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Artist Spotlight: Akintoye releases new singles; talks flexing creative muscles and finding his own space within hip hop

Akintoye might not be a household name in hip hop yet, but the lyricist and rapper (and his fans) can see that happening just over the horizon. With the release of his latest singles “Fuck Em Up Moses” and now “10 Freaky 10’s”, Akintoye is no stranger to putting himself out there as an artist and making music that resonates strongly with him. After his verses went viral on TikTok starting in 2020, Akintoye has only turned that attention towards his art and the rhymes come with a polish that speaks to years of honing his craft. We sat down with him after “Fuck Em Up Moses” dropped to talk about how two good songs became one great song, flexing his creative muscles and finding his own space within the vast genre of hip hop.

Atlas Artist Group: Full disclosure, I’ve been following you on TikTok for years at this point. I am really excited that I get to talk to you about your new music.

Akintoye: Thanks for following, thanks for showing love! I appreciate you.

Atlas: Every time your videos would come up on my For You page, you were always doing something- obviously you’re very serious about your craft, but you were making me laugh every time. 

Akintoye: One thing I had a hard time figuring out was artists try and be real serious all the time, and they feel like they got to be like…they wear sunglasses inside, and they are doing the whole cool thing. I was like I am not like this in real life- I’m a fool. I’m going to just be a fool. I’m glad it translated because every time I post something, it’s just me doing something that I think is funny. I’m always like, this could go real bad. People could tell me I’m an idiot. So I appreciate you saying that you found this stuff funny. I appreciate you.

Atlas: I want to talk about the new song because it dropped recently and you were saying in one of your videos that it’s two songs put together. How did all of this come together for you? 

Akintoye: For context, I make music with my best friends. It’s my best friends from university days. We’ve been friends for almost a decade. We were making music in the basement, like the little student house basement- you could hear the A/C running in the background because the people upstairs controlled the A/C and we didn’t control the A/C. 

We’ve been doing this just wherever we could do it and we bounced around a lot. We were in school so we were recording in whoever’s basement we were able to record in. And then fast forward a little bit and COVID happened and everybody moved back home. 

We were sending stuff back and forth, working remotely. And then we found this one studio in Toronto that we were going to for a bit and then that wasn’t the place for us to be anymore. Finally at the top of this year, we moved back into our respective places that we were in during the pandemic. And we set up, finally, a home base. We’re like, all right, this is the studio. Shout out to my friend Dan Vucko, who’s my producer. He put his all into making sure this space was comfortable. Dan said, listen, we’ve got to get in on a regular basis and we’re just going to grind and make as much music as we can. 

We’re in there almost treating it like it’s a nine to five. Like we getting in, we clocking in, we clocking out, like knocking out a bunch of stuff. The first half of “Fuck Em Up Moses” was made, I want to say maybe our third or fourth song of the year. 

We had to stretch our first three songs of the year. We got in our bag real quick, so we made “Fuck Em Up Moses”, but we only had the first half. It was really, really good. We’re like, oh my God, this is fire. We’ll come back to this and then everything we tried…it didn’t feel like it completed and resolved what we did nicely. We tried a whole bunch of things and Dan made a whole bunch of different beats and I wrote a whole bunch of different verses. 

We were like, no, we want a beat switch but none of the stuff we’ve made feels like the right switch up. So we almost forgot about it. Fast forward a few months, we had to take a flight to Calgary from Toronto because we’re performing in Calgary and it’s our first time performing somewhere that we had to fly to. So we’re like, oh my god, this is going to be crazy. We’re all excited. 

Dan takes his laptop out and he’s like, I’m going to make beats on this flight. Because Dan’s one of those people that if he’s not working he feels like he gets real shaky if he’s not doing something productive. So he’s, like, making his beats, whatever. We get to the hotel and he’s like, oh, I made a beat that I want to show you. He played me three of them, and then one of them, I was like, yo, this is crazy. This is really good- which ended up being the second half. 

Got back home, wrote the verse, not even thinking it was going to be attached to the first half. We just wrote it just for it to be itself. And I remember I wrote it, recorded a voice note. And then I was about to leave to go to Dan’s and right before I left the house, I was like, let me just line it up. 

So I lined it up, but I didn’t line it up right. We get there, we record it, we get the whole thing situated, and then Dan’s like, you ever think about putting this with the first half of it? And I was like, bro, I was just thinking the exact same thing but I lined it up and it didn’t feel right. He puts it in there, lines it up, and we were like, this is perfection. We have to put it out. 

Then the right time showed up, and we got it together as fast as we could. We started the song in January, forgot about it until June and then it just came together. 

Atlas: You were teasing the song on TikTok too and people didn’t know it had two parts! 

Akintoye: The part I was teasing was the second half. I feel like that was intentional. A lot of times you see a song on TikTok, you go click it, and then it’s like a minute and a half long- it’s just a part that you heard on TikTok, like, two choruses and a verse slipped in there. I love the idea of, like, oh, my God, I love this one song, and then clicking it and then being like, Bro, what is this?

