DJ Akademiks Clarifies His Insults Of Hip-Hop’s Founders & Raises Serious Questions
Last week, DJ Akademiks made some strong remarks surrounding the pioneers of Hip-Hop. While the media personality, podcaster, and Rap music social media maven did not criticize artists by name, he opined with harsh words amid an hours-long Twitch stream. “Them old rappers? Them ni**as [are] broke. Have you seen any of these old rappers who be like they’re the foundation of Hip-Hop really living good?” asked Ak. “Them ni**as be looking really dusty—I kid you not. And don’t none of y’all try and come for me ’cause I don’t f*ck with y’all ni**as either, so I’m just tellin’ y’all the truth.” The man born Livingston Allen continued, “Every time an old, old ni**a talkin’ about Hip-Hop, you’ll be like, ‘Yo, bro. You sure you invented this? ‘Cause everybody else is livin’ better than you. It’s facts.”
Those remarks led to a video essay response from LL Cool J, who defended the culture’s pioneers. “Let me explain something to you: don’t think just because somebody knows how to get money — or fails to get money — that they didn’t make a contribution to the culture. No one discusses Miles Davis’ bank account. We don’t talk about John Coltrane’s bank account. A lot of even Rock musicians … a lot of great Country artists, we don’t talk about their bank accounts.” He emphasized, “This idea that you have to have money or else you don’t have any value is a bad idea and it’s a misinformed way of looking at the world and the culture.” The Rock The Bells founder spoke at length while refraining to mention Akademiks by name. Others, including Kid Capri, Russell Simmons, MC Shan, and MC Sha Rock responded with condemnation for DJ Akademiks’ remarks.
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This week, Akademiks appeared on The Breakfast Club to clarify his points. “Essentially, people are taking a 30 or 40 or 50 or 60-second clip out of me streaming for five hours. And I’m talkin’ about all type of things, I’m breaking things down, I’m having a full in-depth conversation, full of context,” says the New Jersey by way of Jamaica personality at the top of the appearance (embedded below). Akademiks says the media chose sizzle over substance to a point that the streamer—who admits that he regularly indulges alcohol during streams was trying to make. “When you have to talk to a crowd or talk to any audience live for four or five hours—and you’ve got to be entertaining, you’ve got some jokes in there, you’ve got some tongue-in-cheek comments, and those are the sh*t [the media] is only focusing on, no one wants to talk about nothing actually solid. ‘Yo, he said all the OGs are broke and dusty!’ I ain’t say that.”
Akademiks appeals to his public critics, in clarifying his position and motivation for the comment. “Ninety-five percent of the people who responded to me—the OGs, they weren’t broke and dusty. There’s 5% that were though; I ain’t gonna lie.” He adds, “Y’all omitted the context. I was talking about passing on game, educating the next generation rather than criticizing them.” In the passage, Akademiks also defends his name, which stemmed from spinning at parties at Rutgers University. “I still consider myself a DJ,” he says, admitting that his time behind turntables ended with college.
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Charlamagne Tha God takes Akademiks to task regarding the comments. In the interview, it is revealed that Charlamagne granted Akademiks a pivotal interview to his career, and that the guest sought mentorship from the veteran radio and television personality.
“The ‘broke and dusty’ thing, it’s triggering. It seems very—actually, it is very disrespectful,” admits Ak, with Charlamagne echoing agreement. “I wasn’t talking about everybody,” noted the streamer. “LL [Cool J] responded, and I wanna salute to LL. I think every thing he said was right. So let me put that out on the table. I agree 100% with every thing he said. However, 80% of what he said wasn’t focused on what I was saying. Because he got off-center. He said, you’re equating money to contribution and respect all that. That’s not what I was saying. That’s not what I was saying at all! I’m never questioning the contribution or not appreciating the contribution of anyone who came before me. And I’m never saying that money is the only thing that validates that contribution.”
