While many may be familiar with the Brit Awards, Grammys and EMA’s there is a huge pool of talent that currently sits outside of the aforementioned nomination demographic.
The Unsigned Music Awards started in 2015 and casts it’s beam away from well known chart-toppers and firmly in the direction of unsigned artists. At GIGsoup we’ve always made a point of giving our readership an insight into the latest and greatest music from unsigned artists and it’s with this in mind that we’ve decided to talk to a few of the acts up for nomination at this years awards ceremony.
Today we’re concentrating on the ‘Best Urban Act’ category and London artist AKS. The artist recently revealed his long awaited sophomore EP, and the second project in his three-part ‘Modes of Transport’ series – Train of Thought. His first solo project in five years, and the follow up to his debut EP The Bus Stop, which was released to critical acclaim in 2011, and championed by the likes of Hypetrak, Okayplayer, SoulCulture, and Roc Nation’s Young Guru among others.
Led by the lead single ‘Stay with Me’, the new EP has gone on to assert AKS as one of the most promising acts in the UK’s urban scene, gaining notable support both home and abroad from the likes BBC 1Xtra, MOBO, Earmilk, and MTV (The Wrap Up). A body of work backed by stirring and soulful Hip Hop musical backdrops and soundscapes, over which the London native bares his soul – bringing his rap flow, deft lyrical dexterity, commanding vocal cadence, and song-writing abilities, to the fore.
Having just had a sold out his London headline show and with 2 nominations at this year’s inaugural Unsigned Music Awards under his belt, it’s clear that this is one journey that isn’t set to end any time soon and the world is definitely in reach of his Oyster Card.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a rapper from South-East London, Deptford specifically; and I’ve been about for a minute albeit that I’m coming off the back of a hiatus from releasing new stuff; but I’m back now with a new EP, entitled “Train of Thought”, and it definitely seems to have me on the right track. Away from the mic though, I’m just an ordinary bloke. A son, a brother, a husband and one of those guys who loves life & stands up for what he believes in.
How does it feel to be nominated?
It feels great! This is the first time I’ve been nominated for an award so to be up for 2 categories, I can’t lie…I’m chuffed! I’ve been pretty ecstatic about it and thankful since the nominations were announced. It’s great to be seen, but beyond that here are all these incredibly talented individuals who’re actively doing stuff without the machine of a major label behind them and I’m considered one of them? …That’s humbling! Definitely a good feeling!
Describe your style. Who are your influences?
I get the “Conscious Rapper” term thrown around a lot but on a real if peeps are into that emotive & honest Hip-Hop vibe with a nod to the Golden Era, then I’m their guy. Think someone like Nas or Common but from a British perspective. Those guys are heavy influences on me as well as some of the old guard over here; Blak Twang, Rodney P, Swiss, TY etc…but that being said I’m also a child of Grime so peeps like Kano & Wretch 32 who are in some ways counterparts over here have had a big influence on me too. I’m someone who takes in the whole landscape, so any and everything influences me. It could be as simple as a conversation I’ve had during the day that sparks a thought or an emotion, which turns into a song down the line. I kind of just let my experiences guide me and let it flow.
What can we expect from you in the future?
World Domination! LOL! Nah…I’m trying to build things organically to be honest, so it’s very much more of the same from me. I’ve got a follow up EP in the works to close off my Modes of Transport trilogy and I’m planning an album to follow that. So it should be a eventful and creative couple of years; and who knows what’ll happen? I just had a sold out London headline show, so I’ll be looking to repeat that sometime soon; as well as go on the road for a bit and introduce myself to some of the other regions nationally and hopefully internationally too.
Who would you nominate in your category?
The thing about music that’s considered “urban” in this country is that historically we’ve got a long legacy of being independent and/or unsigned and for the most part that’s still the same. There’s a whole heap of names of peeps doing great things at all kinds of levels I could say names like Skepta or Little Simz who are doing great things internationally as well as domestically; and they wouldn’t be amiss. But I can also draw for names you may not have heard of yet, like J the Exodus, YJ, Adian Coker, Shadez The Misfit, Che Lingo, Dora Martin…the list goes on. There’s a wealth of great talent that’s bubbling under the surface and hopefully I can help to shed a light on that.
What other urban artists do you most admire the most?
It’s no secret that Common is my favourite rapper. I resonate with him the most in terms of my outlook on stuff. But I got admiration for so many, as with most artist you kinda absorb influences from everyone and amalgamate them into your own style. So I rate early Kanye & more recently the likes of Kendrick Lamar & J Cole. I love what Little Simz is doing at the moment; building a solid fan base on her own terms and visibly doing it without fitting any kind of moulds that are there. Similarly Wretch 32 and Kano…I really love the album offerings they’ve gifted the world this year. I feel like its reminded people how a great body of work makes you feel; and how seminal albums act as landmarks in the musical landscape. I remember the person I was when Kano’s debut “Home Sweet Home” came out and I can measure how much I’ve grown as an individual with “Made in the Manor”.
Is there a particular song or musical passage that never fails to move you emotionally?
Labbi Siffre – “Something Inside So Strong”
That’s a powerfully triumphant song born out of resistance. It’s my favourite song and gets me every time.
Where would you place yourselves in the urban scene?
I’ve been at this for a while so thankful I’ve got a relatively decent following, but that being said; although I’ve come along way…there’s still a long way to go! The landscape of the scene over here seems to be changing. Grime is obviously becoming very popular in the mainstream and that’s meaning that there’s a real interest in what everybody is doing; whether you make Grime or not. Like I said there’s a great wealth of talent that’s about, so I’m thankful to be one of those names peeps consider as “one to watch”; and I hope that interest continues to yield fruit.
How did you get into urban music? Did it choose you? or did you choose it?
I’m not so much an advocate or one for championing the term “Urban” to be honest. I understand why it’s there but it makes it seem like it’s all just one thing. There’s a range of different sounds and genres that it encapsulates. My Dad plays the Sax and Piano, so I grew up in a household that was filled with music, I’ve got Jazz, Soul & Afrobeat influences off the back of that. And much like other peeps who are part of my generation there was this moment when So Solid Crew were a really big deal and everyone started emceeing. That was like the height of the Garage sound and the beginnings of Grime. Everybody was doing it and we’d just muck around during break at school, which led to pirate radio set, which led whatever else. I gravitated towards Hip-Hop pretty late. Always listened to it, but I just got to this stage where I wanted to say more; and at the time I felt like Hip-Hop gave me the ability to express myself more freely. I still embody all those other things, they’re a part of what makes me who I am and important to me for that reason…but Hip-Hop is what I do.
If you could be playing anywhere in the world in 12 months time, where would it be?
I’d love to play a gig in Nigeria. That’s actually something that’s on my Bucket List. There’d be something poetic about playing a gig where my parents were born and raised. Kind of like bringing the journey full circle. It’d be all the more poetic if I could angle a performance at Fela “Anikulapo” Kut’s venue Shrine! He’s been a massive influence via my Father playing his records on a daily when I was growing up. It’d be great to do that.