Akon, who likely inherited his musical talent from his father, Senegalese percussionist Mor Thiam, is one of the increasingly rare breed of artists who writes and produces his own material. Listening to his impressive debut CD, Trouble, it’s hard to imagine that he once disliked hip-hop. Over time he grew to embrace hip-hop and it shows. His style is a mix of R&B and hip-hop, and Akon glides between singing and rapping effortlessly. In fact you’ll likely ask yourself whether he’s singing or rapping as you listen to the songs.
The CD is entitled ‘Trouble’ for a good reason — Akon got into his fair share of trouble while growing up. The best tracks on the album are those about his past exploits and his efforts to turn his life around. My favorite song, ‘Locked Up’, has Akon reminiscing on a couple of incidents that resulted in him going to jail. ‘Trouble Nobody’ is about Akon dealing with life as an ex-convict, with judges and probation officers telling him to stay out of trouble. He goes into some of the difficulties of ex-cons trying to go straight: “Let me tell you what hurts the most / I’m a convicted felon and I can’t work / No matter where I go to try to get paid / They never give me the job because they are afraid…” Other stand-out tracks include ‘Show Out’, which pays homage to ‘The Message‘, ‘Bananza (Belly Dancer)’, which is a club banger obviously influenced by Akon’s time spent in Atlanta, ‘Gangsta’, ‘Ghetto’ and ‘Journey’.
Akon’s talent also shows through on the production side. The CD covers a lot of musical ground, from Southern-influenced hip-hop to hard-core hip-hop to more traditional R&B songs. He even shows that he can dig in the crates with his well placed, sped up, samlpe of Bobby Vinton’s ‘Mr Lonely’ on the track ‘Lonely’. I think Akon may be one of the the next big producers on the scene. Consider what Lil’ Zane said about him:
“I would compare him to Pharrell,” says Lil’ Zane, who used Akon’s production talents on his own debut. “He can do your beat and sing your chorus.”
That’s high praise, but somehow I think Akon may just live up to it.
Rating: **** out of *****Powered by Sidelines