The story of Aka Kelzz is one of radical self-determination. Over the course of the pandemic, the artist started taking their musical practice more seriously and got into recording and releasing music. The result is the immersive EP The Drama Series. Its mellow and touching RnB is followed by the recent release FLY. A departure from the previous sound, the single is an upbeat funky, and bass-driven groove that invites everyone to fly their own course as Aka Kelzz sings “where do you wanna fly?”. Between spoken word and soft vocals, the artist explores the versatile facets of their talent and practice on the release.
In the music and the creative philosophy of the singer lies a well-honed love for simplicity – not in the way of oversimplifying things but in the way of knowing precisely what you want and what you don’t. The Drama Series was a milestone in the process of tapping into that personal creative flow. It laid the foundation for Aka Kelzz’s work in the creative community. They comment on the EP: “I am still smiling about [it] to this day and because a big part of my communication style is simplicity is best, I know that I had to allow myself to express exactly how I needed to, which is quite direct.”
This directness is part of what resonates with so many listening to Aka Kelzz. Seeing them perform live in Berlin, the importance of a self-determined presentation and independent artistic practice shines through in the way the queer and BIPoC community receives the words and melodies of the singer.
“I want my music to be seen as an honest representation of what it is like to be a fat Black non-binary person living out their dreams because for so many years music was never even thought of as any reality to me.”
Growing up in the UK the artist was discouraged from a young age and told that they cannot sing and don’t belong by the normative music industry. But now, living in Berlin and pursuing that dream of making music, Aka Kelzz does exactly that. They reclaim their space in the cishet and dominantly white music industry. By living their dreams, they make space for the identification that they would have needed growing up. Their music is also a reminder to people to share their art. “Let us see how amazing you are and share your talent and skills, and be fearless!”, Aka Kelzz comments.
The depth of the lyrics on The Drama Series as well as on FLY speaks of the need of living freely. “Now is the time to be free”, the artist repeatedly sings on the latter. Even though there lies a heaviness in the process of constant resistance inherent to existing outside of, and breaking, narrow heteronormative structures, Aka Kelzz focuses on the joy of pure self-expression. The instrumentation has a retro-soul reminiscent vibe, while the lyrics allow for the exploration of painful topics alongside themes of exuberant love and joy – an existential balance that makes Aka Kelzz’s music a revelation to listen to.
“One of the big changes I had to implement into my life is to take full responsibility for myself and what I want in life.” That is the drive behind all of the releases by Aka Kelzz. It shines through prominently on Chasing as the artist sings “be ready for the change”. Opening oneself for change and taking full responsibility for one’s life can take different shapes. From self-determining the relationships we engage in, to the work we do, and the spaces we expose ourselves to or decide to remove ourselves from. Ultimately, that process lead the artist to understand what they want. “For many years I didn’t even know who I was, let alone what I wanted. I am really proud of the choices that I have made and the people around me. This has also affected my music. Taking control and creating the time to understand what it takes to be an independent artist is not easy, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
“I hope that my music helps people see themselves and that even if you make mistakes you are still deserving of care and support and also to go wild because sometimes that’s the only release.”
Creating a Home
Living in Berlin now, the community has played a big role in that creative and personal process. Explored on Spiritual Healing, Aka Kelzz sings of “running away to a place called home”. They comment, “oh, that line gets me every time. I finally have got the safe place that I now can safely call home.” Finding a place of belonging, a place where existence can just be existence without the constant resistance, and a room to feel safe in, is not an easy journey.
“I would say that making a place a home is definitely feeling safe, inviting the people you choose into the space, making small gestures to reclaim the space as yours, and taking positive words into your home.”
Aka Kelzz builds on that feeling of having found a home and allows their creativity and personality to be reflected in the music without judgment and without trying to be anyone else but themselves. With a community behind them, a place to call home, and dreams becoming reality, it is only forward from here. “2020 was the year I started my healing journey. It made me realize that at the point I am in my life now, I can’t go back. So it’s only forward, but to also acknowledge how I got here.”
FLY is out now. Get it on Bandcamp.
Every Monday, the NBHAP staff brings an exciting new artist to your attention alongside a 30-track-strong Introducing Playlist on Spotify. Feel invited to follow the playlist and give these talents a spin.
This time, we curated the playlist together with Aka Kelzz. Featured artists from the contemporary RnB scene from Berlin to London and beyond include Allysa Grace, Ego Ella May, and Caxxainne. Tune in below.