The internet is a level playing field where everyone has a voice. There is strength in speaking on what is real, keeping it 100, but the real skill is the ability to talk the loudest and cut through. DJ Akademiks has done just that and earnt his own unique position within Hip Hop culture.
Like DJ Khaled, Akademiks has created his own lane. He delivers an entertaining articulate audio/visual perspective on the culture with an uncompromising sincerity. He is much more than the talk of New York, he is the talk of the internet.
What you do is very different from what a DJ, Journalist, or blogger does. You do the Audio/visual thing. You use imagery that has an impact with the words that you say. What made you decide to do this?
I’m glad you mentioned that. I was born in Jamaica, I grew up there. I moved to the US and I used to DJ or what we call a selector in Jamaica, doing a specific thing. They’re usually the voice of the culture. So, it’s a little bit different for me when I came to the US, and basically the DJ is seen as the guy who presses the button, shuts up, you might say one line here or there, but other than you dont have too much impact on the culture. I wasn’t really feeling that, I was deejaying, and I was more gravitating towards getting my voice heard.
I didn’t think my voice should only be heard in a party setting, I felt like I should be able to give my opinion and also take the opinion of some people that are the masters and then react to it so I really made a platform early when I started doing college radio. I found the beautiful thing that is the internet, and I started really making my voice heard. I realised it would put some people off, but I realised quickly that after me giving my honest opinion and trying to be as objective as I could be some people gravitated towards that, and that’s really been the thing.
So, it really stemmed from my roots, and me being Jamaican, I’ve got to have more of a say in what the culture is because who more intimately other than the artist themselves (which you could say are innately biased because they’re making the music)? You’re the DJ thats handling all this music and off course you can do it two ways; you can play the ‘Im playing the politics where I want everybody to be cool with me’, or like ‘I’m playing all this music I probably listen to most this music more than the majority of the people, I have an educated opinion, I let that be heard’. That’s where I really got that from.
I connect with people who are in the UK, people from Australia, people from Sweden, it could be from Atlanta, i connect with everything.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but I didn’t realise that you were an actual DJ? Some people use the term in vain.
In the last year I’ve probably DJ’d about 10 times, which has probably been the slowest its ever been just because now im doing more commentary and i’m turning down more DJ gigs, but that was keeping the lights on for me at one point. Going through college that helped me pay for college fee, so I was deejaying a lot, but I’ve transitioned into this figure where i’m a personality now, thats the reason why I still havent dropped the word DJ from my name because you’re forever a DJ.
When I needed to only DJ I was doing that, but I have a tremendous respect for all DJs. I was a producer at one point, you could probably consider me a failed producer who then turned to DJing, but I have a tremendous respect for those people too. So I think it gives me the unique perspective of understanding everything else outside of just the singer, rapper, whoever who’s the vocal artist because you kinda get a 360 of how music creation and also music dissemination works so i’m very happy about that and i’m definitely not embarrassed about it.
….and long live the DJ.
It blew my mind a couple of years back when I lost DJ gigs to people who either under priced me…and I realised that it is was just someone that used a program and the program does it all for them right? The program literally did my job so it was also like a kick in the butt to say ‘Hey you know what you gotta do?….you have to show your relevance and importance more than just on the tables. You gotta’ show you are something bigger than that. So that’s when I started focusing on being a brand, and I would advise all DJs no matter how good you are, you always have to think of yourself as a brand because technology is not working for you and a lot of times when you’re trying to make ends meet…you realise you get people out pricing you, it becomes hard to sustain your value unless your brand is there.
Where are you from in the US?
I’m based in New York about now. When I first moved to the US I was in the New Jersey area. I’ve always been a tri-state type of guy, everything is in New York so I’m pretty much in a great place.
Given what you do, does it matter where you are?
I’m glad you asked that right. You ask me where i’m from…most people dont know i’m from New York. I never claimed to be from a specific city because I think i’m from the internet. I dont try to get anything regional. Recently I’ve been going back and forth with a couple of media outlets that are based in New York cos’ im like ‘I understand that you guys are based in New York, but you’ve got to understand that the the new wave of things is that you can’t be region biased or region specific’.
Me personally, I connect with people who are in the UK, people from Australia, people from Sweden, it could be from Atlanta, i connect with everything. You never hear me champion a particular region like ‘Oh i’m repping this’ because usually that’s gonna imply to a consumer like ‘Hey, I have an agenda for this region.’ I love all music, if anything I try to get my audience to open up like ‘You might not be used to this, but give it a chance’.
I wanted to get your direct view on some things, and I know you’ve discussed this several times on your channel, but right now what is your opinion on ‘More Life’?
Overall I thought it was a dope project. I’m not gonna lie it was different from most Drake projects, not only in features because I felt the playlist portion of it was just him trying to say ‘Hey, i’m gonna feature some people you dont expect to see on my album, i’m going to feature them on this project because I think this is the progressive thing to do.’ Whether you want to admit it or not Drake is progressing with a lot of things he is doing…but the entire project was dope, but the energy to me was different. It started of very aggressive…mostly the singing tracks are the ones where im like ‘im not really sure if I want this here. Not because they’re wack…but I dont know if I want them on ‘More Life’.
