Non-Rapper Dudes Series – Akili Walker Interview
The always under-appreciated role of the engineer, both in the studio and on tour, is always a fascinating one. Akili Walker, who has worked with everyone from hip-hop production legend Larry Smith to James Brown, Eddie Kendricks, Kurtis Blow, Prince, George Clinton and LL Cool J, took some time out after the release of his new book, Turn The Horns On, to recall some of his best memories behind the boards.
Robbie: Where about did you grow up?
Akili Walker: I grew up in Freeport, Long Island, right next to Chuck D and Flavor Flav. We were like a mile from each other, they grew up in Roosevelt, but they’re a little younger than I was.
Are you a recording engineer by trade?
I’m an audio engineer, I switch between the studio and on the road. I was a musician at an early age – I was a drummer when I was thirteen. I won the ‘Battle of the Bands’ with my band and we was in the Musicians Union of New York at the age of thirteen. My father was an audiophile, he loved music and he had a large jazz collection and an expensive stereo. My drumming career ended when I was sixteen. I stopped drumming to join the hippy generation and do drugs.
That Shit I Don’t Like: Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star Album
The Rawkus era, so fondly remembered by misty-eyed hip-hop forum regulars as some kind of third golden era, left me largely nonplussed at the time and with the steady passage of time passing us by, many of those records haven’t aged well at all. I was all about Hydra Entertainment and Tru Criminal, personally, but I did have an unfortunate run-in with the horrendously overrated Black Star LP after a buddy of mine who worked in a record store recommended it to me while I was ordering second-hand Big Noyd singles. After the records arrived in the mail and I threw on the Mos Def and Talib Kweli album, which certainly looked the business courtesy of Brent Rollins sharp artwork. I was then subjected to what can only be described as the most disappointing album purchase since I copped the first Arabian Prince album.
Let me break it down the issues I have with this record, one at a time:
Stream: Cut Chemist – Mix By Jimmy
This shit is incredible.
Cut Chemist sez:
“Take a peak into the exclusive material from hip hop pioneer DJ Afrika Bambaataa. ‘Mix By Jimmy’ features recordings Bambaataa had pressed to acetate for spinning live at shows in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This mix includes entirely unreleased material along with demo versions of hits like ‘Looking For The Perfect Beat,’ ‘Renegades of Funk’ and ‘Planet Rock.’ Listen and take a trip through the deepest part of the most important music collection of our time.”
Thanks to egotripland for the tip.
Why Can’t Ice Cube Keep Any Rap Friends?
When it comes to burning bridges, O’Shea Jackson may be the most accomplished hip-hop artist in the history of the music. It seems as if everyone who has ever had even the slightest involvement with him on a professional level has either gone on to record a diss song about him or made a series of angry Facebook posts filled with furious anger. Is Ice Cube really the “modern day Jerry Heller” as his former musical partner Sir Jinx insisted during a now deleted series of venomous status updates which implied that Cube continued to exploit musicians and actors working in his movies all in the name of pinching pennies?
Cassette Culture with Stretch Armstrong: DJ Red Alert, 98.7 Kiss FM, 6.13.87
DJ Stretch Armstrong breaks down his favorite old rap radio tapes in this new column he’s writing at Cuepoint, a new collection of long-form music articles curated by Jon “Shecyk Green” Shecter of The Source/Game Records fame. Since many of my fondest memories of first hearing rap revolving around Red Alert and Chuck Chillout tapes, hearing tape rips like this are always guaranteed to slightly defrost my cold, frosty heart.
Cassette Culture with Stretch Armstrong: DJ Red Alert, 98.7 Kiss FM, 6.13.87
Searching For The Akafella – The Akinyele Video Collection
Inspired by this Martorialist Akineyele Deep Cuts compilation, I began to revisit some of Akafella’s later work, and it turns out that it’s a lot more entertaining now that the bitter taste of disappointment of him abandoning the genius of songs like “Exercise” and “Outta State” for endless variations of songs about poon have since been blotted out by years of excessive liquor consumption.
You may have read a few years back that Ak opened a strip club in Las Vegas called Lollypops and claimed to have clocked $5 million in the first week. According to some comment section gossip, which I always take as fact, “Last I knew he owns a strip club on Queens Blvd. in Queens, NY. He got he start due to a an accident he had years ago & won the lawsuit.” This was followed up by another blog of questionable validity posting this:
“Akinyele made up the story that LolliPop’s strip club made $5-Million in one week for press. His planned worked, but the dude who put up the money is pissed because Akinyele didn’t mention his name in the press. How the fuck can LolliPop’s make $ 5-Million in a week? The place is as big as a cupboard. Dude kicked Akinyele, out of the club and banned him from the spot. He ripped up the contract between him and Akinyele, but Akinyele is going to fight him in court. They did have an agreement between them.”
