Akala - Freedom Lasso

Matt Harrold 01/10/2007

Rating: 3.5/5

Mention hip hop to most people and they're bound to conjure up the mental image of fast cars, music videos containing less clothing than a Victoria Secrets catalogue, and enough bling to make Mr T look like a pussy. Musically it's all about popping caps into 'asses', doing whores and showing off just how down with the hood you'll are over the same old beats. Kayne West might've thought himself a born-again genius for sampling Daft Punk, but Eninem perfected that trick years earlier, using Dido's 'Thank You' for the dark intensity of 'Stan'. Leaving the question: Is there anyone out there willing to bring something new to the scene?

Akala steps up with 'Freedom Lasso', his sophomore follow up to 2006's MOBO award winning 'It's Not A Rumour' and the reinforcement of his earlier work's message: There's more to the hip hop culture than guns and violence. Maybe if there were more tracks along the lines of 'Where I'm From', with its lyrical criticism of the general bleed of Americanised gang crime and gun culture onto the London streets, then the alternative messages that violence is not the only answer, can filter through.

Though 'Freedom Lasso' steps beyond criticising one small cross section of life to round on western attitude as a whole with 'Electro Livin', and its take on man's inhumanity to man. “These wags with their fags and Christian Dior Bags/shagged and they brag and they pose for lad's mags/It is sad, we are sad for things we cannot have, but we are not sad for Baghdad” raps Akala bringing to attention that we're more then happy to let others suffer as long as there's the next best thing to be distracted with.

More interestingly the album steps beyond the confines with its choice of back beats and samples: Angsty riffs provided by Siouxsie and the Banshees lends punk credentials to 'Love In My Eyes' , possibly providing one of the best rap/rock cross overs since Beastie Boys' 'Sabotage'. Then there's the ice cold electro and techno beats that would equally look at home with the Prodigy, providing hooks beyond the rapid fire lyrical intensity that places Akala alongside Dizzie Rascal for his liberal use of humour and intelligence.

That's not to say that it's all plain sailing, there're moments where Akala drops the ball by including one too many spoken messages instead of letting the music speak for itself. Once or twice and it may have been charming but going back to 'Where I'm From' it leaves it feeling a little amateurish, clarifying the point that the Hip-Hop ideal is an illusion at best. Maybe it would have been better to include the points he makes lyrically instead of losing subtlety.

In short Akala doesn't rip up the rule book but he does edit it beyond the tired boundaries to introduce some fresh perspective beyond the normal hyperbole bullshit. Subversive more then incendiary, 'Freedom Lasso' builds upon his reputation as one of big up and coming talents of the Hip Hop scene, and whilst it hasn't the production found on the US side of the pond, it proves that there's still room to push forward with.