But then you hear the first half, and the kicks come in and…then the second the switch comes in, at that point, the hope is that you fall in love with the first half to the point that when the second half, the part that you came for, comes in, you’re like, oh, my God, this is great, and we don’t want to skimp on the time, too. The song is almost four minutes long. 

I love the fact that people did not know what the first half sounded like until they listened. That’s one of my favorite things, just surprising people. That feeds my soul.

Atlas: The finished product is great so it was supposed to happen in this way. Now I know you’ve told the story about how you got started already, but I want to know how you view your own creative growth. How does this journey translate in your head when you’re making music now?

Akintoye: I think as far as creative growth, I’m one of those people that I feel like everyone has a ceiling. I feel like your ceiling is based on when you started, what your influences were before you started, how you view the process of creating music. I feel like everyone has a thing that’s like, all right, I probably can’t get much better than this. I’m one of the few people that was lucky. I think if you started making music and being creative at a very young age, you almost remove it. 

If you love music and you’ve been listening to music your whole life- I’ve been rapping since I was a child, you know what I mean? I think because I had my middle school, high school, university years, all the main developmental years of my life to build the skill.

I feel like I got to live with the craft long enough to get to the point where I feel like I could do anything at this point. I consider myself a confident guy just in general. But as a musician, you fight for your life to get some confidence. It’s not an easy thing. 

The biggest struggle in music is you versus you up here. As far as where I started and where I came from, I feel like I started early enough to where I was able to get past any limitations I may have on me being able to grow creatively. 

I feel like my creative growth has gone from idolizing these guys to emulating these guys to let me do my own thing to not that good at my own thing to now I’m good at my own thing. And I feel like just kind of perpetually growing. 

I think about Kendrick Lamar and To Pimp a Butterfly and I think that’s the greatest hip hop album ever. That’s where I want to get to. I want to get to a point where I’m making projects with my friends and creatively they’re just never seen before. That’s where I wanted to get to. 

I want to be 35 and be like, yeah, I remember I made that, and that was dope. It’s not even so much about the money or whether or not people care, you know what I mean? I think about the fact that I was a rapper since I was a kid, and most of the time I’ve been a rapper, no one cared. So I’m not tripping off people caring. I’m not tripping- I’ve gone through the process of people not caring. If it goes back to that, I’m not tripping. I just want to get to the point where I just max out my creative potential, and I feel like because of how I started, I think that’s a possibility. I can actually do that.

Atlas: And since you started so young, you started from a place without fear. The older you get, the scarier things can become so you eliminated that early on. 

Akintoye: I think about the fact that my parents were very, very supportive from a young age- me being a creative. They almost pushed it. 

My mom was like, you should learn piano. You’re going to really, really regret not learning piano if you don’t learn piano when you’re older. My dad was putting me on a bunch of old school hip hop, a bunch of old school West Coast stuff, Biggie- on the East Coast and on the West Coast, you listen to N.W.A and Dr. Dre and Snoop and all these different dudes. 

My parents supported it from a young age and nurtured it and being able to operate without that fear of what are people going to think? And am I bad? There’s no pressure when you’re a kid. Yeah, there’s social pressure, but that’s like a person to person. I never really cared. I was the kid that people are like, that’s bad and I’m like, shut up. I love the fact that I was able to start early. I feel like that’s the biggest factor for me being able to perpetually grow as a creative.

Atlas: Building off of that, you have a lot of music in your catalog. You’ve been doing this for a long time. Which one of your songs really sticks in your head and really resonates with you personally? And then looking outward, what’s been a song that seems to have really resonated with your listeners?

Akintoye: This is tough. It is a lot of songs. It’s a lot of music. I think off the top of my head from my last project, Anxiety & Circumstance, I want to say two songs stick out. “Cold Winter” is one of those songs I kind of struggled for a long time- for the majority of the time I’ve been doing this- with the idea of being complicated and people not understanding and that being okay. It was a really tough thing for me to sit down, write a line. I understand it fully. There’s like eight layers to the line. There’s so many layers. And then I’m like, am I doing too much? And that was the big thing- am I doing too much? 

“Cold Winter” was one of the few times I was like, I’m just going to do too much. It’s just metaphors on metaphors on metaphors on metaphors. If you read it at first glance, you might be like, what is he talking about? “Cold Winter” was one of the first times I was okay with that. 

“Waste My Time” on that album is the second song that sticks out to me. I feel like it was a good ribbon on the end of the project- talking about all the feelings I talked about and ending in a confident place, talking about the state of the industry, my place in the industry. Also reflecting my place in the world, dictating to other people like this is who I am. You don’t get to decide who I am. That was a big thing for me. 

I want to say “Imposter Syndrome” was huge for me because I feel a lot of things. I feel things really, really heavily, but I also have a hard time verbalizing them and organizing ideas. My brain is just the biggest disaster of alphabet soup you could ever imagine in your life and there’s just a bunch of things and I don’t know how to keep track of anything. 