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Akademiks, who hosts the Spotify exclusive Off The Record podcast, argues that he was using his popular Twitch platform to raise awareness surrounding the financial well-being of pioneers. “I can educate somebody because I was that super-fan. I was at home listening to The Breakfast Club every f*ckin’ morning, wondering, ‘is that real?'”
Charlamagne appears to agree that Akademiks made a point despite disrespectful language and tone. “I thought you asked a valid question, and the valid question is: if you invented Hip-Hop, if you’re one of the founders of Hip-Hop, why are you not financially well-off?’ Now we know LL answered that, and he gave some great reasons. So the next thing to me is, how do we make sure these founding fathers are taken care of, financially?” The questions arise as Kurtis Blow, Chuck D, KRS-One, and others have launched Hip-Hop Alliance, a union with financial security and healthcare in mind.
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DJ Akademiks asserts that his point were lost in the controversy. “Any time I bring up valid points in Hip-Hop—granted—I’m gonna keep sayin’ it—any time you go for that clip, you’re just gonna take offense to it, and I understand that. But usually, people just attack me. Like, people don’t wanna talk about these real conversations.” He continues, “Are we down to talk about the actual conversation? Are we down to talk about helping out some of these guys who are some of the founding fathers? It shouldn’t take the guy you hate or the guy who’s ‘irrelevant’ or the guy you didn’t know [of] to actually bring up a conversation of, ‘Well, a lot of the pioneers—some of their business [was not] in order. Shoot, financially, they should be doing way well-off compared to what’s actually going on for some—I’m not saying all.’ And I don’t know if people want to have those conversations.”
The Breakfast Club makes reference to DJ Akademiks responding to Russell Simmons. After the pioneering executive and Def Jam Records co-founder spoke out against Ak, the personality tweeted with allusions to major allegations of sexual misconduct against Simmons that he would like to see get discussed. In elaborating on his approach, the former Everyday Struggle co-host shares his mantra: “If you’re gonna dig a grave for somebody, make sure you dig one for yourself too.” He also chalks scrutiny up to the current times. “This whole thing where we all attack one person, just remember: it’s gonna be your day [sometime].”
Russell Simmons is packed up. Now the rest of u hypocrites let’s talk. What time is it in Bali…. I got a few ppl who wanna talk to Russell Simmons… wake his ass up. U had time to address Big Ak. Address this other shit too king.
— DJ Akademiks (@Akademiks) September 23, 2022
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Akademiks says that he survived the recent push-back for his comments. “It’s not my first week [getting attacked by the media].” He says that despite concern from friends after public outcry, he was fine. However, the guest emphasizes his desire to advance discussion. He points to another example where he feels he was the scapegoat for an unaddressed issues “But we should probably advance the conversations. We’re not good with having conversations. I’ll give you another thing that they usually try to jump me on: like, ‘Yo, well you built your brand off of exploiting the [deaths] of Black kids in Chicago.’ Now here’s the bigger discussion: Okay, cool. Y’all got me for the week; y’all got me for those moments y’all said. Are we gonna talk about the effect? Like, we just had Rolling Loud; they took like five Drill rappers off of [the bill], there’s mad killings that are happening because of music that’s actually promoting the sh*t—you look at DSPs, those songs are at the top of [official] playlists.” He summarizes, “Are we gonna talk about those bigger issues? Or, nah, nah—let’s put the Band-Aid over that, let’s attack Ak’ I’m not sayin’ I’m the only person that gets attacked; I’m just saying, could anybody bring up some valid points in Hip-Hop and actually have serious discussions—and by the way, I’m down to talk to LL.”
As the interview moves, Charlamagne urges DJ Akademiks to use a more respectful tone with LL Cool J and others than he often uses with liquor in his system while on Twitch.
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#BonusBeat: A recent TBD from Ambrosia For Heads affiliate Justin “The Company Man” Hunte that unpacks DJ Akademiks’ recent comments: