Akrobatik: The Rep Grows Bigger

Rappers should always multi-task. No, not the standard, “I got a clothing line and I’m trying be an actor too,” nonsense. But more in line with juggling duties like a radio gig on the Boston’s JAM’N 94.5’s Morning Show kicking “Sports Rap-Up” freestyles or having your music featured on TV shows like The Wire or […]

Rappers should always multi-task. No, not the standard, “I got a clothing line and I’m trying be an actor too,” nonsense. But more in line with juggling duties like a radio gig on the Boston’s JAM’N 94.5’s Morning Show kicking “Sports Rap-Up” freestyles or having your music featured on TV shows like The Wire or in videogames like NBA Live. These are just a sampling of the entries on Boston rapper Akrobatik’s resume. Ultimately it’s Akro’s music that makes his varied looks possible. Making noise since the late nineties it wasn’t until 2003 that he dropped his debut, Balance. Then a couple of years later teamed with Mr. Lif and DJ Fakts One as The Perceptionist to drop the renowned Black Dialogue. Akro just released his sophomore album, Absolute Value, which features guests like Talib Kweli and Freddie Foxxx on the mic and 9th Wonder and Illmind on the beats. Long regarded as one — if you must — “the underground’s” best MCs, this Beantown delegate’s rep grows bigger.AllHipHop.com: Balance dropped in ’03, The Perceptionists joint was ’05. So three years later, what was the hold up?Akrobatik:Well I mean there was a lot of different things man. First off I had  to get a new record deal because my old label, Coup D’ Etat, closed shop and from there I did the Perceptionist record. After that I started working with Fat Beats and once I found them there were just a lot of things going on. I mean  first of all I have a lot of different producers on the record, a lot of different guests on the record . Putting them all together, getting all those files and guest verses and stuff  took a while and then I went through some personal shifts in my own life that kind of made me have to step away for a little while. Time just flew by and then it was about  time to get the record out there was a problem with the artwork so we had to push it back a couple of months and, you know, finally everything happened when it did. I think the timing is right.AllHipHop.com: So it was case of you never really stopped recording it was building up until you had enough stuff for an album and putting it together?Akrobatik:Yeah I mean I never really stopped making songs. I mean I got a bunch of joints and I also picked up a gig on the radio which was like a really creative gig where I’m like rapping about sports teams on the air and stuff. So I mean I’m just swamped all the time.AllHipHop.com: That’s a good thing.Akrobatik: Definitely. But my real focus right now is to make sure that the next three years or so I make sure to put out at least one album every year and just become a little bit more consistent. All these years there’s so much stuff and a lot of music and everyone else is dropping an album every year or two [so] it’s easy to fall by the wayside. I’m just really glad that I’m actually still relevant and everyone is ready to hear the music I’m about to put out and I’m ready to get back in the mix.AllHipHop.com:  Speaking of staying relevant, your first single (“Ruff Enuff”) dropped in ’98. Back then did you think you’d still be making music 10 years later?Akrobatik: I did. I definitely felt like when I got started it was just the beginning of something that was going to be a long thing. I never wanted to be someone who just put out a few songs or one album and never be heard from again. I do it because I love to do it so it doesn’t surprise me that in ’08 I’m still here doing it. I feel like I said I’ve really just started,  I’m only on my second album.AllHipHop.com:  What do you credit the longevity too? I mean if you look at your quote unquote “peers” from when you started year by year there were names there that are gone now but you’re still here.Akrobatik: It’s a combination of things. Probably more so than anything it’s just support – like my crew is just tight everyone else was doing their thing I’d be the odd man out if I was the only guy not. Working hard at it still and pushing because all my boys are still steady making music and doing shows and going on tours and all that stuff. It’s all about reacting to that and these cats just keep me grounded but also keep me from being lazy.AllHipHop.com: If another rapper was to ask you, How do I make it as an independent artist, when you have artists even on the majors that are struggling, what advice would you give?Akrobatik: The first thing I’d say is make sure you stay out of trouble. I think a lot of cats can’t separate their music grind from their street grind and that whole street s**t is just going to slow you up. And just having patience and not feeling like one project you put out is going to make you famous and rich because you might have to drop multiple projects for people to even listen once. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people put out CD after CD and then finally they get that one shot that makes them check for their stuff and then they start having a career. You just gotta be realistic. There’s so many people trying to make money as rappers and trying to have a career in the business that it’s so watered down so to head to the top is a serious struggle if you’re not already in the business. For me I’ve already been in the business, the fact that it’s all watered down it might even help me a little bit because I think it’s easier to stand out as good if you’ve already been around and people trust that you’ve got quality material. You really got to bust your ass and make sure you’re visible enough in the forefront.AllHipHop.com: Alright, on your album how did you get some of these guests [Little Brother, Chuck D, J-Zone, et. al.]