Nothing Is Truly Defined: The Akeel L. Ali Story

Nothing Is Truly Defined: The Akeel L. Ali Story

Story by E. Brocky McKnight of Whiskey & Kicks

As a true believer in the Law of Attraction, when I have that gut feeling that tells me, “this person is dope,” I typically trust that instinct. This was certainly the case when I met Akeel L. Ali, AKA, Black Frontiersmen.

To say this gentleman is a Renaissance man would be the understatement of the decade. He can be found partaking in anything from painting amazing portraits of prominent African-American figures—such as Sade, Harriet Tubman or Angela Davis—to cycling 100 miles on his hard-working road bike.

“It just depends on the day. As you can see, I am an ‘in the moment’ kind of guy. Cycling and backcountry snowboarding are my escapes.”

I was first introduced to Akeel while he was working as a DJ at a bar in his native Washington, DC—yes, he does that, too. To quote the man himself, “On any given day you can catch me grooving to some Blue Eyed Soul or Yacht Rock—I listen to anything from Ravi Shankar to The Mighty Sparrow and everything in between.”

The day we met, I remember hearing J Dilla and maybe a bit of Nas, as well. Two of my absolute favorite hip hop Artists of all time. At that moment, something told me, “you must know this human.”

Upon following Black Frontiersmen on Instagram, I found out that he is also an incredible artist. As a lover of abstract art, I became an instant fan. Not only of his work, but of something inspirational inside this human being that manifested itself on the canvas.

“[My uncle] Andrew was shot and killed when I was 20, and I felt he handed me the paintbrush and said ‘go.’ My bedroom at the time was his old room—the place where he had created for years—so I couldn’t escape his energy. [Before that] I had never even picked up a paintbrush, except in basic art classes in school.”

Filmmaker, photographer, painter, DJ, activist, cycling fanatic, snowboarder, hiker…is there anything else you’d like to share, sir?

“Most people do not know that I drove a Zamboni for several years at an ice rink in Maryland.”

I must buy this guy a whiskey. Here’s your key to the Man Cave, my friend!

What is the concept of a man cave? It’s typically a limited amount of space where a man can be himself without interruption. Now, I could go on about Akeel. From him traveling to Alaska to film the Iditarod and meeting the great explorer Col. Norman Vaughan, to him sneaking into Billie Dee Williams’ private gallery showing in Georgetown, DC—and actually forming a relationship with the man—to him working as a filmmaker on the Tribeca Film Festival featured documentary, “Time Is Illmatic,” based on the aforementioned hip hop artist Nas. Yes, I could go on. However, as I said, time and space are both limited.

So, I will leave with some words from the man himself:

“Without art in all of its forms and mediums, the world would certainly be a much darker place. Respect artists. I didn’t ask to be an artist, it’s just who I am. The creator bestowed some skills upon me and shined the light, so I ran with it. This is how I support myself 24/7. Working artists deserve to be paid, just like any skilled professional that provides a service. All art ain’t free! Art is a lifestyle for some, a job for others and a hobby for many.”

Keep pushing, brother Akeel.

Follow him on IG at @blackfrontiersmen or reach him through his management at

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