“Akko Gorilla? C’mon man, that ain’t idol.”
Yeah well, hear me out here… while maybe not really an idol in the narrow sense, Akko Gorilla did perform on the “Smile Garden” stage at the Tokyo Idol Festival this year, plus she’s tight with lots of cool people we like on this blog, and most importantly, makes fantastic next-level music with a skies-the-limit crossover potential. It’s crossed my mind several times that I thought she deserved some “Friends of Homicidols” coverage, because what’s she’s doing is amazing and really deserves to be heard and appreciated. Earlier this month, Akko made her major-label album debut with “GRRRLISM”, which I’ve been listening to a lot over the last week and decided this is the window to finally induct her into this website. If you like nontraditional rappers like Charisma.com and KOM-I of Wednesday Campanella, then you should definitely dig into this. So c’mon ya’ll, let’s talk about Akko Gorilla…
The first time I heard Akko Gorilla was in 2016 when she released her debut, “Tokyo Banana”. (She had been building up a name for herself with MC battles at the same time.) Her first album’s got this lo-fi and organic vibe that is perfect for Akko’s hyper-speed flow of words: Lot’s of live drums and natural bass with a cool vibe that one doesn’t usually get from a lot of over-produced, glossy hip-hop. If you haven’t listened to Akko Gorilla, I might suggest you go ahead and start there so you can trace her growth over the last few years.
Fast forward through her career, and Akko Gorilla has collaborated with a ton of people, (Including this great track with Itsuka from Charisma.com) and released a rapid-fire succession of singles and EPs, exploring a lot of themes that people don’t usually find in this genre. Waaaaay back in 2017, she teamed up with Manatsu Nagahara for the song “Ultra Gender”, which gave us a heads-up that she was going to be an artist willing to address topics you don’t hear much about in Japanese mainstream culture.
So this year, Akko Gorilla signed to Sony Records, and rather than simply release a widely crowd-pleasing album that would easily be embraced by the general masses, she launched her most ambitious work yet, tripling-down on her social commentary with “GRRRLISM”, which she sees as a celebration of what it means for every individual to pursue their own personal freedom , regardless of gender, age, race, or class position in society…
It’s a fantastic album of flawlessly catchy hip-hop that works even if you don’t understand the language, cause the power of what the album is all about at it’s core sells it beyond the surface of the lyrics. While the songs have a level of defiance embedded within, the strength of the album is the positive energy that reaches across to any listener.
Watch the MV for the title song and take in the infectious love and unity:
And another standout track here, “Grandma”, addressing ageism in society: (Embed may not work, so click through to YouTube if you can’t watch it.)
Really, every song on this thing thumps and kills it, and as I witness the slow but steady overseas success of Wednesday Campanella, it makes me certain that Akko Gorilla could pull off an international outreach as well. Whereas other women rappers (cough, cough, CL) have lost their mojos trying to water down their music for wide appeal, Akko is ready to do her thing without changing one single aspect of her music and vision. I’m really hoping these festival organizers are paying attention to what’s happening here, and maybe Sony will have the sense to send her over for SXSW, because this might might be a crossover in the making with the current state of things. In the last month, some signs of forward moment have become pronounced with Akko’s YouTube region-blocking embargo lifted, as well as a “vevo” account, so maybe some of the suits are getting with it.
So yeah, open-minded idol fans, let’s get behind Akko Gorilla and help give her a push. She’s a game changer of an artist, and it’s about time we bent some of the game’s rules. “GRRRLISM”, along with just all of her earlier indie output, is readily available on all the major streaming outlets like Apple Music and Spotify, so you’ve got no reason not to cue up her tunes and check her out. And even if you don’t normally dig hip-hop, I think you’ll find there’s something very different here from the usual things your preconceptions may cause you to imagine. Akko Gorilla could very well blow-up big, and you don’t wanna get left out of the revolution.
Follow (and Participate!) in the GRRRLISM tag on twitter.