Akala’s The Thieves Banquet review and brief analysis

Posted: June 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
The superb album cover of 'The Thieves Banquet', with the track list on the right-hand side.

The superb album cover of ‘The Thieves Banquet’, with the track list on the right-hand side.

UK rapper, and North London born, Akala, released The Thieves Banquet on May 27th, 2013. His fourth studio album, following his first It’s Not a Rumour (2006), has seen the evolution of Akala as an MC. Roll Wid Us gave Akala the catapult and push to getting his music heard after it was in Kidulthood, a British film about “ghetto teenage life”. From the heavy use of the word “nigger” in some of his tracks like Shakespeare (2006) to the eloquence in his tracks now, Akala has developed his game and become one of the best MC’s in the UK; some may dub him as a ‘conscious rapper’ but I feel as though that’s putting him in a box, because, what is an unconscious rapper?

Whilst Akala’s flow remains the same, as ever, on The Thieves Banquet, it’s quite noticeable that the beats are extremely authentic and original – this is because, for the first time, Akala experimented with a live band to cover all the tracks on his album. It’s a breath of fresh air considering how many rappers use beats composed, electronically, on a computer as opposed to Akala who’s used a live band; not that I’m knocking any of the other rappers. It genuinely gives Akala his own character, and it’s an experiment that has worked very well.

With Malcolm Said it, Akala educates the listener by rapping about revolutionary figures who stood by something, fought by its side, and took it to their grave with them, ensuring they’d make change: “Malcolm said it, Martin said it, Marley said it, Ali said it, Garvey said it, Toussaint said it” – all these people fought for either equality, peace or freedom. A strong and more powerful message is delivered in the hook when Akala says “If you ain’t found something to die for, you’ll never live”. Akala is encouraging his listener to achieve their dreams and not sit back and wait for something to happen.

Pissed off is a track where an enraged Akala raps about all the things that anger his average listener: “it’s just a red letter warning, sucking every penny that you’ve got”, Akala is, essentially, speaking about the struggle to pay your bills. The track develops, as the live band, especially the electric guitarist, truly shine, and it becomes even more thought provoking.

The final track(s) I’m going to look at is The Thieves Banquet, part one and two. Without any exaggeration, this is one of the best rap songs I’ve heard for a very long time. Akala’s theatrical nous shines as he takes on the voices of four different characters, literally, and delivers his rap in a theatre-like manner as he cycles through the four characters. The context behind the track is that the devil has a feast and rounds up four of the “greatest thieves in the land”: a monarch of empire, a banking cartel, the head of a religious order and a third-world dictator.  These four thieves are then asked, one-by-one to enlighten the devil as to why they’re the greatest thief in the land. The third-world dictator steps up first as Akala modifies his voice to a deep, “oh-so serious tone” and speaks about how he kills anyone who believes that presidential elections should be ‘fair’, condones murder and rape because he wants more money: “with that profit, what’s a little bit of torture?”. The track continues to develop, as your feelings evolve and your hatred begins to breed for these ‘thieves’. The monarch of empire is the second character who steps up and tries to better the general vile words spoken by the third-world dictator: “who do you think trained this amateur dictator to behave this way?”, by insinuating he’s an amateur, the monarch of empire begins to speak about doing worse things, but with an air of concealment behind it. “People think I’m heaven sent”, again, shows how the monarch of empire may look like to the average outsider, but this gathering shows how evil he is when he speaks about deliberately allowing countries to starve to death and encouraging slavery. The third character who steps up is the head of a religious order, as Akala modifies his tone to a more sinister, malevolent one. He speaks about putting on a nice voice and reading the audience a book; the fact he doesn’t call it by its name i.e Bible, Quran shows that the head of the religious order doesn’t care about religion and just uses it as a “cloak” to persist with wrong-doings like paedophilia and using peoples “life savings so I can buy jets”. The final is the cartel banker and, in my opinion, the biggest ‘thief’ of them all as he speaks about all the other three people “depend on me”. He speaks about paying for the “guns, bombs and the tanks” that promote the war that the others in this are involved in. The rap ends with the head of the banking cartel telling the devil “don’t be biased, if you don’t give it to me, I’ll just buy it!” – this, ultimately, shows how money is the root of all evil, as the saying goes, and that the head of the banking cartel is the man who instigates all the other crimes that the other thieves commit.

Overall, I feel as though this is the most authentic album Akala has released. From the eloquent, thought-provoking lyrics to the live band, it’s probably the best album you’ll hear this year from a UK rap artist. For £7.99, you’re supporting one of the best MC’s in Britain and listening to pure, uncensored, truth-speaking gold. Purchase The Thieves Banquet here.

 

 

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Comments
  1. Lee says:

    No mention of ‘one more breath’ and ‘lose myself’? IMO these are the two stand-out tracks (thieves banquet 1 and 2 are great) as I feel Akala shines the most when contemplating sort of existential questions. Those two songs sit nicely alongside find no enemy and something inside my head. He is my fav artist out by a far way. Great review.

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