New York native Akinyemi is the stripped down alt-rapper who’s sound and lyrics are as eclectic and elevated as his personal style. Steering clear of jewelry, girls, and other elements of the “show out” mentality, Akinyemi focuses his energy on connecting sonically with his listeners. The 22-year old’s flow is relaxed, yet thought-provoking on tracks like “Dust Calling,” which reflects on any one person’s struggle to surmount obstacles and goals. “I’m gonna be a man of the people. I’m not one to have girls, jewelry in my image, so I really plan on talking… connecting with my fan base directly,” says Akinyemi. The flows in his 7-song debut EP “Summers” pour over relaxed old-school beats specially crafted to provide an evergreen listening experience. “I wanted to make a collection of songs that you could bump every summer, whether it be road trips, beach days or small get-togethers,” adds the Queens-bred lyricist.
MajorHiFi Music Monday: Akinyemi
Although quite young, the promising rapper stays quite busy. If he isn’t adding new tracks to his already large collection of un-released tracks, he’s prepping for performances and speaking engagements. March and April are already busy for Akinyemi, as he’s dropping a new single, “flatline,” Friday, March 23rd with ATELLER. This is the second single off of their combined EP “i am u.” The first being “Things We Do.” The following Wednesday (3/28), you can find Akinyemi opening for Sylvan LaCue at Mercury Lounge, 6:30pm.
Akinyemi shared some of his musical influences and creative direction behind his debut EP “Summers” with MajorHiFi.
MajorHiFi: What headphones do you use when recording? Traveling?
Akinyemi: For the most part, I use Sony MDR-7506 headphones when recording. When traveling, I use Energy-Green Bose SoundSport’s earbuds, really quality sound and hella comfortable.
MH: When did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Akinyemi: The day I changed all my socials to Akinyemi, four years ago. That was when I knew I wanted to take this seriously. I was always a bedroom rapper/producer, but when I first got in the studio and started working with a recording engineer on ProTools, my whole mindset changed. My workflow changed. My direction of experimentation and the vastness of creativity that comes with the voice was unlocked, and I was thrilled to find out all I could do with my own.
MH: You’ve got an interesting sound, dare I say Alt-Rap… how do you describe your sound?
Akinyemi: Honestly, I have no idea. I literally just made some Tiesto-style dance shit, and some slow emo sad music in the same week. I used to compare my sound to Mick Jenkins and Earl Sweatshirt, but f**k that, I’m my own being. Alt-Rap is a good word, it doesn’t put my sound in a box too much. I’m very big on variety, I’m big on experimentation and I’m big on bringing out characters in my music through inflection, emotion and dynamic. As a result, my sound varies when it comes to the producers I’m working with at the time. Shout out Birocratic. Shout out Jachary. Shout out ATELLER. Shout out Conrad Clifton. These folks are incredible and have allowed me to really find and hone in on this “interesting” sound you perceive. Without these producers, you’d only be hearing a Capellas, and ain’t nobody buying spoken word albums, big fella.
MH: Also, what inspires your sound?
Akinyemi: Conversations and experiences. Just recently, I took a trip to the deli and bought a Stella, and wrote a whole record called “Stella Brews.” Honestly, it could be that simple, or have a huge underlying meaning behind it, it really depends. I’ve really only known to be as honest and unapologetic in my music as I can get. But I feel like my peers and their stories inspire me more than music does.
MH: Are there any artists in particular that influence or inspire you now?
Akinyemi: But when I am looking for musical inspiration, it’s really a mix of quite a few genres – a mix of oldies, funk, electronic, and hip-hop, of course. Kanye West, BROCKHAMPTON, Thundercat, Jacques Greene, Marvin Gaye, Kendrick Lamar, Sylvan LaCue and Steve Lacy are my main listens these days.
MH: Who is your favorite artist and why?
Akinyemi: I’d say Kendrick Lamar. He’s broken the barrier of the industry by bringing “conscious” hip-hop to the mainstream and I think that’s a really, really important thing. More people are following suit and aren’t afraid to drown their sound for clout. Regardless of that, he just makes insanely great music. He understands the “character” dynamic that I implement so much in my music, and the story-telling too. Some days, when I listen to Kendrick, it’s almost too inspiring that it’s de-motivating, like you kinda don’t wanna rap for the period in time that he’s rapping. But then I say f**k that, and I use it as fuel to the fire to build my own empire, as he has.
MH: Last summer, you released your EP “Summers,” briefly tell us your frame of mind and direction approaching the EP? What was the creative process behind it?
Akinyemi: “Summers” is a short cohesive seven-track body of work – only lasting 20 minutes. I don’t waste a word or a beat in this project. No skits, no interludes, just seven really strong records. The cover art is intriguing as the title (I attached the cover art in the google drive link) , it references to every song on the project. “Summers” is seven songs, seven letters, seven scenes.
The scenes are as follows:
left-mid = Dust Calling
right-side = Fleece
top-mid = Winter
top-left = Onetime
bottom-right = Highway
top-right = Change
bottom-left = Asylum
“Summers” got its name simply because I started it and recorded the first song to it, “Dust Calling,” last summer. Since summers is my favorite season, I wanted to make a collection of songs that you could bump every summer, whether it be road trips, beach days or small get-togethers. “Summers” took about a year to make, with every song being a specific scene or experience that happened to me. “Onetime,” being the most vulnerable story, sits right in the middle of the EP at track four and showcases a story about my older brother who I lost contact with.
“Dust Calling” is the lead single of the record as well as the first song of the project because I feel it’s an experience which many rappers/entertainers start their day with, doubt. Wondering if they’re good enough to be welcomed into their respective “executive offices.” For dancers, it could be Broadway, for actors, it could be specific actor guilds, but for musicians, it’s the coveted “record label.” I made this song so that folks could feel relatable to the doubt they feel everyday in their respective fields. “Door unopened, hopefully they let me in” doesn’t only relate to musicians. It relates to that job interview, that opportunity that you’re told “NO,” but you still strive for. It’s for everyone.
MH: You most recently collaborated with ATELLER and Leuca on “Things We Do” how did that collaboration come to be and what was the creative process behind that track?
Akinyemi: You know what’s crazy? I still haven’t even met Leuca face-to-face yet. And ATELLER only met him once, and that was to lay this record. Avishai (ATELLER’s real name), was like “Yo, he’s incredible, come in to the studio.” [I] wrote his joint within an hour or two, laid it and that was it. ATELLER and I, initially, had the song with my verse and a separate hook I laid, but we both weren’t super into it. So he just sent me a random email one day with Leuca’s vocals on it and I immediately loved it.
MH: What is your career trajectory and what else is in the works for you?
Akinyemi: I really feel like I’m gonna be a man of the people. I’m not one to have girls… jewelry in my image, so I really plan on talking… connecting with my fan base directly. I feel in the upcoming months/year involves a tour, a full body of work, more solidified merch, and it involves consistent great opportunities to share my craft with a group of people that wouldn’t otherwise see it. April is a dope month man. I’m gonna be doing some out-of-state shows – performing at the Kennedy Center in DC on April 6th, with a mini-orchestra). After that I got asked to speak at Columbia University on April 13th and give a lecture. That’s probably my most “out-of-realm” advancement recently. I’ll be touching on lyric-writing, how to improve your live performances, breath-control, effective collaboration, integrating your heritage in your artist dialogue, and good ways to step out of your boundaries [and] safe zone when creating.
Besides the gigs, I’m working on a plethora of new music. Almost too much music to be honest. So much, that I don’t know how I’m gonna release all of it. Probably sitting on upwards of 90+ songs that are unreleased. I got songs with Birocratic, Jachary, Conrad Clifton, NOTRUST from Delivery Boys, and many more. Some names you’ll just have to wait until the release.
Most immediate, I’m dropping a new single this Friday. It’s called “flatline”, it’s with homie ATELLER, and it’s the second single (first single being “Things We Do”) of our EP, “i am u” that you should expect early April.