Will stick with the Queens theme for this one.
If you ask most folks about Akinyele, they’ll probably respond with “who?” And those that do recognize the Queens, New York native’s name, immediately remember him for his soft porn hit “Put It In Your Mouth”. Few remember his debut cameo appearance on the legendary Main Source posse joint “Live At The Barbeque”. Like all the other parties involved on that song, Akinyele was overshadowed by a young Nasty Nas’ legendary lead off verse, but his verse on that song was strong enough to get him a deal with Interscope Records, where he would release his debut album Vagina Diner in the summer of 1993.
The album title (and the artwork) for Vagina Diner would lead one to believe that Akinyele would be on some Luke/2 Live Crew shit, but he’s not (at least he wasn’t at this point). While woman degradation is the topic for a few of his songs (will get to those in a few) the majority of the album is Ak on some straight emcee shit. So, maybe Vagina Diner is a metaphor for the way he eats up these pussy emcees. But I digress. Akinyele would tap his fellow Queens brethren Large Professor, to handle the production from beginning to the end of Vagina Diner.
So if all else fails at least the beats will bang, right?
Worldwide – Vagina Diner kicks off with a flavorful jazzy backdrop and Akinyele dropping clever punch lines and rhyming with the hunger of a Christian coming off of a 40 day fast. My favorite line on the song (that still makes me chuckle every time I hear it) is “I graduated from lobbies, bangin’ on walls for a hobby, I’ll battle anybody, even a dead body”. Reading that doesn’t do much justice for the line, but listen to it in the song and you’ll appreciate it. The only bad thing about this song is the end when they fade Ak out as he continues to rip the instrumental to pieces.
Outta State – On this one Ak deals with the reality of becoming a man and surviving on his own. And like many poor ghetto dwellers, Ak turns to illegal activity to secure the bags. For those unfamiliar with Akinyele, he randomly does this gimmicky thing where he’ll end the final word of each bar with a frog “ribbit” type voice, and it can become pretty annoying at times. There’s no question Ak can spit, but he struggles to find himself on this underwhelming Extra P instrumental.
Ak Ha Ha! Ak Hoo Hoo? – I believe this was the first single released from Vagina Diner. Over a smooth jazz flavored backdrop our host spits more freestyle braggadocio rhymes. I was never a big fan of this song back in the day, but after listening to it again through some pretty quality headphones, I noticed a lot of interesting things going on in the track that I didn’t notice before (like the sick violin loop laced throughout the song). A better mix would do this song more justice, but I still appreciate it as is.
Dear Diary – Over a forgettable instrumental Akinyele spits more battle rhymes filled with cute punch lines. The song title and hook make absolutely no sense, as Ak encourages wack emcees to write “this” in their diaries, and never really clarifies what exactly he wants them to write. Someone didn’t think this one through all the way.
Bags Packed – Akinyele offers up a little comic relief on this one, as he tells his freeloading girlfriend to get her shit and kick rocks. Some of Ak’s punch lines are witty and hi-larious (like “no living for free on my couch, eh yo I ain’t operating no type of covenant house” and “before you burst give me my keys, stop pleading for please, this ain’t church get off your fuckin’ knees…I’m not looking for a blow job, you better get a real job, so we can have some dough hobbs”), but his flow sounds awful on this one (he falls off beat a handful of times and stretches the annunciation of certain words, forcing them to fit). And as much as I love most of Extra P’s production, this beat is hot trash.
The Bomb – This was the second single released from Vagina Diner, and probably the biggest hit (I use the term “hit” loosely) on the album. Ak sounds revived and a lot more comfortable than he did on the last few songs, spittin’ over Extra P’s high energy backdrop. Well done.
Beat – Sometimes a song title sums the song up perfectly. Which is the case for this short instrumental interlude.
Checkmate – After the brief intermission that was the last track, Akinyele picks up where he left off at on “The Bomb” and completely destroys this understated Extra P instrumental. He also drops what is probably his best rhyme on the album with “I make punk rappers stutter, ya-ya-ya-ya-yo, I bring out the Das EFX in a muthafucka”. This song is tough.
I Luh Hur – There is no way in the world this song would have made it off the cutting room floor today. And especially not on a major label like Interscope. Ak tongue and cheekly, talks about his girl getting pregnant and how much he doesn’t want her to keep the baby. He then outlines several diabolical schemes to get her to lose the baby, which include: giving her a hanger to perform her own abortion, having his boy kick her in the stomach, punching her in the stomach and pushing her down a flight of steps. He does come back at the end of the song to say even though he’s talking all this shit that he still loves her. But that’s a hell of a way to joke with your lady. On a lighter note, Extra P’s instrumental on this one is a thing of beauty.
You Know My Style – Short, but dope instrumental plays while our host repeats the song title several times over for about 30 seconds.
Exercise – Our host gets back to the comic relief on this one, as he explains how much he despises exercise. Extra P’s jazzy backdrop compliments Ak’s amusing punch lines well.
No Exit – Here is another song that would have never seen the light of day if it were made in the new millennium. Extra P slides Ak a bluesy backdrop that he uses to play an abusive boyfriend who threatens to kill his woman if she leaves him. Yes, the subject matter is very dark, but Ak tries to approach it in playful manner. If you’re like me, you’ll feel a little guilty when you chuckle at line likes “after one hit, you’re ready the split, what are you test crashing cars? That’s that old dumb-dumb shit”. It’s a guilty pleasure, but I actually like this song
I’m sure I’ve said it before at some point on this blog, but I’ll say it again: Extra P is one of my favorite hip-hop producers of all time. So, back in day when I initially saw that Large Professor produced Vagina Diner in its entirety, I was super excited to hear the album. And I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed after listening. Don’t get me wrong, Vagina Diner is not a bad album, it’s actually a decent listen, but I was expecting so much more. Only about half of LP’s beat are dope and the other half dangle somewhere in between mediocre and wack. As far as Akinyele himself, he displays enough to prove that he is a formidable emcee with the ability to deliver witty punch lines, reminiscent of Lord Finesse, but at times on Vagina Diner a tight flow and delivery take a back seat to his cleverness. And some of his song ideas are god awful and/or arguably inappropriate. If you happen to come across Vagina Diner for a few bucks it might be a worthwhile purchase, but your collection won’t be incomplete without it.