July 22, 2009

Reader Review: Akinyele - Vagina Diner (July 6, 1993)



(I came across Akinyele's debut album Vagina Diner about a year ago, and I've been meaning to get to a proper write-up for this project, but you know how life happens while you're making other plans and all that. And besides, Jaded Scenester NYC beat me to it anyway. So here's his take, and be sure to visit his blog when you're finished leaving your comments.)

Akinyele Adams is a proud son of Queens, NYC. Now known by simply by his Akinyele eponym, you probably heard him for the first time on the Main Source classic “Live At The BBQ”. Less cultured HHID-ophiles probably checked in around the Put It In Your Mouth era and think of him as the Queens answer to Uncle Luke Skyywalker, and you wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Akinyele may have the same entrepreneurial sense, owning and opening strip clubs with wild abandon, but even today, Ak can rhyme circles around most of his porno-rap contemporaries. His debut Vagina Diner dropped in July of 1993 and continues to be one of the best hip-hop records you’ll (n)ever hear.

Akinyele started rapping after hearing “Rapper's Delight”. After getting an insurance settlement from a motorcycle accident (after 20 years in this burgh, would someone explain to me how kids in the fucking projects have dirt bikes?), he recorded his first demos, eventually snagging a spot on the Main Source classic “Live At The BBQ” alongside fellow Queens up and comers Joe Fatal and Nas. While Nas seemed to get most of the shine from the track, Ak’s relationship with Main Source mastermind Large Professor ended up being a fruitful one. When Ak got his deal with Interscope, he pulled in Extra P to produce his debut. To date, it’s the only record (save for his own material) that Large Professor has produced in its entirety. I’d be interested to hear how excited Extra P was to find that the end result was released as a record called Vagina Diner. Evidently Ak found a window of tolerance post Ice-T/Body Count and his “Cop Killer” ridiculousness, as I’m pretty sure no one could get a record out called Vagina Diner in this day and age. Hell, Jadakiss had to change the title of a record called Kiss My Ass just a few months ago.

Title aside, Vagina Diner features Akinyele in full rhyme animal mode. He ramps up his style of accentuating his rhymes by dropping his pitch at the end of his lines, an affectation that is as much of a signature to Ak as David Foster Wallace and his annotations or Max and his beloved italics. If said drops are distracting to you, you’d best look elsewhere, as those shits are dropping like a pigeon on a Taco Bell binge on Vagina Diner. Personally, one of the best things about Vagina Diner is the fact that the lyrics are printed in the booklet. Not because Ak is some proto-backpacker getting his Twista on, but because I love the idea of some design drone having to type-set lyrics like “that belly blows up it’s gonna be trouble/I have to come play like a pin and pop that bubble." Akineyle is a great MC and mad lyrical, but he has zero problem stretching a metaphor out like a Magnum on Ron Jeremy to make a point. As a testament to such lyrical wizardly, I’m going to include a lyrical gem from each of the tracks, lest you still be on the pipe and think that Lloyd Banks is some sort of paragon of punchline wizardry.

Let’s sally forth, shall we? Zagat’s says the food is great!

1. WORLDWIDE
Extra-P starts things off banging by cooking up a fat as hell track for Ak to rip the shit out of, but it’s only the first course. Vagina Diner is a damn smorgasbord of great basslines and drum loops. Here, Ak lets us know that his rhyme majesty will not be confined to Queens, or even NYC, for that matter:“I kick that shit that's known to hit/So much rap lines, you might fuck around and hang clothes on it./But yo it ain't no thing in it, your static-free rhymes that you kick /need to be kicked, ‘cause it doesn't got cling in it/Then you turn around and start singin’ it./Hard as hell need to be brought, so I'm here to start bringin’ it.”

2. OUTTA STATE
Next up, we have the now obligatory Big L/KRS-esque drug narrative. Played out today, but somewhat less so then. Ak gets his B.I.G. on like a hood Alan Greenspan, dropping science on hood economics and interstate commerce. (He must love long car drives as much as I do.) “I'm goin’ one deep, in the driver's seat/Throwin’ the vegetarian book cause I'm ready for beef/I got a three-hundred and fifty-seven, faren-degrees-heit/Of heat, better known as a burner on the street.”