The entire project is dope, it felt like he finally integrated with some artists that he has a lot of respect for…he’s taken from them in terms of being inspired from them, and he finally integrated them into his project. It was definitely a big challenge. I really like it. I dont like it more than ‘Views’ though. Anything that’s resembling Drake in 2011, thats my thing. As far as how he did this, I respect it, I like it, I probably would have removed a couple of tracks though. He gave away a couple of tracks to others…and he wasnt even on the track at all…I would have probably deleted those.
What did you think of the appearance of Giggs on 2 tracks?
That’s been getting a lot of talk on social media. I know my US audience when I speak about it or tweet about it…a lot of people did not like that Giggs was on ‘More Life’ especially on some of the tracks where they felt that there was a certain type of tone on it. I’m kind of in the middle. I like Giggs ok, unlike a lot of my American audience or counterparts i’m very open to UK rappers, they’re dope to me. I do feel like they bring something different, and also lyrically people be sleeping on the stuff they’re saying.
The ‘KMT’ track, i’m not feeling it, that’s just facts. I’m not feeling his verse, I thought it could have been better or it could have been a different artist. However on the second track, the ’No Long Talk’ track I thought he KILLED IT! and I love that one, so i’m in the middle with it. If people dont like Giggs that’s their issue, if they felt that KMT verse could be better…I get it. But he gave another verse that I thought was completely dope…the cadences he went through, it was amazing. Lyrically he went in. It’s half and half for me, shout out to Giggs.
Do you think that the outrage that’s coming from the US is because Drake had the audacity to put a UK MC on 2 tracks? That they’re more outraged because they’re being force fed British Culture?
It’s a little bit of both, and I mean both like they do feel that sentiment somewhat, but because of how the track starts where Drake comes on he sets the tempo and then it switches to someone with a different accent…believe me this is the same thing they felt a lot with Popcaan when he was on the first version of ‘Controlla’…
So it’s culture shock?
Yeah…exactly. I think that probably helped with Drake’s decision like ‘Hey, the final version wont have him on there’. I gave Drake a lot of credit for leaving Giggs on them records and not thinking ‘Hey i’m not trying to push people away’, but I’ll say this…people in the US and i’ve said this repeatedly…they’ve got to get over it ok.
I’ve asked repeatedly, I’ve said ‘Is it the accent?’ if it is you guys will get over it. When I first heard mumble rap what I affectionately call what Lil Uzi does, and to some extent Lil Yachty…you know basically everybody who has like rainbow coloured hair. Their type of music…I call mumble rap. When I first heard it, I was like WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT. But you know, after a while you got used to it…and when people are hearing these UK rappers…and first of all they’re kicking high quality lyrical content…..but the accent is throwing them off.
There is an influence from UK artists that is actually spreading into the United States
I’ll tell you another thing ….you might think that that it doesnt affect other peoples musical perception…but a lot of people will hear the accent because it sounds so proper they’ll be like “Oh he’s not about it”. Believe me that’s a misconception. They’re just like ‘Yo, I just cant listen to this guy with this accent talking that aggressive talk’. Eventually they will get over it.
I believe Drake’s a pioneer with it, and there’s so much talented people from the UK who are making great music and it’s kinda seeping in. There’s resistance right now, eventually and believe me…more and more people will realise that the accent isn’t anything. If we can accept mumble rap, cut it out about an accent, I dont want to hear it.
Anyone who has been out here, they know how real it is.
Every artist, whether it’s Kanye, Jay-z, 50 Cent, etc. they all know what it is. They all know who’s who, who you’ve got to pay homage to when you land in the country.
They all know what the streets are like. You’ve never heard this kind of criticism like this from any artist because they know what it is. When I first saw the criticism I was like ‘You guys need a passport’.
You see in America, we do have a little bit of an arrogance where so many people pay attention to artists that are popular in the US…when we have to pay attention to artists that are poppin’ from another culture or other countries we kinda get either offended or dismissive. Like ’No no no no no no!’
Here’s the thing, guaranteed right if say Skepta, Giggs, Stormzy….if anyone of them came to the US, put in the work in the US for say like a year they’ll be much accepted. Because people feel like ‘Oh, that doesnt affect us’ and now when you’re kind of forced to hear on say a project like ‘More Life’, now you’re kinda resenting it, but in reality its dope music…it’s dope music and eventually, believe me they’ll get over it.
They’ll get over it because there is an influence from UK artists that is actually spreading into the United States musicians and fans accept it as long as its in a nice accent. Drake was using certain type of slang and also a certain type of patters and all that stuff, but it was music that was going on in the UK for a couple of years, it was flames. Hit after hit right? But as soon as you hear what really is the authentic there’s a little bit of a pushback because it’s not dressed up. But eventually trust me, they’ll get over it. There’s always a resistance before acceptance.
Semtex, thank you! By the way I do want to say to you, I‘ve had a lot of criticism from any time people have interviewed Drake. I watched your interview with Drake on Beats 1, and I thought it was brilliant. I thought that you more than anyone else addressed some of the topics that maybe he just felt like being more open that day, or maybe you just extracted it from him but like for example the writing issue, I had a lot of questions about that and i’m glad that he spoke about it, when you were talking to him. That’s a lot to your credit, thank you for that. Because believe me I represent the culture, and we’ve been wondering. We’ve got a bunch of questions so when someone gets him in a room it’s great. We know you wanna’ be friends and we know you want everything to be cool…but you know the culture…we’re fiendin’, we’re thirsty, we want those answers.