Gonz Show Extended: Akrobatik

When I first called your phone, it went straight to voicemail. Which made me laugh, cause your voicemail message is nothing but the A-Team theme song.
I put that on a few weeks ago. I have it for motivation. I joke around and call my friends the A-Team. We’re all different—one is a pro wrestler, one is a politician—but we all hang together.

Who was your favorite A-Team character?
I guess B.A. Baracus. It’s hard not to have Mr. T as your favorite out of that crew.

You know what I always wanted to know? How is Face on the A-Team? I get BA and Hannibal. I even get Murdoch because he was crazy and he could probably fuck you up if he wasn’t taking his meds. Plus he was a pilot, and, you know, they needed a pilot. But Face? Total pussy. Seriously, they may as well have put Richard Simmons on the team.
(Laughs). Come on. Every team needs a smooth talker—that guy or girl who can charm their way into a situation or out of one.

So you’re pro Face? I never met a dude who was pro Face.
Hey, I’m not an A-Team fanatic. But I understand the school of thought for having someone like him in the crew.

Your given name is Jared Bridgeman. Tell me about the origin of Akrobatik.
I made that name up when I was a kid fresh out of high school. I basically wanted to come up with a name that stood out. A lot of rappers have a twist on their regular name, or they put their first name with an initial of their last name. I always set the bar high for myself. Akrobatik has a certain connotation before I even say anything—like I’m supposed to have something going on before people even hear me. It makes me feel like I can do anything. It’s not an ego trip, but it helps push me and raise the bar. The meaning of the name originally was being able to flip my rhymes. And who can flip better than Akrobatik?

What names didn’t make the cut?
I used to be called Stud B back in the day and…

Wait. Did you just say Stud B? Really?
(Laughs.) Yeah, I lost that name when I realized it was silly. It was a different era. It was the 80s.

So your gig with 94.5—the Rap-up. You rap the sports news. It’s genius. Who came up with the idea? And have you contacted ESPN? Cause Dan Patrick is tired. They need new blood over there.
The thing about ESPN and those guys, that’s some stuff that I would love to do. That’s something that I think would be a natural progression for me. I just wish I had a contact. Sports Rap-up and the radio—it’s a really cool medium to talk about what’s going on in the world in real time. You make an album, and whatever you’re talking about, by the time it comes out, it’s old news. Whereas, if Kobe scores 60, people hear about it and they’re talking about it, and then I can rap about it the next day.

As far as who came up with it, Ramiro from the morning show wanted to do something new and fresh and they called me up. It’s been poetry ever since.

Do you ever get tired of doing Celtics news on the Rap-up? Like: The C’s lost last night…pause…ah, screw it, I don’t even have a rhyme.
The season, it’s ebbed and flowed with things that are interesting and things that aren’t. Today, it was about 15 seconds shorter than normal because, fuck it, there’s nothing interesting going on and I’m not gonna fake it. But you get those two or three days a week where something lends itself to a killer punch line. Like when I heard that Tom Brady got Bridget pregnant—that’s like an underhand pitch to Barry Bonds. Just serve it up to me. I see those coming and I’m salivating—just ready to kill it.

Do you write the Rap-up or do you freestyle it?
I write it. But it’s a free form thing. Sometimes I change it up in mid-flow. I go into the station an hour before it’s supposed to air and I take the info from the games the night before and I write it and record it.

How’s your freestyle game? Could you freestyle the Rap-up if need be?
Oh yeah. Definitely. The only reason it might be difficult is because I don’t get to watch that many games because I’m always on the move doing things. But freestyle is second nature to me. I’m always doing that with my friends to cut them up. Sometimes I’ll freestyle when I leave them a message on their voicemail. That’s my thing.

You’ve been in the game for over a decade, right? How important has the 94.5 gig been to your career?
It’s been about that long, yeah. As far as my fan base goes, 94.5 has really expanded it. It’s to the point where I’d go as far as saying my fan base has probably doubled by doing this. That’s because so many people statewide can hear me. The show has a lot of listeners. I’m a household name in Massachusetts now. Now you’ve got school kids and senior citizens who know who I am. I went to visit my childhood barber and I was talking to him and the guy whose hair he was cutting, he was about 70, but he recognized my voice. He said “oh, you’re the one who does the sports thing on the radio.” It’s been huge for me. It’s been a blessing.

