Your new mixtape The Secret had gotten pushed back a few weeks. What happened?
Actually, you know, it’s very difficult to put out projects, especially when you’re doing it strictly, strictly independently with no money. Based on that I had to gather up my friends and my various resources and go to different studios with different producers and put it all together and because it wasn’t all sent to that one place, there were all kinds of various issues, whether it was mine or other people’s that I was working with, issues with recording and my man’s studio got broken into and robbed so there were files everywhere. It was a really difficult time amongst the individuals that I was working with. We were all just kind of putting things together and trying to maintain what I had as a vision. That’s basically it and because it’s a mixtape and I’ve never really done a mixtape before, there were a lot of nuances, if you will, that I had to learn about presenting it and how to put it all together. There’s just a whole shitload of instances that pushed it back. But I’m happy that it actually finally went out.
What happened when the studio was robbed? Were a lot of songs lost?
I’m really not at liberty to speak on that because it’s some street shit. It’ll be dealt with as it needs to be dealt with. Everything’s cool and everybody’s good now.
Do you feel like you’ve been absent from the game because you’ve dropped such little music in the past couple years?
I haven’t been gone from the game. I think I’ve just been gone from the notoriety aspect of it, if you will. I’ve still been steadily making music and doing things to keep the fan involvement. Most people who have been diehard AKIR fans have always had access to me directly through my MySpace and now with Facebook and all that shit. I’ve been doing things here and there. I’ve been doing my own shows. I was involved in a campaign, Respect My Vote, with the Hip-Hop Caucus. I did a remix with Tech and Pharoahe for “Apocalypse.” I just recently did a Coast 2 Coast mixtape with DJ Drama. I’ve definitely kept up some highlights while I’ve been behind the scenes checking out new projects. But from the music standpoint, I’ve been constantly bombarded with the millions and millions of new artists and material and Twitter and Facebook and all of these updates that happen every single day. I haven’t been the most diligent in that manner because honestly, it’s something that I have to grow into and I’m a very private person and I came up in a different, it’s weird for me to say that, but I came up in a different industry and musical era. What I liken to the process of my favorite artist is more so like having to wait three years for the next Ice Cube record to drop or four years for the next Tribe Called Quest record to drop but every time they drop you know it’s going to be classic material. But it’s such a saturated market and I’ve realized that I have to adapt so I’m doing things to embrace the new technology now.
One of my favorite tracks off the new mixtape is “Clock.” How did you and Shabaam come up with that concept?
I was introduced to Shabaam through my man Anti. He approached Shabaam. We have a lot of friends in common but we didn’t know each other personally and Anti approached him and told him that he was working with this artist AKIR and maybe he should check out some of his stuff and see if he was interested in getting on it and to be honest with you, he was one of the first cats to get back to me and really acknowledge and respect it. He said he had been checking me out for a minute and he was down to fuck with me on this track. He came through and it was dope because a lot of times, especially in this day and age, a lot of times you don’t really get to do the cameos together where you sit down and you go through your artistic process together and this is one of those times where we got together and it was really on some old school 40s and blunts shit and just sit down and kick around ideas and bring it all together. we worked out the hook together and we got each other’s opinions on our verses and we laid them shits down and we made suggestions on how we could make each one better. It was a really good experience and I have nothing but favorable things to say about Shabaam Sahdeeq.
Have you ever felt like too much time passes in the game where you have to make it and that window is closing?
It’s weird because at my age now, it’s like I’m arriving at a point where I’m half and half. The younger part of me is the Street Edition and the beginning of Legacy where I’m very anxious and very impatient and I just want to get it done, get it done and get it done and I think oftentimes that’s been my downfall because as I get older I realize the importance of doing things right and putting more time into it and manicuring it to the point to where it’s presented, it’s official. But in dealing with that balance, I’m learning to get more structured so that I’m not always competing against ominous things and to always know when to pull back from that anticipation and that anxiousness to further hone that craft. No, I don’t feel necessarily rushed to do it but I know that I’m very serious about my deadlines now and building that structure to get to that deadline now and I feel like now, as long as I do enough planning to meet the deadline and if I can meet my major goal, then I’ll be all right. But when shit happens and it pushes me three weeks back, everybody who works with me knows I’m a fucking crazy man. I know that things need to get done and I’m hard-headed and stubborn and when I set goals there’s nothing that can happen to keep me from reaching that goal.
What’s your favorite song off The Secret?
