New-York emcee AKAI SOLO has been prolific with pretty outstanding albums over the past few years. Black Sand with Pink Siifu, MAD SPACE with iblss, True Sky with Navy Blue on production… the list goes on. He’s finally back with his first release via Backwoodz Studioz titled Spirit Roaming, and it may be one of his most cohesive and complete projects to date. With production from the likes of Preservation, Animoss, Messiah Musik, August Fanon, Theravada, iblss, WifiGawd, Roper Williams and JUNIE, it’s an eclectic album, with varied production that paints a soulful yet suffocating soundscape, complemented by AKAI SOLO’s introspective, observational raps that pierce through the murky, desolate production effortlessly. His unassuming flows often seem structureless, as if he was ranting and rambling on (and sometimes off) beat. It’s his wordy lyricism and themes of self-critique, general observations about his life and the world around him that make him such a captivating emcee, as well as the plethora of unique cultural references that are sprinkled throughout the album.
“Cudi” kicks off the album with an uncredited sample of a man talking about the difficulty of working without a sense of focus or direction, before kicking the album off with an incredible murky beat that gives AKAI SOLO the opportunity to rhyme and flow brilliantly, and producing memorable lines such as “If it wasn’t for Cudi I would have never heard of David Guetta”. The album, as with any other project of his, feels like an extended stream of consciousness, where he tackles his own vices and imperfections, whether that be lack of self-confidence, or mistakes that he’s made that have impacted the course of his life, for better or worse. “For a Few” is one of my favourites on the album, not only for WiFiGawd’s exceptional beat, but AKAI SOLO’s detailed verse capturing his state of mind poignantly, while iblss’ beat on “DEMONSLAYER” is another highlight on the album, giving AKAI SOLO the soundscape to rap effortlessly over, and with some abstract bars that sound so great. The JUNIE-produced “Heart Weary!” contains one of my favourite bars on the album, as he opens with “My heart weary, but what that’s gotta do with the path / You either see it clearly or claim to, but that’s chattin'”. No matter how weary and exhausting life can get, AKAI doesn’t want that to influence his path and his life objectives, plus he’s left with no choice but to persevere. There’s so much more I can mention about this album, but I can’t not mention the Messiah Musik album closer, “Upper Room” with Armand Hammer, who are the only feature throughout these 15-tracks. All three emcees give incredibly dense and dystopian verses capturing the surrealism and tragedy of everyday life, contained within a stellar beat. It’s a fitting way to close out this incredible body of work.
AKAI SOLO’s pen has improved so much over the last few years, and I think that’s due to his association with some of most potent poets and emcees making music today. Backwoodz Studioz is a perfect fit for him artistically, and Spirit Roaming represents growth and maturity, both as a human being trying to survive and thrive in this broken world and specifically as a rapper, improving his writing and making better music than ever before.