Alt-pop riser AKA SHADES explores identity across the sultry rap-infused “Body Bag”

London-based LGBTQIA+ newcomer Aka Shades delivers his infectious, rap- infused heater “Body Bag” – taken from his hotly-anticipated debut album dropping later this year.

Displaying an irresistible melodic palette that embodies the flourishing queer culture across the rap landscape, Aka Shades continues to artfully deconstruct the complexities of self-assurance and vulnerability across his latest release. Produced by East London’s J.AR.J (Jordan Stephens, Chi Virgo, Yiigaa), the hypnotic blend of UK rap and nostalgic pop tropes set pace for Shades’ eclectic vocal prowess. Effortlessly trading distorted bars alongside tender melodies as he flaunts unwavering confidence, Shades explores the realms of sexuality and the endless soul search for body empowerment. A new lightning rod for innovation while delivering sounds showered in sultry textures, “Body Bag” marks another intoxicating offering from one of the most exciting young prospects stepping into public consciousness.

Speaking on his musicality, Shades explains: “Everything that I create is autobiographical, and processing a lot of heavy topics often translates to a darker, more emotional sound. But through putting in the work on myself and exorcising the shame, there comes a sense of self-acceptance and boldness that feels too good not to share. I want anyone listening to my work to be taken on a journey, and there’s going to be some storms on the way, but sometimes you also have to get up and get loose in the rain.”

With an incendiary debut album en route – which sees Shades represent LGBTQIA+culture with his honest, story-telling lyricism, fuelled by personal experiences of trauma and the blossoming journey through healing and self-discovery – get ready to hear a whole lot more from the rising London creative across 2023.

How do you identify?

I’ve really embraced the term Queer in more recent years. I like that we’ve reclaimed the word and can now use it in our power as an all encompassing term. I’ve always felt fluid in my gender identity too, even from a young age I could see through the bullshit of gender norms, and I had an understanding of the restraints and repercussion.

What is “Body Bag” and what is the message you want to share with this song?

Body Bag is Pop-Rap, its nostalgic, it’s sexy, it’s mischievous. It’s the third single from my debut album, on which I cover a lot of heavy topics. So Body Bag is really a welcome moment of release on that journey, it’s celebrating the milestone of feeling comfortable in my skin, and embracing my sexuality.

How has personal self-assurance and vulnerability influenced your music?

These are huge components in my creative process, it actually takes a lot of self-assurance to be vulnerable in the way that I am when I’m writing. I always say that my music is for sad bitches and bad bitches because we go from one to the other real quick! Let’s scream, cry, let It all out, then it’s time to remember who you are and bounce back to being bad as hell.

Is there enough queer representation in your field?

The thing that I would like to remind people is that we’ve always been here, all throughout history. I hate when certain groups try to act like fluidity in gender or sexuality are radical new concepts, when in fact they are as old as time. Should cisgender heterosexual women still be headlining pride events all over the world? That’s a conversation I think we need to have. But that’s just one example of many, the talent is out there, we’re just not always given the platform.

How has your sexuality shaped you as an artist?

Had I been born into another time or world where peoples minds hadn’t been so manipulated by colonisation and the indoctrination of organised religion, it could have been a very different reality. Some of the main themes within my debut album are escapism, trauma, self exploration and healing. I would argue that these are all results of societies response to my sexuality, not my sexuality itself.

Who are the people you admire?

I’ve always admired fearlessness, artists with integrity who are not afraid to speak their truth. As a kid my main girls were P!nk and Xtina, they were breaking that polished Bubblegum Pop image, and consequently being labeled as aggressive or promiscuous. But they continued to do their thing, and they spoke up where it mattered. I have a whole playlist dedicated to protest songs too, featuring many of my idols, from Rage Against The Machine to Buffy Sainte-Marie. I guess I’m just an anarchist!

What are the biggest struggles a queer person faces nowadays?

We are living through a pretty dark period of culture wars and misinformation, it’s epidemic. We really need to be mindful of our consumption, I have distanced myself from both social media clickbait and the mainstream news outlets. It’s so easy to get consumed by the fear-mongering and the pitting of one side against another. My message to younger queer people in particular would be to stay vigilant, keep educating yourself, be mindful of the information you are consuming, and stick together.

What do you consider your biggest victory?

Just staying true to myself through it all, It’s easy to be swayed by pressures from all around, but I know who I am and what I stand for and if it gets me into trouble along the way then so be it. That, and 2 years and 4 months of Sobriety!

What is your answer towards the stereotypes of society and the toxic fragile masculinities that divide people?

Toxic masculinity is a cancer in our society, the repercussions of which show up everywhere. As I was saying earlier, these ideas are not new. Many cultures believed that having equal energies masculine and feminine were a sign of great power and wisdom. Straight male privilege has allowed and excused toxic behaviours without repercussions for so long that there’s a resistance now that is routed in fear. Accountability is never easy, but it is essential and often the first step in growth.

How would you describe your music?

Emotive, Honest, Ballsy.

Are you in a happy place at the moment?

Happier than ever! It took some hard work to get here, lots of unlearning and reprogramming. I also welcome those darker days though, that contrast is important, especially as an artist.

What are your future plans?

Following the release of Body Bag, I plan to release a few more singles into the universe before dropping my debut album. In the bigger picture I hope to continue developing as an artist, I’m so excited to witness the evolution of my craft, it’s something I take very seriously. I’m just excited to explore all my options as a creator and entertainer, watch this space.

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