The Break Presents: Akeem Ali
While he's been working on music for about 11 years, Jackson, Miss. rapper Akeem Ali's time in the spotlight actually came faster than he expected. Now 26 years old, Ali experienced a whirlwind of buzz last year, brought on by his pimp adjacent alter ego Keemy Casanova, which he brought to life in both a video and song last year. However, his smooth rhyming abilities don't get lost in the persona he employs. Ali has plenty of flows, is very clever and has a unique sense of humor that he blends into his raps.
Before he started gaining recognition for his rhymes, Akeem Ali wrote his first rap to Chris Brown's 2006 single "Poppin'" at the age of 11. From there, Ali committed to rap at 15, and started to put more time in, feeling his love for music made it the right path. In 2015, he dropped his first mixtape, which he describes as Lil Wayne's No Ceilings over old-school beats. The aspiring rhymer eventually removed the tape from the internet, but kept creating and studying acts outside of music he admired, like Jamie Foxx and the Wayans Bros., to sharpen his showmanship. With time came the birth of Keemy Casanova, a fully-formed persona with years of working on music behind it.
When he released the track "Keemy Casanova" in early 2020, Instagram and Facebook were the first platforms he chose to debut it on. The clips of "Keemy Casanova" built enough interest in his favor, so the Down South rhymer decided to put the song on streaming services. Entrusted with loyal friends who pushed tracks like this, one of them got in contact with comedians Karlous Miller and Chico Bean of Wild ’N Out fame. The duo, alongside comedian-actor DC Young Fly, have a running comedy and interview show titled 85 South Show, in addition to EightyVybe, a musical performance-focused version of the show. Miller and Bean expressed that they were fans of Akeem Ali's music, and in December of 2020, they debuted a video of Ali performing on their platform, including fly renditions of "Keemy Casanova," "You Ain't Seen What I Seen," "Love Me" and "For Real For Real," as well as a freestyle alongside Miller and Bean, which went viral on social media. The moment quickly turned Ali into something of an internet sensation.
With only one project to his name, 2019's Rollin', the buzz that Akeem Ali has managed to garner for himself off just a few new songs is impressive. The release of his upcoming project Mack in the Day is imminent. His sophomore effort walks listeners through the lifestyle of Keemy Casanova. Ahead of the project, Ali's newest singles, "Shugga" and "The Mack," which both arrived last month, have racked up more than 460,000 YouTube views.
As his name continues to rise, he chopped it up with XXL via Zoom for the latest edition of XXL's The Break.
Hometown: Jackson, Miss.
I grew up listening to: "[Lil] Wayne, Boosie [BadAzz], J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, The Game, Usher, Michael Jackson."
My style’s been compared to: "I get a lot of André 3000 comparisons. Suga Free. They say the vibe kind of reminds them of Snoop [Dogg, but they don't say 'The new Snoop.' It's definitely a compliment. Who's gonna be mad at someone comparing them to André 3000?"
I’m going to blow up because: "Just having faith in myself, first and foremost. Faith in God, having the confidence about it, knowing that material that I put out is gonna be solid, and that it's gonna stick with people. And the people's reaction to it, and the love that they give me. I've only put that one song out, and they go back and listen to 'Rollin.' When they hear me rap, they keep digging, so they go and find the EightyVybe interview, and listen to that stuff. The love that they give and the support just kinda confirmed it."
What’s your most slept-on song, and why?: "'Rollin.' At the time, I didn't have the money and the resources to push the way it should've been pushed. I think people are catching on to it now, but that's just how that is sometimes. Sometimes it's slept on and they come back around to it, and it's like 'Oh, OK, I hate that I did.'"
My standout records to date have been: "['Keemy Casanova']. I think people kinda listen with their eyes and their ears. Yeah, they hearing it, but if you don't have anything in front of them to kinda feed what they're seeing, in this day and age, it doesn't do too well, unless you're already an established artist. People wanna see some kind of visual to keep them entertained. Our attention spans are getting shorter, so we have to have something in front of us to take our attention and pull us in.
"I think it was the visual. Half of it was the visual, I guess if you hear the song without seeing the visual, you're like, it's just a song. But when you see it, it takes you back to the '70s, the nostalgia that it gives you. You see the razor blade, you see this guy with his ’fro picked out, filing his fingernails. He talks and carries himself like a pimp, so once you see it, you believe it."
My standout moments to date have been: "Being able to go to L.A. and get in the studio with Snoop [Dogg], and just kinda get some game from him and create, and just see how he does what he's done for decades. Just kinda pick his brain a little bit and just be inspired by the things that he said and the things that he has."
Most people don’t know: "I'm really chill. I'm not a pimp all the time. When they see the video [for 'Keemy Casanova'], they assume that I'm that way all the time, or that I talk like that all the time, and I don't. When I'm performing, I have to get in character. I have to make you believe what I'm selling to you. I think a lot of people have a misconception that I'm supposed to be dressed with my shirt open all the time, my fro picked out. I do interviews, and they like, 'Man, I thought you was gon' come with the suit.' I'm like, 'Nah, I wear white tees and joggers like every day.'"
I’m going to be the next: "G.O.A.T."
Follow Akeem Ali on SoundCloud and Instagram.
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