AKS Wants Parity For The Next Generation
Written by Vocalo Radio on January 26, 2022
“We’ve always approached music with the attitude that if we weren’t given a platform, then we’d build our own…”– AKS
AKS is garnering attention across the pond with his single “Parity.”
Southeast London-based father, rapper and producer AKS was featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for January 2022 with his Nov. 18, 2021 single “Parity.” Over a snappy hip-hop beat, AKS raps about fatherhood and pressures that may come to parents of Black children.
Growing up in a musical family, AKS has always chosen to surround himself with music. From producing and rapping to co-founding an independent record label, AKS contributes his artistic proficiency to the ever-evolving London hip-hop scene. We virtually sat down with AKS to discuss his record label, the London music scene, his favorite movies and more.
Where in the U.K. are you originally from?
I’m a London lad, born and raised. Deptford, Southeast London, to be exact.
Can you give us a brief rundown of what your experience has been like in the U.K. hip-hop scene, for readers who might not be as familiar with it?
The UK has such a wealth of talented peeps. It’s an absolutely massive scene, and kind of hard to run through quickly because there’s many styles, even extending it to include grime, which is like hip-hop’s British cousin. It’s its own genre, stemming from garage, jungle and dancehall, though. There are great artists who straddle both, who we consider legends: Kano, Ghetts, Wretch 32 and a bunch of new dons that are killing it at the highest level, like Stormzy, Dave and Little Simz. But honestly, there is a multitude of peeps who exists at different levels of what we’d call “success.” The scene is vibrant, and there’s a growing alternative hip-hop/soul scene which leans more towards soul and jazz that is often overlooked, but becoming more and more prominent. Peeps should check out Enny, Knucks, Kay Young, Kojey Radical… the list goes on! We’re here… we’re involved.
How has the scene evolved since you started releasing music?
In the UK, the Black music scene in general is thriving. The rise of grime, and the popularity of hip-hop and all the styles that make it up are at the forefront of helping to shape a new landscape where we’re more eager to celebrate homegrown artists. Hip-hop has always been popular, but it’s only recently that the gaze has shifted to the stuff we’re creating at home.
We’ve got a real melting pot of styles, with drill probably being the biggest sound on the ground, but we’ve only just got to a space where it’s more commonplace that homegrown Black music is celebrated on the biggest stages. That’s built on the hard work of some great pioneering artists, many of which didn’t get their just dues. A lot of the stuff that’s happening now are things that we used to think wasn’t even possible. It’s still a struggle for peeps to get themselves heard, but the talent is there in spades; it’s bubbling, and moves are being made.
What does AKS stand for, and what does the name mean to you?
I’d usually say, “Alright, Keeping it Simple,” because it sounds cool. But the reality of it is that my mates have always called me “Aks” from when we were kids. I got bored of being booked for shows and having promoters mis-spell my name on the bill as “Axe” so I just started correcting it and spelling it out for peeps whenever I hit the stage. I’d hop on and go, “I go by the name of A.K.S., nothing more, nothing less!” And after a while that just stuck!
Can you tell us more about [your label] Less Is More Music LTD?
Less is More is the independent record label, media and events company I run alongside co-founder J the Exodus, who’s a brilliant rapper and singer in his own right. We started it as a platform for releasing our own music in a landscape where we were struggling to get a look in.
We’ve been able to release projects, galvanize audiences and put on a bunch of live showcases under the banner “More Music Less Noise” that has given a platform to a wealth of super talented artists that were traditionally overlooked. A bunch have gone on to have wider successes. So it’s a blessing to have played a small part in their stories of ascent.
Your recent singles like “Parity” and “Up and Up (Heavens above)” feature lush and detailed backing instrumentation from other musicians. What was that kind of collaboration like? Was it very different from what you’re used to when making your music? If so, in what ways?
It was an affirming process for me. Taught me to trust myself, and my own intuition and ability a lot more. That being said, the guys I’ve worked with on these records: Adrian Remedy, Ben Muralt, Charlie Stacey, Ade Keys… they’re just some of the best and the realest of people. So it’s been a blessing.
I mean, most these records were made during lockdown, so it was challenging doing everything over the internet. But it all worked out, and there’s more to come from us.
“Parity” is about fatherhood and the pressures that go along with it. Could you elaborate on the emotions behind the song and describe why you felt motivated to write it?
