One thing I can’t leave home without….
Gemstones. I carry gemstones with me every single day.
What is on my iPod right now….
I don’t have an iPod, but my iPhone right now? Is playing Bad Like Jesse James by John Lee Hooker.
The last album I bought was…
Can’t tell you the last time I actually bought an album.
When it comes to music, I dream of…
Genie. Kidding. When it comes to music, I see colors swirling around
to match the sound. I see the vibration of the world rising with the right music.
We recently checked in with Brooklyn musician, singer, and songwriter Hakhi Alakun to find out the scoop on his newest album release ‘The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol. 1’. Check out the deets below!
Your album seems like a huge project, What moved you to release ‘The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol.1’ ?
I gave myself no time to do any promotion when I released an album per month in 2012. I literally would drop an album, rest for the first week of the new month; and by rest, I mean, gathering the songs, music, pre-production. 2nd week was recording. 3rd week was mixing and 4th week was mastering, packaging and release. When it was all finished? I couldn’t believe myself. But still no one except my immediate fan base from social media knew what I was doing. I knew back then that the next album would be the “Best Of” as a way to draw attention to catalog and actually promote the music.
Can you tell us about some of your music influences and what impact they have had on your style today?
My first real musical influence was Maurice White from Earth, Wind & Fire. My mom shoved one of their albums in my face when I was 5 and she asked me to read the lyrics and pay attention to the words. I did the same thing with Sly and the Family Stone, sitting and reading the lyrics. Then Prince happened to the world and his music helped me discover my voice as a singer. I have a pretty low baritone most times and can’t sing those high tenor songs. Prince had a baritone and a falsetto and by singing his music, I discovered I had the same thing. The energy and spirit of my music is heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Lyrically and creatively he seemed to always be reaching for new realities, new ways to hear sound, new ways to play guitar. I try to have that approach to making my own music, to not limit myself to hip hop or r&b just because I’m a black dude. But to really explore.
When did you discover that music was your passion?
I discovered music was my passion at 9yrs old. I asked my mom for piano lessons and she said we couldn’t afford them at the time. Instead she bought me a Casio keyboard which I took and sat with my boombox and taught myself how to play my favorite songs. I worked at this everyday with no motivation, and no encouragement. I just needed to know how to express myself with this instrument. I was in love with it and I couldn’t really stop until I developed some level of fluidity.
Everyday after school, I would hold these concerts in my room for about 2hrs, then I would have dinner and do my homework and be a normal kid.
It seems like your music is not just about music but there are some serious messages there, can you give us some insight into what that is all about?
I spent about 10 years of my life in the NYC underground poetry scene and from there I attended an unofficial “school of performing arts” so to speak. I was apart of a large community of artists ( writers, actors, dancers, photographers, musicians, poets, etc. etc) who performed regularly at various venues in the City. The standard was high and the expectation was excellence. I was a spoken word artist who always had a message about self-empowerment through the mind and through spirituality so a lot of my old writing habits from those days are still with me. I feel that writing song lyrics is a serious art and I have a lot to express but I have to be brief in a song. My time as a poet trained me, so to speak, to write about serious issues and themes in a way that is clear and simple. Plus, there’s no one really doing that right now. Bob Marley to me was the greatest example of music with messages done in a very wise and proverbial way. I’m reaching for that standard in my songwriting.
Do you feel that other artists need to be putting out more meaningful music content? If so, why?
Yes. Absolutely. There is a song for everything, every moment, every feeling, every circumstance that a human being can go through on Earth. But for some reason, today’s music only speaks to a few aspects of human life: social status, financial status and sexuality. It’s a very limited means of self-expression against the backdrop of this very complicated world we live in. I personally need art to help me make sense of the world, and to hear the truth be affirmed. Music is bigger than money and fame; it’s a language of motivation , of love, of community, of society and I want to be counted among the musicians who wrote about more than myself. There are 13 and 14 year olds out there who are big thinkers just like I was as a kid. I want my music to be present for them. If our world was a plant, and music was the water feeding this plant, it’s a plant that is wilting pretty bad I feel. I don’t feel the love, the insight, the wisdom, the motivation, the affirmation from a lot of today’s music. I hear a lot of the same themes in variation and repetition. Meanwhile, I’m over here trying to eat organic and not consume too many GMOs, I’m thinking about my right to privacy in the surveillance age, I’m talking about coming to terms with my shadows and my own dark side so that I’m not projecting it on others. I want to personally hear music about these things. So I write it.
If there were 3 words you could use to describe ‘The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol.1”, what would they be?
Creative, Intelligent and Visionary.
What is your most favorite track on the album so far?
Ohhhhh that is so hard. That’s like asking which finger is your favorite. Hmm.
I would say the song I’m most proud of is Labyrinths Within. I say that because it was inspired by a book
I read on shamanism. Most songs about people target another person as the antagonist, the cheating partner, someone didn’t love you enough, someone hurt you etc. etc. I wanted to write a song about what’s really going on inside of people. What if your biggest enemy is really yourself? Your ego? We are often projecting what we dislike about ourselves unto others. We blame others for situations we create with our various levels of self-esteem. We are often looking for people to love us in place of not really loving ourselves. The song deals with that and in particular, betrayal , which is something a lot of people can relate to. I really like how I was able to capture a complex idea and turn it into what I feel is a funky, danceable, groove. That was cool. I also like Sell, Sell, Sell because it’s daring to say what people wouldn’t really dare say on a record. Today’s music sucks. Every song is favorite, really.
Your album is available in multiple media outlets, how has the response been from your fans thus far?
As an indie artist in control of my own business, I think the response has been really good but can also be better. Since I don’t have a major machine behind me, every move forward is a success.
If there were at least one takeaway for new listeners just tuning into SBK, what do you hope that one thing will be?
That real music played with real instruments with intelligent lyrics is very very very cool and worth owning and listening to regularly.
So, you do your own instrumentals, vocals, production, have your own label and publishing capabilities. Is there anything that you do not do?
There are instruments I can’t play, notes I can’t sing, and guitar riffs I’m still learning how to play. I have my limitations but I end up attacking them when I get ready. I also don’t eat GMO foods. I don’t watch TV and I don’t believe everything I see and hear.
If there were aspiring artists out there looking to follow a similar route in production and distribution, is there any advice that you would offer them?
Make sure you copyright your work twice. You need to own the sound recording AND the composition. Never take advice from amateurs and people who are NOT artists. Create time and space for self-care. Artists like to brag about how long they worked in the studio last night, or how hard they worked on this or that. But speaking for myself? I need to schedule some time at a spa and get a massage; and sit in a hot sauna to get my mind, body and spirit in the right balance. Always create the conditions that inspire the best of your creativity.
When you are not in the studio or touring, where can your fans find you?
Wandering the streets of New York collecting ideas for songs. Or at a burlesque show being inspired the feminine form.
Your album just came out and is gaining traction, what’s next?
Next is releasing the video for Free Thought which will happen as soon as the planet Mercury comes out of retrograde. Then I will release a series of SBK videos to offer visual elements for the music. Also, be on the lookout for the SmartBlackKid Show which will be a series on YouTube later this fall.
Any parting words for our music-starved readers?
Visit smartblackkid.rocks and support an artist who actually cares about you-the music lover.
Check out our latest Music Review of ‘The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol. 1
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