3. AK HA HA! AK HOO HOO?
Here is some shit funkier than the proverbial African cab driver. We get the best of the 1990s style, distilled by Large Professor: Primo-esque “Akinyele” cut-ins, a horn line that Pete Rock would stab you with an acetate shiv for, and Xtra P cold getting dumb on the track. Production aside, I’ve listened to this track a million times since last millennium and I still have no sense as to what an “Ak Ha Ha” or an “Ak Hoo Hoo” is: I’m gambling this is Akinyele repping Theodore Geisel to the fullest. (Readers who can figure out to whom he's referring to win a free pat on the back.) Peep the finest of early 90s references: “So don't sleep, nor yet drowsing/My name itself bring more heartbeats than Robert Townsend/I hurdle over rappers like a stallion/Choreographing more fame than Debbie Allen, n---a.”

4. DEAR DIARY
Yet another nasty, nasty bassline from LP. Here Akinyele gets in touch with his inner, more modest self through the introspection one can only share via a personal journal. Match that with a cannon of a kick drum and a young Rob Swift getting busy with the scratching and you’ve got a whole lot of MCs investigating if UPS is actually hiring: “In your city, with your whole damn committee/our butt-ass rhymes are all shitty/So don't riff cause I'm in a class by myself/Make like a ventriloquist, talk that shit someplace else.”

5. BAGS PACKED
Akinyele has a love and respect for the fairer sex that only his fellow Queens compatriot Kool G Rap can only come close to approximating. The R&B loop lessens the sting, but be informed that our pal Ak does not consider sexual favors as appropriate compensation for residency at Chez Akinyele, even if you embrace the post-Cavendish Hobbesian economics Ak-afella espouses below. Check this clause from Ak's lease and take small consolation that there is a relocation package: “Before you burst, gimme my keys, stop pleadin’ for please/This ain't church, get off your fuckin’ knees/I'm not lookin’ for no blow job, you better get a real job/So we can have some dough, Hobbes/I won't front, i used to love it when we'd hump/you're not my stunt, tomorrow's the first of the month/ou don't have half the rent, I'm knockin’ cuttin’ nose flat/Girlfriend, I got your bags packed.”

6. THE BOMB
In an oddly prescient track, the ever-modest Akinyele tips his hand as the Galactacus-esque architect behind Vietnam and the first World Trade Center bombing. To think that Teddy Ted and the rest of the Awesome Two could have prevented such tragedies. Ooh child, indeed! “You can't fuck with it because I'm a little too exquisite/For y'all snake-ass lizards/Check my style right before you freestyle/My style's hostile, Teddy Ted heard it he said 'Ooooh child!'.”

7. BEAT
A quick 26 seconds of Extra P master-crafted boom bap, which is over with pretty quickly, and yet is still better than the entire Swizz Beats catalog. Funny, that.

8. CHECKMATE
LP loops up a hot horn loop and Ak gets his Bobby Fisher on while explores the mysteries of chessboxing. Peep the Menudo reference as well as my favorite allusion: the invocation of Candyman-esque hood bugbear Edward N---ahands. That is fucking classic. Rob Swift aids and abets. “Raps are fat like sumo, slammin’ like judo/I won't get abused like numbers of Menudo/I got the art down pat, pass the corduroys/This bad boy about to start to slack/Fuck how 'I could just kill a maaaan'/I'm slick and knocking brothers out with these Edward N---ahands.”

9. YOU KNOW MY STYLE
26 seconds of Akinelye reminding us that we know his style over a funky LP loop. Not especially necessary, but it could have been a skit, so let’s consider ourselves lucky, shall we?

10. I LUH HER
Here’s one that you should probably avoid throwing on at the next baby shower you attend. Like Dr. Benjamin Spock, Akinyele gives valuable insights into love, fatherhood and the complicated process of pregnancy out of wedlock. Think of this as sort of a “Having My Baby” for the project set. This little ditty incurred the wrath of The Source’s female editorial staff, but our Akinyele managed to dodge the bullet by claiming that the songs was conceptual and arguing that he ends the tune by saying not to touch her, as he still loves her. Then he and G. Rap went and recorded the follow-up, “Break A Bitch Neck”, a track that soon became an anthem for the National Organization for Women. (The following lyrics probably aren't for the feint of heart.) “This is a diary of a black man/Not making no alimony payments due to no wedding bands/So axe that talk about marriage/Miss, you must of misunderstood, I want you to have a miscarriage/I'm fed up, and sorry that I've done it/I'm ready to set her up, have my little man kick her in the stomach/Or punch my fist through that navel/Cause I'll be damned if this be the hand that rocks the cradle.”

