How L.A.-based rapper Akajou McDaniel turned loss into creativity

I started to take music seriously when I lost my Dad in a tragic motorcycle accident. Just before he passed, I had started recording my first EP eight months earlier. I was married at the time and my wife introduced me to a producer and engineer that helped me get started with recording and mixing my music. I released my EP in November of 2016 – after being disappointed that it didn’t do what I thought it would do, I decided to alter the formula.

I spent 3 years releasing a couple of songs a year in an attempt to create a formula that would stick and get listeners interested in my music and art. This also didn’t go the way that I had planned, but with each release, I felt a step closer to where I wanted to be since more blogs and music websites picked up my tracks as I released them. I felt the music didn’t have any direction and decided to take a break after releasing a collaboration track with a friend of mine called “Gang.”

When the new year hit and it was 2020 – I heard about the passing of rapper Lexii Alijai on New Years Day. She passed away due to an overdose from fentanyl pills. Her passing was very unsettling because she was very ambitious and so promising as an artist – I noticed how determined she was with her career and how open she had been with her writing. I listened to her music for months and months admiring her story and identifying with her struggle as a child who is a by-product of the hood. Her lyricism had a raw honesty that tackled issues and feelings that many people choose to ignore. I understood that by her tackling these feelings and issues, it helped people who were unable to put these feelings, expressions, and situations into words. This itself inspired me to want the same reaction from people when they listen to my story.

I began to work on music in the spring of this year because I had so much inspiration from Lexii. Her passing inspired a track that I wrote called “March 19th.”  Around this time I had also recently lost a niece and the family was grieving. After losing my father, I also wanted to open up about what this loss has meant for me and how I’m picking up the pieces and moving on and up. I wanted to be open about grieving and the process of starting over after loss. I named the track after the date of my niece’s birthday in a way to celebrate her as well.

“March 19th” was the first song that a lot of people picked up on at once – the response was extremely positive and my music for the first time started to be viewed by others as art. Many called the track inspirational and motivational. I appreciated the reception because I made a song about my truth and it came straight from the heart.  I decided to keep this formula and record an album. I noticed that when I would hear back from people about “March 19th”, they would ask what the track was leading to and if there would be an album.

I decided to do an album of “real” songs which I will call Air. The title of the album stands for Akajou Is Real. The album title also represents the theme of openness and freedom that air provides. The concept of the album is to talk about my real-life issues and situations I carry from day-to-day. Through expressing myself this way, I wanted to also be just as open about my goals, dreams, and ambitions. The album will cover the trend of feeling hopeful and full of light while dealing with daily darkness that arises through old situations and oftentimes new situations. I want this album to be the voice of those people that have to deal with these same things. By being the voice, I want to help them stay empowered and bigger than their life. I want this album to be the album that the industry is missing. An album that comes straight from the heart. A project that doesn’t push or promote violence, crime, sex, or material things. When I listen to mainstream music now, this is the formula that new artists use to generate buzz. I want to be the opposite of that type of artist, one who spreads the value of the mind and soul while building it up with wisdom shared in the lyrics.

I released a follow-up to “March 19th” in August which is the title track to the album. The track “Air” was received very well and is being promoted as a single for the album. The track is a glimpse into my daily mentality and the feelings of doubt and hopes that I juggle. I touch on the struggles of being a new artist, feelings of being overwhelmed, coping methods, the loss of my father, and facing opposition while traveling on the road to victory.

 

 

 

 

Which brings me to today. I have released another single called “Clouds”, which is a song about getting through the cloudy days and knowing the sun shines behind the clouds.  “Clouds” has been another standout track which is the sequel to “Air” – whose prequel is “March 19th.” These three singles will be out while I am finishing my album. With each single released, I meet a producer that wants to get on the album, so I have been choosing instrumentals to write so that I can complete the album. One of my favorite rappers is Half-A-Mill, who I listened to a lot and was inspired by his lyricism and portrayal of everyday life struggles while cleaning them up with hope and enlightenment. I reached out to one of his producers named Jae Ellis by a long shot and sent him my music, not expecting anything to come from it. He really liked the music and the content, and so he has contributed to a lot of the production of the album. I also have some production from Noble who produced “Air” and “Clouds.” I plan to have the album out by the end of this fall season or early winter.

Akajou’s music can be found on SoundCloud

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