Akajou McDaniel breaks down inspirations for latest album

For McDaniel, the album was an opportunity to honor his parents. Photo by Gregory Gilmer.

          I started recording this album in the spring of 2020. It was an escape from everything that had been going on in the last 5 years. It was inspired by where I have been and where I am going in life. In the beginning stages of the album, my sister was expecting but unfortunately ended up miscarrying. I grieved by letting those feelings stew and decided to add the pain and passion into the music. This is what inspired the energy for the album. I wanted to make music to motivate people and give them a sense of self-awareness. 

       My parents were the main inspiration for the theme of the album. I always felt that my parents were underdogs, so I wanted to celebrate and highlight them. I spent my life seeing my mother struggle and face adversity as a Black woman. With this came rejection, racism, prejudices, and discrimination. As her child, these are also some of my own struggles. I wrote songs that explain overcoming those situations – both while in the middle of them and while in the rearview mirror. I wanted to create a safe space for people that look like me. I also wanted to have a raw delivery in the flow and lyrics, so I recorded the album without doing ad-libs and background vocals. 

       My father never thought that doing music was realistic. He didn’t think that it was something that could take somebody far in their life. Oddly, we had a conversation shortly before his passing in which he asked me why I stopped doing music because I was good at it. This motivated me to put my all into music after his passing so that it could have the biggest impact possible. I also wanted to use music as a way to extend his legacy and make him immortal in an honorable way.

      I look at the state of the world and how the youth have a shortage of role models both at home and in society. Because of this, I didn’t want to make a project promoting sex, drugs, and violence, because there is no shortage of that. I knew that I would have to work harder to keep listeners’ attention and gain support. This made me dig deep for my lyrical content.

Akajou McDaniel
McDaniel says that he didn’t want to make music with ad-libs and background vocals. Photo by Gregory Gilmer.

      One major motivating factor for this album was to make music that I felt the industry was missing. This meant focusing more on being an artist and less on being a caricature, to step it up and be that role model that so many rappers refuse to be. I wanted to be an example to future artists that may feel like they cannot get anywhere making real music and to show people how originality and talent are outstanding. 

     “Akajou Is Real” serves as an opus for anyone that has been through similar situations. For anyone that has experienced so much misfortune and may need to be awakened to how there’s so much more to be gained. For anyone that may not be aware that they have all that it takes to make it to where they want to be. But lastly, it serves as a guide on how to turn a loss into a win.

-A

McDaniel’s music can be found via YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal

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