11. EXERCISE
Not content to maintain the structure of his body’s temple purely by beating down bitches and/or wack-ass rappers, and no doubt angry at usurious long-term gym contracts, Akinyele lashes out with an anti-athletic turn, prompting a long standing beef with Melle Mel and the entire country of Brazil: “Don't throw your soccer balls this way/The name is Akinyele, not no motherfuckin’ Pele/ Baseball’s a sport I'm not with/So don't hand me no catcher's mitt, cause I ain't catchin shit!/The only time I slide and run is after the murder's done/I get ghost before the homicide come.”

12. NO EXIT
More enlightened relationship talk. Ak shows a shrewd business sense equal to his love of the Sartre-based Existentialism movement. While he would become most known for opening up strip clubs, early on, Akinyele diversified his portfolio to open a branch of The Hotel California. Ladies, should you decide to take up residence, keep up on your rules and regulations for residency: while Ak would prefer you not become pregnant and requires you to pay rent to live at his crib, don’t think that you have the latitude to leave whenever you see fit, especially if he has invested his venture capital in clothing, hair, and/or nails. “After one hit you're ready to split/What, are you test crashing cars?/'cause that's all dum dum shit/You don't flatter me trying to sign off/You best take the batteries out your watch if you want some time off.”

13. 30 DAYS
To wrap things up, Ak gets conceptual. He’s actually a clean living dude who eschews drugs and alcohol in favor of ass and titties, but in this instance, he’s been framed and has to do a short bid. For the average thug about town, this might be something to be concerned about, but there’s no need for him to come out cock diesel (kid) as he’s 6’6” and easily goes 350, but don’t think that you’re going to get over on the big homie: “And while I'm inside, I take in stride/Livin’ in prison, stool pigeons know that time don't fly/Days go by, night gets darker, but I'm a New Yorker/Whalin’ on your ass like orca/Not the Avon lady, stay up out my face/It only take a shoelace, for a nigga to catch a new case.”

FINAL THOUGHTS: Vagina Diner is currently out of print, so start trolling the Interweb and set to burning, my friend. It’s a shame, as the later Akinyele porno/stripper stuff is funny, but not nearly as good. His Ak-afella and Benny Ill personas are entertaining, but Ak is no MF Doom and the rhymes rarely hold up. Save for the classic couplet from Put It In Your Mouth, shit pales in comparison: this is the Holy Grail of Ak.

BUY OR BURN? As I said, this is out of print, so it looks like you're going to need to burn this one, unless you're a glutton for punishment and are dying to drop close to three figures from some schiesty eBay retailer. A whole record of Extra P and Ak might actually be worth laying out that cash. Ak being the hustler that he is, it's a wonder that he hasn't got the rights back or straight up bootlegged this shit at this point, but as Ak-afella is busy raking in cash right, left and center opening strip clubs all around the world, it looks like he's thrown his lot in with Yella from N.W.A and taking ass and cash over tracks. Benny Ill, indeed!

BEST TRACKS: “Ak Ha Ha!, Ak Hoo Hoo?”; “The Bomb”

-Jaded Scenester NYC

(Be sure to leave your questions, comments, and concerns below.)

6 comments:

  1. yo Maxwell...good write up, I like the quotes you picked too....as for Ak bootleggin this shit, I own doubles of a vinyl bootleg under the psuedonym "Akafella", and it's pretty good quality, fully worth the 3 bucks I paid for it. Large Pro also fully produced an album by this cat L.E.O. called "Spiritual Intelligence" released last year, I believe. It was mixed by J-Zone, if you care about that kinda thing. Theres a free D/L link on his page

    myspace.com/loveequals

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pardon, didnt notice this wasn't written by Max

    peace Jaded Scenester

    ReplyDelete
  3. i thought the funniest joke was the one where he implied mf doom is better

    ReplyDelete
  4. AnonymousJuly 23, 2009

    still better than the entire Swizz Beats catalog.

    dis kid never heard The Lox. "blood pressure"

    ... cheap Dirty Bastard rip off

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, Jaded Scenester NYC, your review is ok. The record you chose is an underground gem and the artist is one of the most underrated, but most skillful rappers.

    Akinyele is truly a rhyme animal, his rough voice and his delivery are first choice. No wonder about his affiliation with Kool G Rap... because these 2 guys can compare to each other.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good album, but that thing where he lowers his pitch on each rhyming word makes me laugh hard.

    ReplyDelete