I wrote the record to speak to the challenges of being a parent and striving to give your kids a foundation and basis of opportunity that’s beyond the point you inherited, or at least an equivalent one — hence “Parity.” But, beyond that, I wanted to send a smoke signal to the parents of Black children specifically, as there’s so much more that we have to navigate beyond just wanting to provide the best for our kids. There’s also the element of wanting to protect them in a world which demonizes them and, for those of us that live in the western world where we’re considered minorities, there’s navigating prejudice and racism and the notion that what we consider “improving our circumstances” doesn’t always equate to improving theirs.
The funny thing is that I’m sure our parents had the same — again, “Parity” — if not similar choices to make. From where I sit, many of them seem like double-edged swords.
Which one of us would be okay with their kids constantly being racially abused as the price for living in a suburb and being able to have a large garden? That doesn’t seem like an even trade to me.
There’s a 2018 Academy Award nominated short entitled “Black Sheep,” which tells the story of Cornelius Walker. In the immediate wake of the murder of Damilola Taylor, his family — who lived five minutes away from where he was killed — made the difficult decision to move from the council estate in Peckham to a suburban area outside London. Inadvertently, they end up living on a predominantly white estate run by racists, which had violent and harrowing consequences for Cornelius and his family. I hope people have the chance to check it out here. That’s a singular documented story out of many, but it makes you question — what’s the right choice? Like I said before, it seems like all decisions are double-edged swords.
“I wanted to send a smoke signal to the parents of Black children specifically, as there’s so much more that we have to navigate beyond just wanting to provide the best for our kids.”-AKS
What made you want to pursue the use of more traditional instrumentation in your beats, rather than a digital or sample based approach?
I grew up in a musical household, so instrumentation is what I’m used to. When your pops is spinning Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and then following that up with Fela Anikulapo Kuti, and hopping on the sax to practice arpeggios, it’s hard not to be infused with that.
Naturally, that’s found its way into my day-to-day and the company I keep now as a musician. I’ve always been surrounded by dope instrumentalists. Albeit that I don’t actively play myself, out of my background and years on the live circuit, I’ve developed a keen musician’s ear.
I lean towards jazz and soul because that’s the sound of my childhood, and even in the stuff I’ve previously done there was a conscious effort for things to translate well to a live band.
It’s been great to collaborate with peeps who understand my background, trust me enough to listen to my vision or rough idea, lend me their talents and be open enough to have me elaborate on what they also suggest.
Is being a rapper and producer two distinctly different sides of your career, or are they all part of the same creative mix for you?
Most people know me as a rapper first and foremost, which is great because it’s my first love. I’m still getting used to being recognized as a producer too. But I’m someone who [isn’t] necessarily, like, defined as one thing.
As an artist, I’m multi-faceted — and, as such, I want the ability to pursue all of those things to the hilt, in conjunction with one another or separately if I so please. I think there are many boxes that peeps say that we have to fit in, and separating my offerings as a producer feels like it allows me the ability to pursue different sounds and sonics, outside of what audiences expect from me as a rapper.
AKS and #3Letters are one and the same, but they’re different at the same time… and that’s okay!
We saw on your Instagram you’re a pretty big film fan. If you were going to have a conversation with one of the four main characters in “One Night in Miami” — Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali or Malcolm X — which one would you talk to and what would you talk about?
That’s a tough one, because each of these peeps are great men who I’ve looked up to and could learn a lot from. But I’d probably like most to talk to Malcolm X and enquire into how his trip to Mecca and experiences there shifted his inner being and perspective on other cultures — but, more directly, our culture as Black people. It’s so fascinating, the different perspectives he seemed to embody over the course of his life.
You’ve mentioned how much you love the first “Matrix” film. What’s the first thing you would do if you gained all the same powers that Neo has?
The Matrix — original… bun all the rest — is my favorite movie of all time! I could be all noble and talk about leveling what’s presented to the masses at the forefront of hip-hop, but I’d find it hard not to seek out Agent Smith for a showdown, to be honest.
What should listeners be on the lookout from you in 2022?
More music, collaborations and visuals from me. In fact, I’ll be vocal in saying I’m open to working with peeps — so shout me.
I’ve got the final installment in my Modes of Transport EP series loading, so peeps can look out for that. It’s called As Plane as Day: Departures and Arrivals and it’ll have a similar depth to what peeps know me for.
I’m looking forward to how this year unfolds. It’s set to be special.
Stream AKS’ music on Spotify below and follow him on Twitter and Instagram!
Interview edited for length and clarity by Milo Keranen
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