Hey, maybe you can explain this to me: I’ve always wondered why so many hip-hop stations say that they’re “blazin’ hip-hop.” 94.5 says its “blazin’ hip-hop.” Guru made fun of that on one of the Gangstar tracks, and it’s true. Philly—blazin’ hip hop station. Dallas—blazin’ hip hop station. Boston—blazin’ hip hop station. You gotta get 94.5 to come up with something original. You gotta help them. They might as well say: “94.5 the official #1 for the same old bullshit cause we were too lazy to come up with something ourselves.”
It’s funny you say that. One thing I learned is that radio stations are petrified of doing something different. If Dallas and Philly and LA and all the rest are sayin’ “blazin’,” then that’s what they’re doing, too. If there’s a song that hits, they have to play it 100 times a day. With radio, branding is so important. With the sports Rap-up, we’ve been using the same beat ever since I started doing it because they want people to recognize it if they’re flipping through. The radio is background for most people. It’s not like you’re listening to every word, so if something familiar comes on, you might stop. Like, “Oh, that’s my song, I gotta listen.” Or, “Oh, there’s the Rap-up, I gotta hear what Ak has today.” But I hear what you’re saying. When I’m at the station, I hear the same six songs all day and it kills me. I understand how it works, but that doesn’t mean I like it. At the same time, I’m not trying to revamp commercial radio. Those stations are controlled by huge corporations that will never change. I’m just trying to get in where I fit in.

You’ve done shows with some of my favorites—KRS, the Roots, Black Moon. What’s the best road story you have? You get bonus points for telling me about groupies and drugs, by the way. It’s cliché, but I don’t care—I’m a simple man.
(Laughs). Off the top of my head? I don’t think I have any groupie stories, but I got a funny story. I’ve been waiting to tell this, too. We were out in LA doing a show, and afterward we went to a party that a friend of mine was having. So we drove over there in a big black truck. Might have been a Suburban, I don’t know. But you can picture what I’m talking about. So we go inside, and Special Ed was there. I had never met him before. So I introduce myself and thank him for all the work he’s done and I tell him how great he is. You know, we’re talking. A little while later, Special Ed leaves. Then my friends leave, but I’m trailing behind so I run to catch up. So I walk outside, and I see a big black truck like the one we came in, and I just open the door and hop in. But it’s not my people—it’s Special Ed and his wife! He just turns around with this look on his face like…oooohhhh-k. It was really awkward. So much for making a good first impression. (Laughs.)

Guru was originally from Boston, right? But then he moved to NYC and now everyone thinks of him as being from New York. Why is it that Boston gets such a bad—I don’t want to say rap for obvious reasons—but nationally, why doesn’t Boston get more love?
Yeah, people don’t realize the Guru thing because it was about 20 years ago. Unless you’re over 30, you probably don’t know he was a transplant. As far as Boston not getting the notoriety, we’re so close to New York. And New York guards its hip hop Mecca title. To a lot of people in New York, Boston is a corny little town. It’s seen as an East Coast runt. And I think it’s a smaller town. There aren’t a lot of black media outlets here, either. It’s seen as a white town. Boston is a segregated city. There aren’t a lot of black businesses here. Not a lot of black power here. And that’s that. You come here. You go to tourists areas. The lack of diversity I think affects the hip hop scene and the music that comes out of here. The social scene always impacts the hip hop scene. That’s definitely an impediment. I could talk about that shit for hours. It bothers me.

What’s in the works for you now? I heard you have an album due out, right?
I have an album coming out later this year on Fat Beats in New York. It’s called “Absolute Value.” That should be out by late summer. Let’s see—oh, I just got a distribution deal with PlayAktion Recordings. My first release off of that will be a greatest hits. And I’ll be looking to sign new people too. And I’ll be hitting the road a lot in the summer. It’s just non-stop for me, man. There are a lot of cities and countries out there, and I’m trying to push my music. I feel like I’m in my prime now, and I want to ride it for all it’s worth. You’re going to see a lot of stuff from me. This is going to be my year in terms of visibility.

Your MySpace page says that your lyrics have appeared in video games. Which ones?
There’s a local company here called Harmonix. They did Guitar Hero, which everyone loves. Before that, they did Frequency and Amplitude. Frequency is a puzzle game. I’m on that. And on Amplitude, I’m actually the voice of the game. I do the tutorials and sound effects and things like that. And I’ve had music on SSX, ATV Off Road, Need for Speed and NBA Live.

Hold on. You play NBA Live? When are we playing? I would bust your ass in NBA Live!
(Laughs.) Oh yeah? Do you play on-line? We have to hook that up. Definitely.

Alright. Before I let you go: This interview is called ‘The Gonz Show.’ You said you’ve got freestyle skills. Hit me with some quick Gonz Show free.
I got you…I got you….you ready?….Ok/20 questions with Ak/it’s about time/to hit Gonz with some lines/this is Boston magazine/so I gotta keep it clean/listen, this is Ak, coming live/people know me from 94.5/talking with my man Gonzalez/and you know how hot my rhyme is.