“Man, they want me dead or alive. They want me to turn in my suit and give up my bowtie. Tryna paint the picture that I’m living a lie. If I’m living a lie, Allah show me the truth. I threw on my Cali shades, jumped up got in the booth. Looking through a dirty mirror, like, ahh, this ain’t you.”
Excerpted from ‘1 AM’, the first song off Akbar Walks album DUI, this short refrain helps introduce his unique placement in Detroit Hip-Hop. Akbar Walks is an underground rapper from Detroit, MI and an advocating member of the Nation of Islam. Once known by the alias D’Akbar; since his first mixtape release way back in 2011 named Tears of Satan, I’ve been checking up on him routinely and witnessing his growth. DUI is his 6th project, coming two years after 2013’s The Greater Self. The first under the new stage name, it is the culmination of skills harnessed through previous projects in many respects.Storytelling has always been an aspect of Akbar’s projects, and DUI is no different. Ultimately meant to follow a cohesive ideal of the influences that come before and after a car accident, it varies how much a song fits that specific concept. Even metaphorically, the theme is loose. However, look upon it as a portrait of Akbar’s own life as a drive, and suddenly it works a little better. Actually, DUI is at its best as an examination of Akbar’s storytelling abilities. This isn’t an album one should go into expecting a series of punchlines, or witty puns. Oh, they’re here, surely, but the primary focus is on imagery and narrative. Each song feels like a short taken from the Akbar tales. And, I feel, it works.
Part of the reason why it works, in my opinion, are the chosen instrumentals. Production credits including Mook Muzik, Casino Troy, and Detroit’s boom-bap sensei Nolan the Ninja (who also collabs with a dope verse on ‘Smilez’) helps give the project a specific vibe. Heavy on bass, pads and funky drum patterns; DUI has a classic hip-hop sound to it. Honestly, just on beats alone the project wouldn’t feel out of place among the late 90’s era. This, along with Akbar’s impressively malleable flow, helps to transform the stories into vivid tales and music you can vibe to at the same time.
You be the judge- click here to listen to Akbar Walks latest EP.