned from that experience to attack better.
I feel you. I think your style lends itself really well to that duality of thought and theme. Like you have an almost spoken word rhythm but the deliver is nothing but barbs. How did this style develop?
To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that out myself. I read a lot and I love learning. Taking in new knowledge for growth is crucial but as far as how I ended up like this, the answer eludes me. I just stopped adhering to what people were telling me I should do and started following my heart to be honest. All of the cats whose music I fuck with helped me get more comfortable with myself, reminded me that I don't have to hold back. Lauryn Hill, MF Doom, Aesop Rock, Roc Marciano, Nas, Vordul Mega, just to name a few. I also always had a hand in poetry when I was in school so the affinity for that was always there I suppose. Combine those things with my own weird evaluation, then boom.
My style just improves on its own. Sometimes I'll write and mid-sentence I just have an epiphany that just raises the bar for my entire standard of writing from that point forward. Even when trying to lay down a verse, I might do it 20 times one way, and then just deliver it in a different way on the 21st. I would have never practiced that flow beforehand. I just merge with my art.
So it's almost like jazz improvisation? Like in the way that the greats have this wealth of skill as a foundation but go off on inspiration in the moment when they play?
Where do you get inspiration from? Do you think Brooklyn finds its way in?
For sure, it's where I'm from. I'm inspired by existence as a whole experience though. I don't watch TV but I love documentaries, and anime, and little informational videos. Anything that embodies growth and progression really.
Is that what Brooklyn means to you? Growth and progression?
Yeah, that's how I view the world. Brooklyn, to me, is a very calm microcosm that can represent the world. The entire idea of not being overcome by your obstructions but conquering them instead. Moving forward collectively for a stronger step forward into progress and prosperity. I am very aware of myself and my friends and a lot of us are from here. Despite everything we've gone through, we made it here. How can I just stop now when I didn't stop then? All that's left is to keep growing and keep an open mind and a true heart. And to continue destroying obstruction.
So you just mentioned anime and your bars have a lot of references to Japanese culture too. I spoke to Elric aka Godstouch a while ago about anime in his work but what is it about that art or culture that attracts you?
I really love anime's ability to convey very universal thoughts through abstract mediums. The artwork is a breath of fresh air; the characters have an internal set up of morals and ideals that are beneficial for introspection in the case of the viewer. Anime is definitely more mentally stimulating than some of the stuff aired in the West without a doubt. People just love to drag it through the mud because it's animated.
What is it about the characters that resonates?
Something about finding characters that remind you of you and your plight re imagined just invigorates you. It's provides a morale boost and it’s a reminder to remain steadfast. If this cartoon character can show some resilience, so can I. Determination is one of the defining characteristics of humanity to me Our drive to survive and advance is what stimulated everything after that. Nothing really seems to reflect that better than a good anime.
I totally agree. I also love that an art style can encapsulate so many ideas through its presentation. It's not afraid to be what it is but at the same time is totally comfortable in morphing, changing and subverting expectations.
Exactly, anime takes risks. It’s not all about screaming and power ups either. There are a lot more realistically toned shows that carry a lot of wisdom. You have to thrust yourself into risky waters to grow. Anime got me thinking like that from an early age. Thinking a little of limits.
That carries into your music completely. Another thing that really encapsulates what you do is the suspension or lack of fear in speaking your mind publicly. You are known for being direct and outspoken on social media which I admire. I feel like for various reasons very few people say what they mean on FB/twitter. For your career is it important that you stay outspoken? Is that part of being an artist for you?
Thanks for the admiration, I'm not worthy. I do sort of think it is the artist's responsibility to represent and be vocal but I don't do it because I think I have to. I do it purely out of choice. It's personal. I've never thought of myself as some kind of hero nor am I really interested in that. I mean what is good and bad really? Subjective concepts that are subject to the flaws as the people who hold discourse about said concepts. I just represent myself and the people who are precious to me. If I feel like speaking, I'll speak. If not, I won't. I've always been like that. I just hope that people see me being myself and standing firm in that regard and it inspires them to follow suit.
Word. I can understand that. So let's talk about Grip.
Ha-ha! Now anyone who knows you knows you rep Tase Grip heavy. For those out of the loop, what is it and who's in it?
Tase Grip is a collective that I'm a part of. For the name I switched the first and last letters of "East", since that's the coast we represent in Hip Hop. "Grip" came from the type of impact we plan to leave in our wake. One that crushes and is felt in this world and the next. It represents power, community, love, and creativity all in one. It's a super group comprised of people that are all ill at what they do and all have good intentions for doing it. Tase Grip is the Justice League of Art. Imagine a watchtower in space where everyone frequently rendezvous and create together. It's not a conventional group per say in the sense that a group is dependent on each member before a move can be made. Tase Grip is more flexible than that. A compilation of wholes that when unified create a whole different force entirely. We're a pirate crew. Some people that are in it are my brother Deadlung, an ill MC. My other brother, Elric. Hajino, Furozh, Thurals, Marayapoppinz, and Iblss, just to name a few.
When did it get started? What sparked its creation?
Tase Grip started around 2 years ago as an idea. I was at a point where I didn't feel like there was a lot of love out here for people who wanted to challenge the status quo, despite how much people like to pretend to be open minded. Especially since at this point I had already been in and left two Hip Hop collectives because of movements becoming stagnant, creative differences, etc. I was over trying to entrust what I wanted to see to someone else.
I see. So it was about carving out a space for free expression?
Yeah. I wanted to stop people from feeling how I did, and even if they never did. Something like Grip would definitely serve as a deterrent from that way of thinking in general.
So where does Tase Grip go from here? Is there a mass Ep/Album in the works? Or a Tour maybe?
Yeah, after I drop 2Gales, Deadlung will drop something. After that, we can start working on that.
Can't wait for that man! Well thanks for taking the time out to talk with us. Where can we follow you?
No problem. My Twitter is @Seishingrip. My soundcloud is AKAI $OLO and my Instagram is kurostarzero
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