Back in 2008, Ak told AHH that he’s been in the game for a long time:
“Akinyele: Aww man. My first club I started in probably 1995. I got introduced to that whole game by a friend of mine. I did it first just for fun. Just thinking, “Hey I can probably get girls to come in here and dance,” and I did it for straight up p****y. Then I realized it was a business.”
As for his film work, of Aktapuss: The Sexcom, Amazon customer W. Curtis Mcdonald Jr. wrote:
“This movie was’nt even worth the postage…A few scene with some tight Sistas is the only reason I did’nt throw it out of the window !!!!”
According to this story from last month, Akinyele Adams can now be found working as the general manager of Disco Rick‘s infamous King of Diamonds strip club. Sadly, the reality show that was talked about a few years back never came to fruition…
Bobby Simmons [Stetsasonic] – The Unkut Interview, Part Two
Continuing my discussion with Stetsasonic drummer Bobby Simmons, we discuss touring, Flavor Flav ethering Prince, the rivalry with EPMD, beef with WreckX N Effect and vaulted tracks.
Robbie: Touring must have been essential back then.
Bobby Simmons: The best tour I’ve ever done was that Run-DMC Run’s House tour. Every night I would sit on the side of the stage and I couldn’t wait to watch Run and them’s show. Run and them were just amazing to watch. When you watch Krush Groove and you saw Jam-Master Jay cut that “Run! Run!” You were like, “Oh shoot! They getting ready to do something!” It was really that kind of intensity in the air, waiting for Run to come on, and DMC just standing there with his arm’s folded. You just couldn’t wait to see Run walk out! Then when he came out, Run really controlled you with what he said. You didn’t see that in the movie. You didn’t get to see people take their Adidas sneakers off and put it in the air. When I saw that, I said, “This is it. It’s finished.” Who in the world can get everyone in Madison Square Garden to take off their sneakers and put them in the air? All you saw was different colored Adidas in the air. It was amazing to see that command. It was beautiful.
Ten EPMD Deep Cuts
Erick and Parrish made some dollars, then “someone” robbed P’s crib and E Double “fell” out of a window. We’re all familiar with their many hit singles, but here are a selection of worthy album tracks from the seven group albums, plus a couple from when they went for “delf.”
Track By Track: Diamond D Breaks Down The Diam Piece Album
Diamond D is releasing his latest project, The Diam Piece, on 30 September so I caught up with him to find out the stories behind each track and get a little bit of insight into the process of constructing a production project with so many guests.
Diamond D: It’s more or less a production LP, about two and a half years it took. A lot of tracks I didn’t even use. I had about 27 tracks but I only used 18. Some of the artists I was in the studio with, and others – because of their touring schedule and my touring schedule – I just sent them music and they sent me the session back. If the track that I give them has a sample in it that’s giving it direction then they’ll follow that. If there is no sample or concept at the beginning I just let the MC’s paint their own pictures and try to figure out how can make it connect. I use a lot more live instrumentation now. I still chop and manipulate samples, but my sound just sounds bigger now. Just using better equipment so the sample frequencies are better.
Bobby Simmons [Stetsasonic] – The Unkut Interview, Part One
Bobby Simmons is best known as a member of Stetsasonic, the original “Hip-Hop Band,” but during an extensive conversation with him last week he also shared some classic memories about Melle Mel trolling new rappers in the late 80’s, a two-year stint as a DJ at the Latin Quarters and the escapades of Eric B. and Rakim‘s main muscle, the original 50 Cent. This is part one of a three part interview, so get comfortable…
Robbie: Did you study drumming at school?
Bobby Simmons: I self-taught myself drums, I was six years-old. My brother was in the music business too, he was a session guitarist for groups like Sister Sledge and Dan Hartman in the mid-70’s, so I kinda self-taught myself listening to a lotta the records that he would play and trying to figure out the drum – what does what. The first record that I actually learned how to play – that took me from when I was six to when I was seven – was the Ohio Players. The drummer, Diamond, I was so fascinated how he played drums on ‘Skin Tight’ and ‘Fire,’ I wanted to learn to play how he played. The drum sounds were heavy, the snare was fat, the kick was fat, and Diamond used to do all this fast foot [work] on the pedal.
