Dealing with adversity with Akroyd Smart
Akroyd Smart has been consistently performing around Melbourne over the last year since his debut mixtape “Introvert” dropped online. With sounds similar to Childish Gambino, Logic and Drake, his influences actually derive from outside of hip hop. Ranging from artists’ such as Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke. In his early childhood years Akroyd suffered from an identity crisis, having to grow up dealing with adversity as well as being bullied, Akroyd decided to turn his trials and tribulations into his music.
The East side rapper talks to SYS about the definition of success, the pros and cons of Australian hip hop, as well as the personal struggles that lead to the fruition of his most recent single “I can do anything.” Bree Stewart writes.
Akroyd, your debut mixtape ‘Introvert’ has been circulating online over the last year, talk us through the latest single off that album ‘I can do anything.’ What’s the backdrop to this track?
In the context of ‘Introvert,’ ‘I Can Do Anything’ plays an important part of contrasting with the more self effacing and philosophical songs on the project. A lot of my early childhood was dealing with the adversity of trying to fit in with people and getting bullied for who I was. I know who I am a lot better now, but previously there was definitely an identity crisis. So this song sort of paints this positive uprise through any times of struggle, especially as ‘Introvert’ was created and is all about a particular point in my life where there was a lot of struggle.
I listen to ‘Introvert’ and hear a little bit of Gambino, a little bit of Drake and maybe a dash of Logic. Who are your musical influences? Anyone on a local level that you’re into at the moment?
Man, there are lots. The three you mentioned are definitely on my radar when it comes to frequent listens but I would say heaps of my influences come from outside the genre of Hip Hop. I love lots of Soul and R&B like Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Michael Jackson and even Prince. I love Freddie Mercury and Queen as well as a lot of punk bands like Say Anything. And Jeff Buckley is like my Elvis.
On a local level however, RY is really cool (Ryan, I still really want to be your best friend if you're reading this!), Mikey Hundred is another one and in fact, he was who put me on to Allday. Also Wolf Henson is making some absolute tunes at the moment There's a punk band local to me who I'm really digging right now called Set the Score. They make some really cool sounds!
You not only sing and rap your own material but you produce it too. Does the beat always come before the words do?
Beats definitely usually come before words. However, it's different every time. Sometimes a hook idea comes first. Like a melody and then some chords come in after that. ‘#barz' was like that. My old DJ, TLIK, he sent me a crappy voice recording over Facebook of him doing what is now the hook and I just chopped it up and made a beat around it. But yes, generally the beat comes first. I feel like if I create a really good atmosphere first, then the words come very easy and write themselves.
Which came first - rapping or producing?
I guess those two naturally happened at the same time. Songwriting came first definitely and then being the recording person for any bands I was in way back when. Actually making beats and writing raps sort of happened really close and virtually at the same time.
How have you grown as an artist since you started writing music?
As I said before, I definitely know myself a lot better than I did. I think I definitely push myself more to make things as accurate as I hear them in my head. I also get a chance to research particular topics and learn about things I never knew before. I'm always learning new things.
You’re a Melbourne based rapper - do you feel the city is an inspiring canvas for a hip hop artist?
I mean it depends what you're writing about. It's all about creating moments that make you feel like you're standing in the room or the space with the artist. Personally, I focus more on spaces that affect me immediately, like my car or a room I'm in. I however, can definitely say in much more recent times, I've been walking through the city and surrounding areas and have come up with ideas just due to how I've been feeling in that moment.
What is lacking in the local hip hop scene at the moment?
I think the thing that's lacking in local hip hop is the ability to be oneself. I feel like the music most rappers are making is kind of like an impression or an impersonation of a style that's kind of popular right now. And if that's what someone likes and wants to try, that's great, do it! But I think adding your own flavour and personality to that pushes the genre forward.
If you could collaborate with one male artist and one female artist, who would they be?
I would like to make a song with female rapper, Noname Gypsy. I think she is the coolest and just so genuinely herself. Love her style. I think I would like to work with Frank Ocean, I am just really fascinated with the way his mind works and the results that come from it.
What genres outside of hip hop do you immerse yourself in? I can definitely hear some Jazz undertones in your tracks…
Any thing by Miles, Herbie and Wayne Shorter, I will love. I'm a big fan of any noisey experimental music, bands like Karnivool, Cog, Sleep Parade, Animals as Leaders, Death Grips, Clipping, are all things I listen to as well.
Are there other creative realms you get into besides music?
I really enjoy both making and watching film. A friend of mine and I have been trying to get some videos together to help convey the messages I want to explore from current and future projects so maybe some ideas will come out of the woodwork soon in the next year or so. But being involved in film and acting is something I really love to do outside of music.
Is music a full-time career path for you?
It has to be. I'm not really exceptional at much else haha!
What is your advice for other young rappers trying to come up in an overly saturated world of online music?
I would say, know who you are before putting things out. Experiment and find what is inherently ‘you' and emphasise that to the world when you do decide that you want to put music out there. Also define what success is to you and work out what and why you're really doing it. Don't do it for money because that never works and there's already enough of that out there.
Finally, Akroyd what stimulates your soul?
A unique question for sure. I would say, stories and discussion. Anything that creates a connection between two or more individuals. That's what I've decided my purpose is and music is a tool that I can use to share and learn about this weird thing I'm in called life.