Amongst all the fantastic panels and events at this weekend’s MCM Comic-Con in London my standout came from UK rapper Akala who performed a musical rendition of his latest work.
It’s not common to witness a rap show at a comic convention, but Akala is no ordinary rapper. A black, British artist breaking misconceptions through education and hip-hop.
In 2008 he formed the Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, a touring group that performs Akala’s renditions of Shakespeare’s’ famous works. Two years earlier he won a MOBO for best hip-hop act. He’s the brother of famous emcee Ms. Dynamite and showed promise as a youngster on the football pitch playing for West Ham under 18s. Many elements of his life and achievements find their way into his latest graphic novel, the semi-autobiographical ‘Visions’.
“Visions” is a semi-autobiographical magical realist story which forms part of a new series. Part true, part fantasy, part visionary historical exploring higher states of consciousness. It retells the evolution of the art of rapping from West Africa’s Griots, through Jazz, Blues and Reggae up to the modern day. Akala is speaking to you in the book through a serious of life changing prophetic visions brought about by experience of conflict and challenge.
Comic-Con provided the opportunity for Akala to debut his second graphic novel in musical form. Performing the rhyming narrative live to an accompanying soundtrack. Artwork from J.C. Baez, cut with live action sequences, were projected onto the screen in the auditorium.
Check out the first few minutes of the performance below.
The performance was the first time Akala had performed the material and confessed that the final vocal takes for the forthcoming album release of the material were yet to be recorded. The rapper also revealed that he was late to reading graphic novels having been more accustomed to consuming non-fiction and factual literature, but celebrated the merits of comics as an accessible medium for conveying a serious message.