Knowledge is Power Volume 2, by Akala
Suggested by Ross Silcock
Getting old is rubbish.
For a start, things begin to sag in the most peculiar places. What was once taut and lithe is now plump and wobbly. For some of us, who’ve always been built for comfort rather than speed, the loosening of the jowls isn’t a hurdle to be feared, but for the Fitties I presume it’s horrendous. And it’s not just the jowls that loosen, let me tell you. One of the most pertinent conundrums, post-forty, is whether you can be bothered standing up to fetch something, because that will inevitably lead to needing a wee.
And everything is so damn tiring. When I was younger, I’d mock my poor mother for continually falling asleep in front of the telly, no matter how exciting the film or show we’d be watching. Nowadays? I’m lucky if I make it through the opening credits before my head lolls back and I’m drooling on my shirt. Netflix and Chill has become Netflix and Nap, and I have to say I’m all for it.
One of the more surprisingly exhausting aspects of middle age is that the energy and vigour of others becomes both constantly draining and a tremendous source of irritation. I despair when watching sports, for example, happiest when the camera pans from the athletes to the more static faces in the crowd. But then they all cheer, and even that is tiresome.
So you can imagine how I felt, listening to the ludicrous levels of energy and passion on display in Knowledge is Power Volume 2.
From the opening song, Mr Fire In The Booth, Akala sandblasts our ears with an urban whipcrack delivery that’s as pacey as a character from Dawson’s Creek. It’s an intelligent and brutal assault, a diatribe underscored with epic and bombastic beats. Akala is a rapper with a message, a voice, and a violent desire to Change The World.
Technically, Akala is a prodigious talent, able to fire off supersonic lyrics with clarity and definition, never once losing the mood or meaning with a mumbled refrain. My favourite song, Sun Tzu, is rather hackneyed in its lyric but still supremely punchy and powerful, clear as a bell. I’m a man who craves comprehension in my rap, so I’m heartened to report I never once floundered or fumbled for the meaning behind the music. Whether informing us that Murder Runs The Globe, or warning us that he’s kicking ass and taking names in Don’t Piss Me Off, Akala is direct and coherent and, ultimately, enjoyable.
He’s also completely draining.
The intensity of these songs is, at times, beyond me. It’s inescapable. It’s all consuming. The album starts at its peak intensity, and yes, it does mellow as it progresses, but the entire downward slope is pitched so far above my comfort zone that even the final song Riddle of Life, the slowest and most reflective on offer, is a bare jab to the throat, a punch with eighty percent power.
I rated this album highly at first, but the eight soon became 7/10 under the avalanche. I like the urban feel, and I like the intensity even though it’s bludgeoning. I’m rather glad, if I’m honest, as my initial standing ovation would have me nipping to the loo the minute I rose from my chair.