For New York–based MC/producer Akir, words aren’t just words—they’re credos, rallying cries, a way of life. His name, for example, an acronym for “Always Keep It Real,” has nothing to do with tired rap clichés, or a small-minded view of what rap is and can be. For Akir, “reality” isn’t some gangster fantasy—it’s real life. And if there’s one thing that comes across in Akir’s music, it’s real life.

This focus on the authentic, the everyday, the real, started in the beginning for Akir. In 1998, after he ranked second out of 50 in Howard University’s Verbal Armageddon MC competition, Akir hit the studio and cranked out a pair of powerful, aptly titled mixtapes, Street Edition Volumes 1 and 2. The album showcased Akir’s trademark raspy flow, his intricate, nonstop rhyme patterns, and his ear for soulful, dramatic beats, many of them self-produced. Both albums, true to their name, soon spread hand to hand and ear to ear along the underground hip-hop circuit, first from D.C. to New York, both places Akir has called home, and then to the entire East Coast.

Akir set the bar even higher when he linked up musically and professionally with Viper Records and its controversial MC/provocateur Immortal Technique, an old friend. In 2007, Akir releasedLegacy, his first national release, through Viper, and critics, listeners and venues came flocking. The album pushed Akir to numerous accolades in high places: The Source’s: Unsigned Hype and Off the Radar and XXL’s: Show & Prove and Chairman’s Choice among them. Meanwhile, Akir hit the road like never before. He’s rocked over 1000 shows, completing 7 international and 10 domestic tours, including Paid Dues in 2011, Rock the Bells from 2006 to 2008, the Vans Warped Tour in 2004, and tours with Fort Minor in 2006 and Redman in 2007. He’s also performed with other such landmark artists as Lauryn Hill, Snoop Dogg, Rage Against the Machine, Nas, Wiz Khalifa, Kool G Rap, Tribe Called Quest, Rakim, KRS-One, Wu-Tang, The Game, Talib Kweli, and Yelawolf. He even added model to his rapidly growing resume: Mecca 5star apparel reached out to Akir to appear in ad campaigns in magazines and billboards in 2006. All this activity kept the buzz for Legacy so strong that Viper partnered with Koch Enterprises to re-release the album in 2008. He kept the movement going in the fall of 2009, when he released a mixtape entitled The Secret, mixed/hosted by DJ Static and Statik Selektah, and also co/produ

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