It’s hard to say. Honestly, for me, a lot of the tracks that I feel that I had to stretch my style on, meaning they were things that I wasn’t normally used to rhyming over, were more of my favorite because I was happy about the fact that I was able to do something I didn’t know I could do before. But off the cuff, I’d have to say “Blow in the Wind” is probably one of my favorite tracks because I’m of Jamaican heritage so it’s always been really important for me to throw in something that honors that because I feel like Jamaicans never really got the props that we deserve in terms of our responsibility to making hip-hop or being a part of the team of chefs that created hip-hop. There’s a big influence in hip-hop from Jamaica and the Caribbean and I was anxious to put out a song with a reggae sample to honor my heritage but in addition it’s very descriptive to what we all go through. We all get depressed and we all get insecure at times and I feel like in hip-hop, where it’s all about bravado and braggadocio, I feel like there are those few times when artists really break down and give back to the people and make that common bond and say “You know, look, these certain things have put me on a pedestal and you’ve come and seen my shows and you buy into the branding and when all the lights and all the glitter is still gone, I’m still a person like you.” We all go through these things and in a time like this, especially with cutbacks and all of that, it’s important, I think, to resonate on that level because if I’m struggling, I want my favorite artist to appeal to my nature. I don’t want you to brag and boast in my face. That’s why I really like “Blow in the Wind” because you can hear it in the lyrics and the beat the nurturing in the music and what I stand for and just coming straight from the heart and straight from the soul and that’s what I’ve been going through the last couple of years that I’ve been away.
Does it hurt you giving this project away for free download when you’ve worked so hard on it?
Yes and no ‘cause again, I do have to be able to size up the market and understand that things move differently and if you don’t learn how to adapt and/or find the pieces that work for you and use it to your advantage, then you become extinct and some of my favorite musicians, in general, have fell prey to that situation. In sizing it up and seeing how the majors are playing the game and scrounging to lock down artists to 360 deals because they’re losing money steadily and trying to prosecute 15 year-old girls for downloading shit, it puts things in perspective because they no longer have a control on the market and my whole thing has always been that independence is freedom and I feel like the internet is starting to create an even feel for independents and majors alike. People are going to download and pass that shit on anyway. For me, I’m an independent and dealing with a smaller budget and I can’t count on huge promotional campaigns and advertisements and greasing palms to let me into certain doors. The only thing I have is my fans and giving them something free, especially when they go to all my shows and evertytihng, it’s only right that I give them something for free. You might as well get it from me than have to go through a whole bunch of shit to get it.
Have you been working on a follow up to your first album Legacy?
Oh yeah! The album is called The Plan and it’s fantastic. It’s the best music I’ve ever made in my life. It’s mature and it’s still real hip-hop but I’m stretching my boundaries. I probably produced 60-70% of the records on there and I’m working with a group of producers right now and we’re incorporating live music and digital music all in one. I got live musicians. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. I really can’t wait for the people to hear it. It’s gonna be coming out in the spring, in the first quarter.
Are you going to get back on the road with Immortal Technique soon?
I definitely see myself going out to support this album. Obviously Rebel Army is my family so I’m always going to be down for any Rebel Army shit, but I’m hoping that with these new projects that people, obviously I’m always going to be associated with my family, but with this record I’m hoping that people are going to be able to acknowledge me for me this time. A lot of times with this last record, I got a lot of comparisons and cosigns that put me in a pretty good place. They were definitely all things of honor, but after awhile they start to grow old, at least to me, because it pigeonholes you for a second and one thing about some of my favorite artists is a lot of them weren’t able to get shine because they came behind another artist or they were being compared to another great and people never accepted them for their own musical ability. I think the time has been good to get me in the right perspective and to also get my fans in the right perspective that they were waiting on this guy. They weren’t waiting on someone else or a sidekick. They were actually waiting on AKIR himself. I’m excited about it. I’m definitely excited about it.
The good thing about this new album as well is that pretty much everyone on this record is someone who I consider family. You’re going to see cameos from a lot of Rebel Army on there. I’m working with several musicians. These are all people who I grew up with and nurtured and honed my craft. It’s going to be a lot of good shit, man. Expect a new, stronger AKIR but with the same sensibilities and the same outlook on life, just learning how to be more patient and optimistic about things and less angry and anxious.
What’s the last album that’s dropped that you’ve felt?
When I’m working on an album, I don’t really listen to a lot. I hone in on what I’m doing and it’s funny you should ask me this. It’s going to sound crazy but the things that I listen to the most would probably be Rick Ross and then Bob Marley. Now obviously based on my content you already know that there are certain things about Rick Ross that I do not endorse but I think as an album and from a producer’s standpoint, musically, it was a very good composition. And then I’ve been listening to this live record of Bob Marley because that’s a classic and you can never go wrong with that. But I definitely look forward to finishing this record so I can listen to all the new music that’s out. I heard great reviews for Cuban Linx and the new Jay record. I’m interested in catching up. I feel like a damn dinosaur with my musical tastes right now but I feel it’s necessary to put all that shit aside.