Akua Naru is a truly international rap artist, given the many places she has lived and created music, as well as the impact she is currently having on the world of hip hop. Upon graduating from the University of Pennsylvania she went to China, and before settling in Europe teamed up with Cologne-based hip hop producers The Drumkidz for her debut album The Journey Aflame. Five years on, she is turning heads with her deep, poetic rhymes, alongside her killer hip hop sound that references jazz, funk and RnB and involves contributions from some incredible musicians. Ahead of her show at Band on the Wall on 5th April, we caught up with her to discuss how she fell in love with hip hop, how she found the artwork for her latest album and her plans for the rest of 2016.
You recently asked your fans online how they fell in love with hip hop, so we thought we’d flip that back to you and ask; how did you fall in love with hip hop?
I first fell in love with poetry. Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou. Reading and reciting poetry made it instant for me to draw the connection to what I was reading and what I was hearing. I fell in love with hip hop through listening to other young people in my neighborhood rhyme and battle in the streets.
Your recent album The Miner’s Canary features some incredible collaborators, from veteran players like Bernard Purdie to younger musicians like Georgia Anne Muldrow and Christian Scott. At what stage in the process did these collaborators get on board, and what did they bring to the record?
Each song has its own story…its own labour. I worked on that album for about two years. We were also doing a lot of touring during that time, so it happened that many people I met along the way, and they were open to collaborating. What did they bring to the record? You can hear what they brought. They brought sonic beauty.
The album’s beautiful artwork was done by Tamara Natalie Madden; when did you first encounter her work and what inspired the decision to have her work as the cover?
I had a dream about the album cover. It had to do with black women and birds. It just so happened that a few days later a friend had sent me an image, it was one of Tamara’s paintings. I knew that she had to paint The Miner’s Canary. When we spoke it was like we had met before. The decision was beyond us. She is amazing, the embodiment of Black Woman Magic.
What topics are currently informing your creativity?
What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
I am working with a group of young women in Sudan right now. It has been amazing… and it’s also growing. More will come out of that. I am recording and touring and writing and being.