Akon debuted mid-2004 with his hit single "Locked Up" and followed it up with its far more successful remix which featured Yonkers native Styles P. The momentum that Akon built with this pair of singles was then met with Trouble, his debut LP, later that year. It went by relatively unnoticed by me but, judging by the numbers it did, the rest of the buying public seemed to really be feeling Akon and everything he stood for.
Three years and two albums later, I’ve finally bought into the hype. Akon should not be classified as your typical R&B act. He does happen to sing and it does happen to be rhythmic, but that’s where the similarities end. More akin to Hip-Hop than R&B (or perhaps a slick mixture of the two, much like T-Pain), Akon’s music has been openly criticized for two reasons. The first being that he relies relentlessly on the same gimmicks time and time again with little deviation from his apparent formula, and the other criticism being that he performs harder-edged R&B (i.e. gangsta R&B) while still maintaining a Pop edge. Not the most talented artist I’ve ever come across, but surprisingly refreshing, Akon’s shortcomings are exactly what make him so appealing.
The most enjoyable moments on this album come in the form of the more female-friendly material. Akon’s image (or façade, if you will) is the thuggish lover and he plays that to the hilt throughout the course of Konvicted. The somber "Never Took the Time" is a song that explains his situation with an ex lover, how she never truly appreciated him, but how he is growing lonelier without her as each day passes. It’s a truly touching song and Akon’s songwriting shines through brilliantly.
"I Can’t Wait" is yet another song directed towards the female gender. More upbeat than the others on the album, it’s also more romantic and, as a result, amorous. Konvicted’s closer, and my personal favorite track on the album, is the infinitely catchy "Don’t Matter." Although not the most deftly written or sung song on the album, it contains some of the most revealing lyrics and, not to mention, one of the most appealing hooks on the record.
Akon got his start with the harder R&B and without that I doubt very few would buy into him anymore. The album’s first track, "Shake Down," is a welcome re-introduction to Akon that also features some catchy vocals and decent songwriting. Other songs of this nature are the absolutely blazing "Blown Away" which features a standout verse by Styles P. Similar topics are covered on the melancholy "The Rain," the G’d up "Gangsta Bop," the introspective "Tired of Runnin’" and the equally introspective, and, dare I say, soulful "Once in a While." This material ranges from slightly clichéd to even slightly revealing. Even as clichéd as some of it may be, that doesn’t make it any less entertaining, however.
Like any modern R&B/Rap album, there has to be a club joint or two. Akon covers that beautifully with the Eminem feature "Smack That." The lyrics are typically booty, but for what it is, it’s as enjoyable as anything else on the record. Eminem, however poor his rhymes have been as of late, actually manages to spit a lyrically proficient verse here. Snoop Dogg shows up a track later to guest on the sexy "I Wanna Love You" and, as much as I can’t say I appreciate Snoop’s appearance, the song is solid strictly for Akon’s verses and his inimitable chorus. Snoop is as forgettable as ever, but Akon holds it down nicely otherwise.
Although far from a club banger, "Mama Africa" fits nowhere else on this album. A song dedicated to Akon’s homeland, it is, without a doubt, the most unique track on the LP. The subject matter is surprisingly unique and it gives the album some added topical variety other than women, guns, drugs, and other such topics.
A 12 track album and, at that, unsurprisingly solid, Konvicted is co-produced almost entirely by Akon. The work he puts in is undeniably fantastic and, even when the production doesn’t work, his vocals are never lax. His energy level and his voice, which has become a hallmark of his style, make each song that much better. But the production rarely falters, and when it’s good, it’s far beyond sufficient.
Standouts include the club-ready "Smack That," the mellow "I Can’t Wait," the smooth "Tired of Runnin’" and the recent second single "Don’t Matter." Each song experiments with a different sound and no two tracks sound alike; I thank Akon greatly for that. The variety found throughout Konvicted, production-wise, can almost be astounding.
Guests obviously weren’t important to this record as only Styles P., Eminem, and Snoop Dogg show up for brief cameos. This gives Akon more time in the spotlight. None of these guests are given any great amount of mic time, but Snoop comes through with a verse that would make even the most hardcore fans of the Top Dogg wish they had never heard of him. The rest do not make nor break the album.
Konvicted should keep Akon fans happy; no more, no less. He’s not the most talented artist to ever get behind a microphone, but he does have talent and that is what’s important here. According to fans across the country, Akon may be becoming the next Nate Dogg, but with an album as good as Konvicted, he shouldn’t have to worry about that quite yet. Not the greatest album I’ve ever heard, but certainly not the worst, Konvicted is solid for all the right reasons anyhow.