Mustafa Akbar is known throughout the global electronic music scene as a creator of raw funk and soul, as well as bass-heavy house and glitch-step. With roots in Washington D.C., Akbar’s singing career took flight in the 1990s and has been growing significantly ever since. Akbar has worked among the Washington D.C. electronic funk, breaks, trip-hop and downtempo elite, working with numerous DJs and producers on collaborations and remixes. CULTURE talked to Akbar about his musical journey so far—and his love for cannabis.
How did you get started making music?
It’s really hard to remember how I started making music; it’s been so long. As a child, I was always around music because my dad and uncle were gospel singers. I began singing in church, which is kind of the norm in the African-American community. I grew up writing poetry. Around the age of 15, I began writing lyrics to songs. My first published work was with a group called Philly Brooklyn Bridge in the late 1980s. We were courted by Tommy Boy Records, but nothing came of it. My first release was “Heart of the Hustler,” released in 2002 with Thunderball on Thievery Corporation’s label, ESL Music.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and George Clinton.
How do you describe your style?
How do you feel about the electronic scene locally and worldwide?
Although I’ve been drawn to performing with a full live band of late, I still enjoy making EDM tracks. I enjoy the electronic scene globally, and am very impressed with its growth. Some would say electronic music dominates the music scene. Or at least, that’s what it seems like in the music festival scene.
What type of samples and production do you work into your music, and how does this affect your sound?
I don’t use samples in my tracks at all, although, many of the producers I work with do. Fort Knox Five, the Basement Freaks, Thunderball—they all use or have used samples in their productions and have been quite successful doing so. I prefer live instrumentation, but obviously the samples used in the EDM tracks I’ve been featured on helps make them more popular in that world.
During my recovery from a car accident last year in which I broke three ribs, eight vertebrae and dislocated my shoulder, the availability of CBD oil combined with the relaxed laws have been essential in my healing and pain management.
How has cannabis affected your life and/or your creative process?
I think cannabis has made me explore more in life and different aspects of music. I think it makes me more at peace, which allows me to surrender to my creativity.
How do you feel about legalization so far? Is there anything you think could be done better or differently?
Obviously, I’ve always thought legalization was not only necessary, but well overdue. During my recovery from a car accident last year in which I broke three ribs, eight vertebrae and dislocated my shoulder, the availability of CBD oil combined with the relaxed laws have been essential in my healing and pain management.
Have you ever worked cannabis into your music as a theme? If so, how?
No, I don’t have any cannabis-themed songs, but I did write and sing the hook to a cannabis song called “Smokin” for a Portland-based hip hop MC My-G and Devin the Dude. I also did a track called “Just a Smoke” on Afrika Bambaataa’s album Dark Matter Moving At The Speed Of Light about smoking weed. Two years ago, my band Nappy Riddem played the inaugural National Cannabis Festival in D.C. And last year, in time for 420, I released my first solo album in quite some time called “Trust,” out on SpinSpinNYC.
How do you feel the experience of using cannabis can affect people’s lives?
Cannabis affects people differently. I would have to say that it depends on the individual.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m in love with Mary Jane!
Band Name: Mustafa Akbar
Genre: Production, funk, soul, hip hop
Location: Washington, D.C.
Most Recent Album: Various mixtapes