Kingslee James McLean Daley (born 1 December 1983), better known by the stage name Akala, is a British rapper, journalist, author, poet, and political activist.
Originally from Kentish Town, London he is the younger brother of rapper/vocalist Ms. Dynamite. In 2006, he was voted the Best Hip Hop Act at the MOBO Awards. He was awarded an honourary doctorate by the University of Brighton in 2018.
Daley was born in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1983 to a Scottish mother and Jamaican father, and grew up in Kentish Town, London.
2003–09: Early years and breakthrough
Akala (right) in 2009.
He chose the stagename Akala, a Buddhist term for "Immovable", and started releasing music in 2003 from his own independent music label, Illa State Records. He released his first mixtape, entitled The War Mixtape, in 2004.
In 2006 he released his first album – It's Not a Rumour. This proved to be his breakthrough album, containing the single "Shakespeare" – a reference to his self-proclaimed title "The Black Shakespeare" – which made the BBC Radio 1 playlist. His work was recognised with the MOBO Award for Best Hip Hop Act. Additionally in 2006, a mixtape, A Little Darker, was released under the name "Illa State", featuring Akala and his sister, Ms. Dynamite, as well as cameo appearances by many other artists.
Akala appeared for a live session on BBC Radio 1Xtra where he was challenged to come up with a rap containing as many Shakespeare play titles as he could manage. Akala wrote and performed a minute-long rap containing 27 different Shakespeare play titles in under half an hour. He later recorded these lyrics in the studio and turned it into the single "Comedy Tragedy History". In 2007 Akala followed up his breakthrough album with his Freedom Lasso album, containing the "Comedy Tragedy History" track. 2008 saw The War Mixtape Vol. 2 released along with an EP of acoustic remixes.
2010–present: Doublethink, Knowledge Is Power, and beyond
Akala at the Hull Jazz Festival 2015.
Akala's third album Doublethink was released in 2010, and holds a strong theme of George Orwell's popular novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Doublethink contained tracks such as "Find No Enemy" and "Yours and My Children" detailing some of the sights he saw on his trip to Brazil. In November 2010, Akala headlined a live performance at the British Library, to launch the "Evolving English" exhibition and featured performances by British poet Zena Edwards, comedian Doc Brown and British rapper/activist Lowkey.
The live event also included Akala taking part in a hip-hop panel discussion alongside Saul Williams, U.S professor MK Asante and Lowkey. Akala appeared on Charlie Sloth's show on Radio 1Xtra on 18 July 2011, performing "Fire in the Booth", and after the great reception it received (over 4,000,000 hits on YouTube), he returned again in May 2012 and provided "Part 2".
In May 2012, Akala released a two-part mixtape, Knowledge Is Power, containing "Fire in the Booth", and followed the release with a promotional tour in the autumn of 2012. In March 2013, Akala announced via his social media feeds that his fourth album, The Thieves Banquet, would released in May 2013, pushing back the future EP The Ruin of Empires to later in 2013. His fourth album, The Thieves Banquet, was released on 27 May 2013, including the songs "Malcolm Said It", "Maangamizi" and "Lose Myself" (feat. Josh Osho).
Akala performing at Blissfields 2015.
In 2007, Akala was the first hip-hop artist to perform his own headline concert in Vietnam.
He has performed at various U.K festivals, including V Festival, Wireless, Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds Festivals, Parklife, Secret Garden Party and Isle of Wight, and has supported artists such as Christina Aguilera, MIA, Richard Ashcroft, Audiobullys, DJ Shadow, The Gotan Project and Scratch Perverts on their U.K/European tours.
In 2008, Akala featured at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas, as well as performing in New York, Los Angeles and in Brazil. In 2010, Akala toured the U.K with Nas and Damian Marley on the "Distant Relatives" tour, which included the British rapper Ty.
In November 2010, he embarked on his own headline tour of the U.K, with 20 dates overall. He was present at the "One Love:No Borders Hip Hop" event held in Birmingham, England in April 2011, with Iron Braydz from London, Lowkey, Logic and other up-and-coming UK artists. In August 2012, Akala performed at Outlook Festival and in November 2012, he performed at the second edition of NH7 Weekender music festival in Pune, India.
In May 2018, Akala published Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire.
Lectures and speeches
Akala has given guest lectures at East 15 Acting School, University of Essex, Manchester Metropolitan University, Sydney University, Sheffield Hallam University, Cardiff University, and the International Slavery Museum, as well as a workshop on songwriting at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He has also spoken at the Oxford Union.. He has also been involved in campaigns to 'decolonise' the curriculum including giving a talk at the University of Leicester.
In June 2016, Akala supported Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn after mass resignations from his cabinet and a leadership challenge. He tweeted: "The way these dickhead Labor MP's are snaking @jeremycorbyn eediat ting."
In May 2017, he endorsed Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. He wrote in The Guardian: "So why will I be voting now? Jeremy Corbyn. It's not that I am naive enough to believe that one man (who is, of course, powerless without the people that support him) can fundamentally alter the nature of British politics, or that I think that if Labour wins that the UK will suddenly reflect his personal political convictions, or even that I believe that the prime minister actually runs the country. However for the first time in my adult life, and perhaps for the first time in British history, someone I would consider to be a fundamentally decent human being has a chance of being elected."
Songs used in other media
The song "Roll Wid Us", was used in the 2006 British film Kidulthood.
The song "The Edge", from Its Not A Rumour, was used in the NBA 2K10 video game.
The song "Shakespeare" was used on a Channel 4 advert for their Street Summer.
It's Not a Rumour
Released: 1 May 2006
Singles: "Roll Wid Us" "Bullshit" "The Edge" "Shakespeare"