Akala, The Thieves Banquet

Ian Gittins

By Ian Gittins

on 05.30.13 in Reviews
In characteristically loquacious form

Scooping the MOBO Award for best hip-hop artist in 2006 failed to open doors to mainstream success for Akala, but the man given to referring to himself as “the black Shakespeare” has carved a niche as one of the most erudite and articulate of British rappers. His fourth album, The Thieves Banquet, (grammarians everywhere will wince at that missing apostrophe) finds him on characteristically loquacious form, remembering musical giants long gone on “Old Soul,” lauding society’s idealists and agitators on “Malcolm Said It,” and lambasting colonialism and the slave trade on “Maangamizi.” Few would argue with these bouquets and brickbats, yet the wry philosopher-poet Akala delivers them via winningly dexterous wordplay over limber, jazzy beats. Best of all is the epic, quasi-Biblical title track, wherein the devil attempts to decide whether the greatest modern evil is wrought by monarchs; cardinals; third-world despots; or bankers. Akala remains a marginal voice, but one always worth heeding.