Kingslee James McLean Daley, better known as Akala, 38, is a rapper, author, activist and poet from Kentish Town, north London. In 2006 he won a Mobo for best hip-hop act; in 2009, founded the Hip-hop Shakespeare Company; and in 2015 won a Bafta for a BBC Two series about Romantic poetry. His publications include 2018’s bestselling Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, graphic novel Visions, and YA novel The Dark Lady, about street life in Renaissance England, out now in paperback. His conversation about it with Mustafa the Poet can be seen on the Southbank Centre’s website until 6 March.
Lila Iké is a Jamaican reggae artist – she’s like a Jamaican Lauryn Hill, in a way: plays guitar, sings, raps, extraordinarily talented, top quality songwriter. She has an album out called The ExPerience, which I’m listening to a lot. Stars Align is probably my favourite song of hers. It’s just a really gorgeous love song: it reflects that moment when you first meet someone and it feels like the stars have aligned to bring you together, you’ve got butterflies in your stomach and you can’t really look at the other person because you feel a bit self-conscious – that almost teenage love.
The Harder They Fall (dir Jeymes Samuel)
I went to the premiere of this film, starring Idris Elba and Regina King. It’s basically a black western – Jeymes Samuel blended the stories of different real-life black cowboys and created this fictional story around the central character of Rufus Buck. It’s really well written, funny and action-packed – just a great movie. I haven’t seen Idris do a mean character since Stringer Bell [in The Wire], apart from a brief appearance in American Gangster. So it was nice to see that side of his acting again.
My current TV show of choice, which stars Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. It’s about a hedge-fund billionaire who’s in beef with a lawyer; they’re both in love with the same woman, so it’s partly a love triangle. And it’s also really a philosophical discussion of free-market capitalism versus the state, in the incarnation of these two characters. Lewis is just a fantastic actor. There’s a scene at the end of series one where the two leads have a face-to-face confrontation – their Pacino De Niro Heat moment. It’s a great scene, with unbelievably sharp dialogue.
Verzuz music battles
I haven’t been to a gig for quite some time, other than my own. But during lockdown it felt like everybody in my world was tuned into [US webcast series] Verzuz: cultural clashes between various icons within the music of the African diaspora. So for Jamaica they did Bounty Killer v Beenie Man, for neo soul they did Erykah Badu v Jill Scott. As a concept, it provided such cultural enrichment. The highlight for me was Jadakiss’s performance in the clash between Dipset and the Lox – it was beautiful to see him having a resurgence with a moment like that.
The Status Game: On Social Position and How We Use It by Will Storr
This is a really interesting book about the way we use and view status. It looks at social media and how it brings out our most argumentative, status-seeking side, but also at what Storr calls success games, which he says are the best kinds of status games – if you’re, say, Lionel Messi or Stevie Wonder, at least your form of status brings joy to others. He argues that even when we’re not conscious of it, we treat people differently based on our perception of who they are, their achievements, their background – that it’s human nature to play games of status.
Tupac Shakur: Wake Me When I’m Free at the Canvas, LA Live, Los Angeles
This is a really good, expansive exhibition, and shows you just how much Tupac achieved by the age of 25. It has all his lyrics written out, business ideas he was dealing with, and audio of Tupac speaking. It takes about an hour to get round it – it presents Tupac as the artist of stature he was. It’s hard to think of another hip-hop artist, dead or alive, for whom this scale of a show could be done. I believe it’s due to come to London at some point, so people should look out for it.