New Yorker Rhakim Ali drew us in with his first release on Soultapes Records’ Bank$’ and now his second has been pressed and is ready to be spun. ‘You Should Be Sorry’ fully realises the timelessness of this artists’ approach in a blockbuster 90-minute special.
How would you say the situation in the US regarding racial injustice and prejudice has influenced the messages in your music?
I feel like my messages make a stronger point than it did before. As a black man, I already stand out from the rest of the world. I would say it opened a door for me to speak out on these issues and how I feel about it. I know a lot of people can relate when I talk about these subjects. I’m willing to be the voice for the people who feel like they can’t speak. I think I do a good job at that.
Would you say social difficulties in the US have not inspired but provoked some feelings in your lyrics and if so, how?
I feel like it has, even unintentionally sometimes. I feel like it’s made me more aggressive in my music. In my last single ‘For Those Who Need It’, you can hear it. It’s just frustrating trying to keep a positive attitude knowing that there are things like this going on.
This has come out on London record label Soul Tapes, talk us through the decision to release on a UK label?
Me and Ben go way back. He allowed me to release my first cassette tape back in 2016. This is a guy I trust because he’s had faith in me back when I was young, and I didn’t really have much of a foundation built musically. I felt like it was best to work with him for my first vinyl release as well. As far as location goes, it’s very interesting to have an international connection. Not a lot of people can say they’ve done this before.
It seems like you have a team around you, do you think having this solid base helps with the releases?
Without my team, I feel like the stuff I put out wouldn’t be as good as it as. I’m proud to say I have a group of people that give me their honest opinions and have their best interests in me. Whether it’s me on the phone with Isaac (Larue) or Speig playing them unreleased joints, asking for help, cover art, beats, etc. Even my girlfriend, my mother and my aunt helped me. I could name a lot more people, but they know who they are. Overall, having a strong team around you will help. Michael Jordan didn’t win 6 rings by himself. He had a reliable team that helped him when he needed it. That’s what it takes.
The production really throws me back to early US rap, ‘Traffic’ in particular has such a timeless yet unique feel to it with its distinct lack of drums. Would you say the production is as essential to you as the lyricism?
With the right production, you can move a crowd just as much with your words. The beats I select make it very easy for me to write, so I feel like it’s just as important if not more.
Which artists have you been listening to since lockdown and would encourage us to check out?
I’ve been listening to DMX, Eloy, Roc Marciano, Mariah the Scientist, Johnny Osbourne, the list goes on. Locally, I have been listening to Ohzhe, JaeFrmJerz, my young guy Duce, the Glockstars, that list goes on too. The music scene has been growing a lot in my city, and I’m glad to be a part of it.