In “Impostor Syndrome”, this feeling of impostor syndrome that so many people experience, I knew what it was. I could define it, but how do I explain the way I feel and how it’s important to me? I was finally able to put it into words and break it down in a way that makes sense creatively. There’s metaphors and there’s layers to things. The wordplay is slick. The instrumental is very “Bombs Over Baghdad” by Outkast- you’re going 100 miles an hour. I feel like I captured the feeling really well. 

As far as people’s response, I’m always so happy when somebody’s like, did you mean this? And I’m like yes, that’s exactly what I meant. Now that we’re outside and we’re out and about again, I finally get to run into people that I never got to meet during the main timeframe that people started finding out about me, because most of it was during the peak of COVID. 

I feel like the people who felt it and understood what I was talking about, those are people that we connect on a base level, on a way of thinking, state of mind, you know what I mean? Those songs stick out to me as songs I’m super, super proud of. I love the response when people are like, I understand, because I thought I was the only one who got what the hell I’m talking about. It just feels good to be like, all right, I’m not alone.

Atlas: When you’re making TikTok content and you’re doing your verses that you don’t turn into full songs and stuff that you don’t plan on really releasing, does that help with the mental organization a little bit for you? So you can put that out there in little spurts, but you’re not tied to a full concept?

Akintoye: Absolutely. Musicians call them throwaways, but I don’t treat all my throwaways like throwaways. One day this might come back in. My brain is just a mess. It’s a disaster. At any given moment, there’s too many things happening.

I appreciate TikTok for what it is as a platform because ordinarily for my entire life leading up to this, I would write the verses and write the stuff, but I wasn’t releasing it anywhere. I just write it, whatever, keep it for myself. It benefited me, but it didn’t benefit anyone else. 

So writing the stuff and putting it on social media, it helps me organize my thoughts just because of the process. I feel like the additional benefit is somebody, somewhere is going to be like he just put together the words that I don’t know how to put together. I feel like that’s the real benefit. 

If I didn’t have TikTok, I’d still be organizing my thoughts and writing and keeping it to myself. Now I just have things to show on social media and maybe help somebody, maybe help myself. Maybe somebody sees it and they’re like, this is dope, I should listen to this guy. Putting it on social media helps me organize the thoughts. But also I feel like the real benefit is helping other people and just being like, hey, if you relate to this, here you go.

Olivia Khiel: And it keeps the creative juices always flowing. 

Akintoye: That’s a big thing- working the muscle. It’s so easy to write songs and write them at your leisure. A lot of people only write based off of inspiration. But when you work the muscle and you just do it, you write about anything. I’m at the point now where if I’m really, really down terrible and I have no ideas, I’ll just start writing about whatever I could see. 

When you work the muscle, it becomes second nature. I don’t have to worry about going into a session and not having anything to say. You could always figure out something to say when you work the muscle.

Atlas: It’s amazing that this year, we’re celebrating 50 years of hip hop. When you’re looking at the genre and you’re fitting yourself into this culture and you’re fitting yourself into hip hop history, how do you approach it? Do you think about it? Do you pursue it? Or are you just writing your own history?

Akintoye: I think I’m definitely writing my own history, and wherever it ends up is wherever it ends up. But I can’t lie and say that I’m not directly a product of the people that came before in hip hop. Yeah, I want to do my own thing, and I’m not too worried about whether or not people think about me. Well, first let me say that I think it’s insane- in 50 years, it went from, this is just a thing we’re doing at parties to this is the biggest genre on the globe.

It makes no sense. I think about the fact that I was born in 1999 and by the time I was five years old, I was growing up on a steady diet of West Coast hip hop. My dad was in the car playing West Coast hip hop. I remember my dad singing “Regulate” by Nate Dogg and Warren G. Not only were they shook that they could go across the country, it left the country and went to Nigeria and landed in some dude’s car that he then is playing for his child who then took it and came back to Canada. It’s crazy. It’s the most insane thing in the entire world to me. 

So I think about where I fit into this. I feel just like a ton of other people, I feel like there’s a million more people that are just in my situation. But I feel like I am a direct product of some of just the coolest shit that anyone’s ever done, and I’m just honored to be a part of it. I think it’s so cool. There’s so many things to draw from. I’ve had the honor of meeting some of the people I grew up listening to, and that feeling when you meet somebody that you grew up on and you tell them, and they’re like, dope I know you, too! And you’re like, what are you saying to me right now? What words are you saying to me? It’s the craziest feeling in the world. 

I’m just happy to be a part of this lineage. I think 50 years of hip hop and what it’s accomplished so far is insanity and I’m just grateful to be a part of it. As much as I want to carve my own lane and do my own thing, I can’t ignore what’s happened before and what happened to help me get to where I am now.

I don’t know how I got here, but I’m just happy to be here. I’m happy to be here for the ride.

Atlas: Any last things you want to say to the people? 

Akintoye: Thanks for all the love and support. If you’re just finding out about me, welcome. If you find out about me and you don’t like me, yeah, there’s going to be a lot of great stuff coming. EP coming at the end of the year. At some point, come to the show and thanks for having me.

Stream “Fuck Em Up Moses” and “10 Freaky 10’s”, out now! 

Story by Olivia Khiel
Photo courtesy of Akintoye