? Akrobatik: I think that I can pinpoint just about every one of those relationships where it go to the point like, Okay let’s get on this record. Chuck D hosted a show I was performing at one night and he came up to me and told me, Hey if I ever needed anything  to give him a call so I took him up on that. One day I was just walking through Brooklyn in the summer and  I was like man I’m calling Chuck D. And I called him and we talked about some ideas and what I could do and he’s like in New Zealand or something when he recorded it for me too, it was crazy. Good guy right there. [Akrobatik f/ Talib Kweli “Put Ya Stamp On It”]I can go back as far as ’97 opening up for Talib Kweli at a college show. Kweli and Mos, I met all those guys right around the time when they blew up so we’ve all seen each other over the course of time and even though I haven’t been in the forefront in terms of media attention and stuff like that as far as the touring and being on stage…these artists know me, they respect me and know that I’ve been around. I don’t come to New York or L.A or any of the hot spots so it’s like I’m a little bit of a low profile cat in that sense cause I’m not always popping up at the industry parties or whatever have you. But cats know me and know I’m doing my thing and  a lot of cats that were really happy to contribute to the record and collaborate with me and I’m definitely appreciative of that because I think we put together something special.AllHipHop.com: How did where you were raised [Dorchester] factor into the music that you do?AllHipHop.com: It always has man. But because I haven’t put out a lot of albums a lot of people might not realize that. It sucks man because people are so quick to want to pigeonhole you. That’s why I like to keep putting out music and I’m going to keep putting out more because there was a point in my career when I was always getting the term underground. I mean I still hear that now and that’s fine I don’t mind that because of what people mean when they say it, but for a while it was like I was known for “Internet MCs” because that was that was the one song that Rawkus took out of my pool of like 40 songs and decided they wanted to put out for whatever reason. So then people were feeling like I’m just some guy coming out attacking people on the Internet. And then I put out “Remind My Soul” and everybody was like, Oh he’s a conscious rapper and he’s preachy. So it’s like, Which is it man? Which one am I? You’re calling me a whole lot of different things.And so for me that’s always been my goal but as a far as where I grew up and how that relates if you listen to songs on my album like “Front Steps Pt. II” or “Rain” those songs are just directly influenced by what I see around me. I definitely did not grow up in a middle class environment. I definitely did not grow up in a wealthy environment. I grew up in a pretty tough place and luckily for me I was able to get a release from that by going to private school and things like that but it always came back to me at home and me and my mom and my brother and just dealing with the things that come from living in an environment like that. But we overcame that and still build within that community and outside of it. Everything is good now but I definitely feel like the area that I came up influenced how I see the world for sure. I feel like I’ve seen both sides of it. You know it’s almost like how Andre 3000 on his new record he has he has a line, “I’ll tell you how it is and I tell you how it could be”, and I just feel like that’s just my approach.AllHipHop.com: How did you get the radio gig?Akrobatik: Just one of my homeboys works at the station and they had an idea for the show and they decided I was the guy to call. I made a demo and the next thing I knew I was there.AllHipHop.com: Can you tell me the motivation behind “Rain” and how it came together?Akrobatik: “Rain” was a situation where Illmind made a beat that made me really feel like it needed to be a song with passion in it. I came up with the concept for the song and showed it to Brenna and she heard my chorus and kind of revamped it and made it better. [Laughs] I’m not a singer so I had an idea of what I wanted there but she took it and made it hot. I definitely went through some s**t making this record and this was the one song that reminded me no matter how thick that s**t gets just fight through it and come back. I feel like I’m the comeback kid man. Like I’m probably not supposed to be here doing this right now, but here I am.[Akrobatik f/ Brenna Gethers “Rain”]AllHipHop.com: Will there be another Perceptionists project?Akrobatik: Yeah. Right now Lif just finished up a solo album that will probably drop this summer – it sounds really sick and I think the strength of Absolute Value and Lif’s next project will definitely be pushing up to do another Perceptionist album. You know we’re going to be doing a lot together so hopefully the album will be done by the end of the summer and we can get it out. If not it’ll be out around this time next year and I definitely am looking forward to that. I’m definitely looking forward to that and doing another solo album very soon too so I would say look forward to both of those things in the next 12 to 16 months. And I’ll be doing other stuff, you’ll hear me, you’ll see me. You know I did a bunch of NFL commercials this year, they’re going to bring me back next season I’m going to do it again. You’ll hear some music pop up on some video games and in some movies I’m sure too man, just going to keep moving.AllHipHop,com: Do you actively seek out moves like that?Akrobatik: It’s like the business is what it is. Like if you have good representation or know how to represent yourself you get to know that there’s opportunities out there and just try to find them. But I’m also fortunate enough to say, “Hey, people call me up and say we like this song we want to use it in this, we want to use it in that.” I’m just fortunate to be in that position. Again it comes from reputation; when you’ve been putting stuff out for a long time and people know you’re going to come with something quality.