From there I played in my brothers local band and just kept myself active doing that. Deejaying also helped me how to play drums too, cos in the early 80’s it helped me how to blend timings and beats, with the disco records and the Chuck Brown records and the James Brown records helped me keep great timing. Knowing how to keep timing and knowing what the kick and snare and the hi-hat do, I self-taught myself. I kinda wish I was taught and went to schooling to read for it, but my father took me to drumming school and I never went back. It was taking too long! “I wanna get to this part!” [laughs]
Great One-Shot Wonders
These aren’t one hit wonders, since none of these records were technically “hits” in the traditional sense. This is more of a collection of rappers who only got one chance to shine before they got a steady city job with a pension or dangled in record company hell for all eternity.
Ten Essential 80’s Rap B-Sides
These are ten essential 80’s b-sides, from the time when the 12″ single truly reigned supreme. “La Di Da Di” isn’t included as it’s basically a double A-side single for all intents and purposes. Technically “Ego Trippin'” also started out as a b-side on the second pressing of “To Give You Love,” but those are so scarce it barely warrents a mention.
Download: A Salute To Duke Bootee
Perhaps best known for providing Melle Mel with the beat to “The Message” while working as a Sugarhill Records session player, Duke Bootee went on to unleash a series of DMX/Linn Drum driven speaker smashers for Profile and his own Beauty and the Beat imprint, as well as his own solo album. When combined with a great scratch DJ and some effective Shout Rap (Word of Mouth‘s “King Kut”) or the hardcore b-boy stance of one-time Rammellzee rhyme partner and a razor sharp Latin Rascals edit (K-Rob‘s “I’m A Homeboy”), the trademark Duke sound was unstoppable. Here’s a collection of his production and vocal work, including that time that Bootee was recruited to record a guest rap in Ewok…
Download: A Salute To Duke Bootee
Ten Album Tracks From The 90’s That Deserved To Be Singles
A selection of tracks worthy of twelve inch status on the grounds of how great they are. The fact that I don’t own proper instrumental versions of any of these kills me a little bit inside every day.
Domingo – The Unkut Interview
Domingo‘s latest album, Same Game, New Rules dropped this week, featuring a mixture of veteran MC’s (AZ, Kool G Rap, KRS-One) and new jacks (Chris Rivers, Kon Boogie, Joey Fattz), so I took some time out to discuss some of the highs and lows of his long career in the music game, and found out some amusing trivia about some LL Cool J and G Rap songs in the process.
Robbie: What sparked you off to start making beats?
Domingo: My uncle used to go to radio personality college and he started deejaying for a radio station in Chicago as an intern and then became a radio personality there. He would send me cassettes back of him deejaying and I was always fascinated. When he finally came back home to Brooklyn, he threw his equipment in the basement of my grandma’s house where I was living and he would DJ down there and play the drums. My uncle was very multi-talented, I would just sit there and watch him. I always remember him playing “King Tim” and then he played “Rapper’s Delight” and Kurtis Blow. When “Rapper’s Delight” came out, that’s when I was hooked. One day I started deejaying and then it transcended into me wanting to do demos and write my little raps and do battles in the street. I did my demos with two tape decks, back and forth how it used to get done, then I went on to four tracks.
What was it like growing up in East New York back then?
East New York was homicide central, like Jeru said. I grew up with Jeru, Lil’ Dap – childhood friends. A good friend of mine, his nickname is Froggy, and he’s like family to me. We always say that we “graduated.” We were lucky to live to 21. I could take you to the cemetery and show you a row of all my friends who are dead. East New York was a very rough neighborhood, man. Early childhood memories is gunshots, trains running past my house – the L train, cos my house is right near the corner on Sheppard Avenue. Growing up with my friends – my friends are still my friends to this day! And the fact that one of my good friends named Edison, who I grew up with, if it wasn’t for him putting me in his father’s Chevy Caprice Classic and telling me, “Domingo – this is you all the way! Let’s go see Marley at ‘BLS, he’s looking for people.” If he didn’t drag me there, I would’ve never met Marley.
Download: Debonair P – Debonair Blends 11 [1990-1992 Megamix]
The eleventh volume of Debonair P‘s blend mixes has just dropped, this time covering the first two years of the 90’s. You can download or cop a bundle of CD’s from his Gentleman’s Relief site, which includes the exclusive Hydra Beats megamix.
Ten 90’s B-Side Deep Cuts
The good thing about actual singles was that it was possible to keep track of b-sides and such. These mp3 folders are far too confusing for old folks, so I’ve been told.
EPMD - “Brothers From Brentwood, L.I.”
Sermon’s rapping fell off seriously after the third album, but this beat and Greg Nice hook can’t be denied.