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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

"Hip-hop, poetry, and an unshakable passion"

He roams the streets of New York City for hours, decoding the world around him through poetic prose. The beating of his feet on pavement is the metronome to the lyrics that flow in his head.

From his hometown of Brooklyn to the streets of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Akin Walker snakes through the corners of his favorite places to find inspiration for his words.

Walker, a senior English major, has been writing lyrics and poetry since the age of 9. He has been striving toward his vision of becoming ‘Darth Dream'; the name he calls himself and what will be his stage name as a professional hip-hop star.

Walker was raised in a music-oriented family. His older brother played guitar and his god brother is pursuing a rap career, as ‘Deevious,' in Atlanta, Ga. Walker's mother, Andrea Saunders, danced professionally alongside Michael Jackson and Diana Ross in ‘The Wiz,' and performed for award-winning choreographer Michaels Peters in several shows.

Walker's involvement with music was inevitable.

"I do have a memory of [Akin] always listening to music and always asking me, ‘who's that, mommy? Who's singing that? What does that mean?' and those kinds of [questions] in terms of the words," Saunders said. "To me, he's the lyricist."

Growing up, Walker always kept journals and rewrote lyrics to songs by artists such as Jay-Z and Backstreet Boys. When he was 15 years old, Walker joined a poetry group at Benjamin Banneker Academy high school. The support and feedback he received from the group encouraged him to take his writing seriously.

"I'm an introvert so I definitely have a lot of time to think," Walker said. "I just write about anything and everything that goes on in my life. Even as a kid I would write about stuff that [went] on in my life. That's always been a natural talking thing for me."

Meaning behind lyrics and reaching out to others through words were always elements that Walker has strived for through his music.

"He was talking in full sentences when he was 2 years old," Saunders said. "For me and my experience with Akin, it's always been about the communication. It seems to me that that's what he has always been about."

Oscar Moreno, a senior history major, is a DJ and has been a friend of Walker's for six years. Moreno strongly supports Walker's ambitions and appreciates the message behind his rhymes.

"I feel that his songs could be applied to everyone and their whole life," Moreno said. "Everyone has a struggle…and it's when you can connect that to music, that's magic. It just reminds you that no matter how bad you got it, somebody else could be worse."

After coming to UB, Walker found people to share his enthusiasm for music with. As his artistic exploration grew, he discovered others who shared a passion for the arts.

During their freshman years at UB, Walker met David Sanford, a senior mathematics major, and Wyatt Maker, a senior media studies major. The three recently collaborated to produce Walker's first EP, Chasing Childhood: Episode I – Journey Through A Dream, which released in March 2011. Sanford worked with Walker to format and edit all of the tracks while Maker sang in some of the songs.

"One thing that I've noticed about his writing is that it's not just rhyming for the sake of rhyming," Maker said. "There's got to be substance to it and the things that he has written down is something that really matters."

The eight-song EP featured a sound that fused beats from popular music with Walker's authentic lyrics. The opening song, "Force Theme," played music from the Star Wars soundtrack.

"His critical eye for quality, in terms of rap music, is very high," Maker said. "I'd say that he knows what's good and what's not so that he knows how to bring that into what he's trying to do or what we're trying to collaborate on."

The name of Walker's hip-hop persona is a combination of his fascination with Darth Vader, the antagonist in Star Wars, and the connection he has always felt with the troubled character. Walker describes it as "Darth as in Vader, Dream as in sleep."

Even Darth Vader's original name, Anakin Skywalker, rings a familiar tune to Akin Walker.

"[Darth Vader] was driven mad by love and there's a whole bunch of stories out there that you can reference [where people are] being driven mad by love," Walker said. "I'm definitely driven by a love of art and a love of want[ing] to push the envelope and be productive in art. I'm definitely driven by the culture that I grew up in and hip-hop as a whole."

Although others thought Walker's first EP was good, he was not fully satisfied with the final product.

"Everyday, I'm trying to figure out who it is I am and who I'm going to be. I think that is one of the most important pieces of life," Walker said. "Knowing yourself is the most important process of that and I think everyday, I'm striving toward that."

Walker said that the release of the EP taught him to make sure he is absolutely ready before he releases another. He plans to work on two projects – an EP and full-length album – and hopes to release them early next year and in summer 2012.

"[His style is] almost like an old-school style; not in the way that he delivers, but his content," Sanford said. "He talks about stuff that really isn't talked about in mainstream music today, like talking about having crushes on celebrities and things like that, things that anyone can relate to."

Walker, Moreno, Sanford, and Maker all share a positive perspective on the future and what it has to offer. As artists with compatible views and complimentary ideas, the group expresses its loyalty for each other through the words of Jay-Z, "If everyone in your clique is rich then your clique is rugged. Nobody would fall because everyone will be each other's crutches," according to Sanford.

"I think once we both mold our craft into something a little greater, he could be a very popular artist in the future," Sanford said. "If we're very diligent, within the next five years, I think he could be someone big."

Since high school, Walker felt he had a message to share with the masses and he won't stop reaching to achieve his dreams until he has done exactly that.

"What I see is somebody that has been committed to it. That's one of the things that really struck me; that he stayed with it and continues to stay with it," Saunders said. "He's always stuck with what his dream is and that's something that I like about Akin; that he's committed to it."





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