Staying In Your Lane

Akai Solo on remaining grounded and authentic through hip-hop

By Curtis Ashley, Music Director & Editor

The rap game is all sorts of fucked up. Lately, many listeners are interested in quantity over quality. This results in the over-saturation of “mumble-rap” from mainstream artists. Said artists receive excessive amounts of media attention, with the end product being a bunch of copy-cats. Even so, Brooklyn-MC Akai Solo manages to maintain his unique identity.

The 23-year-old up-and-coming rapper chopped it up with HangTime Music at Evergreen Playground, not too far from his home in Bushwick. There, the artist explained the many different facets of his life that come together to create the phenom we know as Akai Solo.

HangTime: Your last mixtape, Crush Everything, really convinces your listeners that you are nothing like other MC’s coming out of this borough. We know you have been rapping for a while, so we are interested in how you came to your style of rap.

Akai Solo: I feel like I’ve been taking an ice pick to my shit over time. Now I’m sculpting into something that is more me. And I feel like my shit has always been ‘me,’ cause I don’t come across people that sound like me. I feel like now it’s at a point where I know for a fact that this is my truth, and I’ve just been trying to carve my truth.

I feel like we’re at a current place in music where people are accepting the fact that they have to pick one or the other. I don’t think you do. If you want to have a melodic breakdown hook on this record, and then on the next one you just bar-out, do that. You’re still the artist. Don’t let people try to compartmentalize aspects of yourself. You create your own box and you put what you see fit in to it; or don’t use a box. I just lay my shit out right here on the street, and have people just pull up and spectate.

HT: Still thinking about Crush Everything, what’s up with the artwork on that one. We don’t need to ask if you’re an anime fan, but tell us about the artwork for that project, and a little bit about the mixtape in general.

AS: That’s Mikazuki Augus, one of the protagonist from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. I felt mad parallels with that nigga. He also had the tunnel vision, and he had the strong moral code but at the same time he was ambiguous. He wasn’t a goody two-shoes type of nigga. I feel like that’s the most authentic account of a human experience that you’re gonna get.

The energy behind Crush Everything is just that: to not let anything confine you, stick true to your truth, and to trailblaze accordingly with or without support. When I wanted something that encapsulated that idea, like an image that went with that idea and feeling, that nigga came up.

Solo at Evergreen Playground inBushwck. Photo by Curtis Ashley / HangTime Music.

HT: What are some other things you do, besides making music and watching anime, that you like to do in your free time?

AS: I’m reading manga, watching a documentary, or walking dogs for some bread.

HT: Nice. Well something that we see you doing other than making music is performing your own stuff. Tell us a little bit about the importance of the live performance.

AS: I just like performing. An artist’s live shows are a completely different experience from the studio, or the private bumping when someone’s on their way from place-to-place. ‘Responsibility’ is such an interesting word. I feel like you have a responsibility as an artist to be able to have your fans be able to differentiate the experience. And that experience keeps them coming back. Also, the way the music industry is shifting now, a lot of artists’ power and control is rooted in touring, and pulling up and being able to do your own shows. You have your merch set up, and now you have a way to generate revenue that hasn’t been touched by big bro yet. Touring has its strengths, just in the fact that it keeps you more in charge of your pieces.

I also like live shows because you get to see people. Just looking at people’s faces. Like, I don’t know where you came from today. You could have just came from work. This could have been the first time you came out your crib in a week. Either way I’m glad you’re here, and you not outside doing some other wild, ignorant ass shit. You’re here, and I hope that you take something positive away from this. I like the fact the live show reintroduces the very human component into this whole thing of life, which is interacting and socializing with each other.

HT: It would be dope to see you perform in-person. We can only hope that by your next show, we’ll have some new music to expect. What’s the situation there?

AS: Right now, the thing that’s next up is From The Burning East With Love. That’s an EP that I’ve been working on. That’s project one of five on the conveyor belt. I’m trying to produce, I’m trying to do that shit. I have a project called Alone Throughout Heaven and Earth, that I’m gonna drop, which is produced entirely by me. So far that’s like seven tracks.

HT: You’re compiling a strong arsenal of music. It sounds like you’ve got some really big things in store for the rest of this year and next year. That said, we have to ask you: what is your goal? Where do you want to go in this rap game?

AS: I’m cool with not being a Diddy. But it’s a different type of regard with how I want my pen to hit niggas. In that regard, I’m trying to be the nastiest nigga. I’m trying to shit on Jay-Z, trying to hit on Biggie. Like I’m trying to hit that echelon, but without the Ciroc deal. We have a lot of the same ideas. I’m on that map of thinking, with having the shit branch out and extend to different things, but regardless of anything, I don’t ever want my pen to be argued. Only argue over levels of nice it was. The number-one headband is what I’m after.

Since this talk, Solo blessed our ears with From The Burning East With Love, so go check that out ASAP.


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