Akil Pratt has been on an absolute tear when it comes to collaborative projects with other top Magic City musicians. The versatile producer has partnered on 5 albums now, with highlights including “Dad Raps” with Phrasure and “Perfect Timing” with K1NG ELJAY. Akil recently joined forces with one of Birmingham’s most uniquely talented wordsmiths, OZU8LACK, to create a 21st century masterpiece in “AkileeZ Heal”–an album that should be playing on national airwaves and certainly on local ones.
The two musicians had been aware of each other’s impact on the city, but didn’t work together until Akil reached out to OZU about featuring on the song “Rap Grown” which was featured on the Genius side of Pratt’s innovative double album “Depressed Genius”. Akil would reach out to OZU8LACK again to compliment him on a new project out with his 729 partner, erthling. OZU thanked Akil for the gesture, but quickly shifted to discussing the two working together themselves. A few months later, Akil came back with some beats and things began to take off.
Akil’s sample-based approach to producing allows him to find the feel he’s looking for with each partnering project, then locate the samples that allow him to provide it. He started by sending two beats to OZU to check out, and once OZU gave the thumbs up he quickly got to work on the rest. “He was just in a mode,” OZU recalls. The musician soon listened to the remaining beats on his phone, but wanted to give himself time to absorb and ponder the greatness he was sent. “The beats were bigger than me. I need to elevate up to these beats because I wasn’t vibrating on the wavelength that those beats were putting me in.” Once he was ready, he pulled an untraditional move in asking Akil to put the beats in the order he’d like to hear them in before laying out the groundwork of the track. OZU explained that while he knew what he wanted to talk about and where he wanted to go with the album, he didn’t quite know how to get there and this process allowed him to discover the way.
In addition to being a creative landmark in the city, “AkileeZ Heel” has also received public acclaim in the short time since its release. “Pray 4 Rashaad” is one song that has quickly become a Birmingham favorite, and features OZU discussing things from the perspective of his childhood self. Akil had the idea to include a child singing the chorus at the end, which elevates the imagery to a whole new plateau. The only other features on the album are from Akil Pratt himself on “Secret Citadel” and Magic City favorite Dolo Fibonacci on “Masked Marauder”.
The album also features audio samples from OZU8LACK’s father and his friend Skip, who is more like a brother. From the beginning, Akil had made it clear to OZU that this project was going to be more than a mixtape, and OZU was ready to elevate the album as much as he could on his end. The idea to use these discussions as garnishes to “make it look pretty” and compliment the raps came from this persistence on greatness. The conversations with his dad show the listener “the things that I’ve heard over the years growing up that added to the story”.
Skip, who is known for his “Off the Record” podcast, and OZU have constant conversations centered around bettering themselves. One day while discussing vulnerability, Skip shared with OZU that you can’t always be guarded and have to take risks to find love and create something as beautiful as a joyful family. OZU realized that his Achilles’ heel is vulnerability, just as Achilles’ vulnerability was his heel. Working with a producer named Akil brought a different level to this concept and impacted the spelling of the album. “Normally in rap, you always talk about your strengths, you know what I’m saying? It’s bravado” shares OZU, going on to say that he’s going to bear his weaknesses before the world and hopefully use his story to help people get an understanding on a point in their life to ease and “heal through his music”.
“ODB” is a track that stuck with Akil as he feels a similarity to it and his own life, while “Moon Wars” is his personal favorite track on the album. OZU went with “Pauper 2 Prince” as the song that brings back the most fondness to him. More than any song, the completion of a well-done album between two of the city’s best means the most to these city-uplifters. “That was a moment in time that me and OZU were able to capture together and share with the world. I’m forever grateful for that. People that listen, people that support.”
The two also view their works as part of a greater movement happening in Birmingham–one that is happening across all genres of music. “I love all that it’s become and all that it’s becoming,” shares OZU, “the potential for us to be great is so high.” Every artist that is contributing to this city is a fighter in OZU8LACK’s eyes and he’s honored to take on the obstacles alongside them. “AkileeZ Heel” was the latest weapon in an arsenal of incredible music that is going to put our city on the entertainment map, and we’re thankful for the two musicians who brought it to life.
Lead Image; “AkileeZ Heal” Cover