We caught up with one of the creative minds behind Kool Out Lounge and DJ, Akio, to discuss his road to success, and pick his mind about some industry topics that have many divided opinions.
Lalelani: How long have you been a hip hop DJ?
Akio: Professionally, only since 2008. I started first DJing back in 2002 and continued as a side hustle while I was a student. I was raised to believe that I should go the practical route by getting my undergraduate degree, work on a Masters, and then join the workforce. Entertainment was never really viewed as a viable career path. It was only after the success of Kool Out Lounge that I decided to pursue it full time.
L: What is your take on the general direction of hip hop at the moment, and mumble rappers?
Ak: Lol. Look, I’ve made it a goal to try and relate to every new permutation and evolution of music and in particular Hip Hop. Every generation always believes that their music is better than the generation after them. I decided never to be like the uncle or parent who hates the kids’ music so I make sure I go through everything that’s new and filter to the songs that I do vibe with. That being said, I have a rule when I DJ and its that I don’t play anything that I don’t personally like.
L: Who’s your Dj’ing hero?
Ak: I would say growing up it was Tony Touch for the mixtapes he used to drop or Qbert for the scratching. Locally I would say I dig Black Coffee’s professional path. I tell everyone in the music industry that you don’t want to peak at 26 and spend the rest of your career chasing a younger version of yourself. You want to hit your stride and 40 and keep rising. I think Black Coffee is a good example of that.
L: What’s your favourite gig you’ve played?
Ak: Hmmm. I would say either the first time I performed at Oppikoppi or being on the Kendrick Lamar tour when he came to SA.
L: What is the local hip hop industries greatest strength and greatest weakness?
Ak: I feel like the greatest strength is the large amount of musical talent that exists and how accessible it has become to make music and get it out there. The greatest weakness is probably that artists tend to lack originality.
L: Which contemporary local artists have you got on rotation at the moment?
Ak: Shane Eagle dropped a really solid project recently. The AKA x Anati album was dope.
L: If you could pick one international artist to work with, dead or alive, who would it be?
Ak: Sade, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Kaytranada, Anderson .Paak, Hold up. Just one??
L: Got any projects that you’re working on that we can look forward to?
Ak: I’ll be dropping a mix for the November issue of The Plug next week and a mix for our Alchemy series in January.
L: We know rappers get them, but do dj’s have groupies too?
Ak: Lol. For sure. Us DJs have a bit more class than the rappers.
L: Over the years, have you experienced any “beef”? If so, what happened?
Ak: Right now there isn’t anyone that I would consider myself competitive with. Definitely in the past though. Kool Out as a crew has had rivalries with other DJ crews and promoters. Some could be classified as Beef and some would be more seen as competition. Either way it’s driven me personally to push harder and be better. Most don’t have the endurance to keep up in this business. Those that have, we’ve generally gained a mutual respect for each other and now work together when we can.
Big ups, and thanks for taking the time to talk to us and our readers.
If there’s one thing we can take away from this interview, it’s that Akio is all about the hustle, and guranteed to keep pushing the culture to new levels. Catch him along side other local heavyweights and international Maribou State for Maribou State Here in CPT on the 8th of December & in JHB 9th of December.
For more info check out: