Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A is for Aceyalone 'Magnificent City"

The last album in our journey of Aceyalone ends with "Magnificent City."  It's not his latest album nor is it the follow up to "Book of Human Language."  This is the only one of his albums I actually own on CD.  I don't remember when I got this album, but I feel that I was pulled to the album cover more than anything else and that was why I bought it.  Sometimes you strike gold when you search just by artwork.  Sometimes you get straight hot garbage.

The album starts with "All For U" and does a nice job of mixing both his jazz beats and scratching into the beat.  The lyrics "It took me a long while to master the art" might be more of an understatement rather than humbleness.  The guy has mastered this art for quite some time, but he has received little acclaim.  "I am what I am, but that ain't all I can be."  Sometimes when people wax poetic, you don't realize the Taoist/Yoda wisdom that you hear.  Luckily for all of us, not only does Aceyalone perform for us, but he helps heal us just a bit.  "Fire" starts just like it should, sounding like an old-school Earth, Wind, and Fire track.  The old school 70s sound is a nice change from his standard jazz beats.  The lyrics on the track are smooth and I love that about it.  Maybe it's the production by RJD2 that is making a bit of the difference on this album, but it is a good change from his past.  Once again, "Fire" provides you with the wisdom of you mother and the sage older uncle from you family.  "Love life, let it love you back." (just so you know, I'm the sage uncle in my family)

"Cornbread, Eddie, and Me" starts out significantly harder than any other track that Aceyalone has done in my opinion.  The problem is that whenever I read this title, I automatically think of Lawrence Fishburn's first movie, "Cornbread Earl and Me."  Even though they aren't related, the track always makes me think of the movie.  Maybe it's a song about the streets and life accordingly, but I couldn't tell you cause I'm always distracted when I hear the song.  "Mooore" returns us to RJD2's beats.  It is "electronic" and elongated.  The rhyme is thus drawn out as well.  Acey finds his way to slow down himself just enough that when the song is finished you want exactly just what has been provided, more.  I love the beat on this track and the compatability of Acey on the track.

"Supahero" starts out like the anticlimactic scene in a hero movie.  It's slow building, giving the listener the moment to be drawn in.  You know that the action is about to start, but you don't know when.  You can feel the energy building and then, boom, it hits. The only thing is that RJD2 doesn't hit you hard, he gives you a couple of soft blows here and there.  Acey starts a little light as well, but then he hits you hard with a smooth flow.  He preaches about where superman ain't, telling you that "he's your star, but you're looking for a supahero."  Kind of a lesson for everyone out there to understand that when you look past everything for a superhero, you're going to miss the stars in your life.  "You need a star in your life/not in your dreams."  If there was ever a verse that made every "friendzoned" guy feel like someone was talking for them, this is it.  Well done, sir.  "Highlights" is well, a song about weed.  All sorts of weed.  Aceyalone names all the street names for all kinds of weed.  Then he provides a diatribe about the government and the benefits of medical marijuana, plus numerous pop culture names.  It's a chilled out track that takes its form from the subject matter.

The album kicks up the beat with "Disconnected."  The horns come in a little harder and the drums provided the tension that the lyrics vent.  Outside of the reference to shoot for the moon and land among the stars (which I hate), Aceyalone explains how we all feel disconnected.  Not in a manner of technology, but in our minds.  The thing that makes us special is also the thing that makes stand out.  That sometimes also makes us socially "disconnected" from the "mainstream" ideas.  It's a solid track, but sometimes the preaching gets a little long.

"Some birds don't deserve to be caged/They gotta fly away and search for the waves/Being locked up is worse than the grave" is how "Caged Birds" begins.  After the mellow beginning, the Christmas bells start up and RJD2 turns up the speed of the beat.  Acey does a nice job on the track, and it is a nice change from "Disconnected."  Following this track is a "story" song.  "Solomon Jones" reminds me more of a Phish song than a hip hop song.  If you've ever heard the "Junta" album by Phish, then you mind understand where the reference comes from.  Both DJ and MC do a great job of transporting you to a smokey dive bar in the back alley of a random town you've never been to.  It's a perfect change of pace and I love when artist are comfortable enough with themselves to put tracks like this out.  If the smokey haze of "Solomon Jones" gets you all times of mellow, then "A Sunday Mystery" will put you straight onto your couch and relax everything within you.  You see, this track is an interlude.  While old school emcees would have their DJ do a scratch and mix for a couple minutes on their albums, new school cats are afraid to put anything that doesn't have words out.  It is nice to get a moments reprieve when listening to any album

"Junior" is the story of any kid living today.  Whether it is a story about someone factually or not, it ends up being a true story about city life.  The RJ beats are great.  The flute or woodwinds behind the drums help provide a softness to the track.  In the end of the story, though, you know that Junior is not going to make it.  What a sad shame.  "Heaven ain't got no stairway/Heaven ain't got no ghetto" is the opening for "Heaven."  I find it funny to use a Led Zeppelin verse as well as a Tupac reference.  The track is soft spoken, as if Acey meant to use a muted tone and just speak to us as apposed to his usually flow.  Plus, the guitar samples used by RJ are nice as well.

"Here and Now" starts out with a soft keyboard touch and then harp strings kick it.  It reminds me a lot of Gift of Gab's "4th Dimensional" start.  The nice guitar riffs, reminiscent of 70s, funk is a great addition as well.  I find that I am so attracted to the beats that I miss out the lyrics.  Not to say that they aren't nice, it's just hard for me to not notice the beat each time.  This is a nice mellow track that does what Acey does best, give us advice and preach about lessons for life.  You don't always need the advice, but sometimes it's nice to hear it.

The album closes with "A Beautiful Mine."  Upon first hearing it, I always go "Holy shit" when the opening sample appears.  So here is where I'm going to go crazy on you.  What I love about hip hop are the random samples that you hear and then all you want to do is learn where it comes from.  The samples then become the ultimate gateway into learning both new and more music.  Plus, the added respect you get for DJs and producers becomes more heightened when you look at what the hell it is they are sampling.  For this song, I will give you nothing more that this:  RJD2 uses the sample "Autumn Leaves," by Enoch Light.  You don't know this song until I tell you it is the theme music for Mad Men.  Yes, RJD2 sampled a track that ended up being used for an AMC show.  Here is where it gets even crazier.  Enoch Light did not do the original.  His version is actually a cover.  I'm not sure when his version came out, but I found at least one recording done in 1956 from the album "The Paris I Love."  The original version, that many use as reference, is done by Yves Montand, titled "Les Feuilles Mortes," which technically means "The Dead Leaves."  This is why I love hip hop so much.  Where else are you going to learn about jazz history as well as French music.  Below are all three versions.

I hope you are able to enjoy all of this as much as I do.

Next: Acid House Kings  - "Music Sounds Better With You"

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