I want to make the case that an album full of good songs isn’t necessarily a good album. The argument seems to defy a very basic principle of logic as it stands to reason that if an album is made up of 13 songs, and all 13 are good songs, then that should be a good album. However, albums aren’t judged as merely the sum of their songs, are they? So while each of the 13 tracks on Aceyalone’s Leanin’ On Slick sounds great on their own, the baker’s dozen together does not a great album make. While Slick offers plenty of feel-good funk and fun-loving rhymes, it’s repetitive to the point of boredom, and offers little substance for the choosy music fan.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of good times to be had listening to Leanin’ On Slick. This is Aceyalone’s third record produced entirely by Bionik. Each time the Freestyle Fellowship alum has worked with Bionik, the collaboration has yielded a hip hop album influenced by a specific musical genre. Previously sampling dancehall and doo-wop, Leanin’ on Slick is an exploration of the sounds of classic funk. From the James Brown-borrowing title track to the horn-heavy New Orleans style groove on “What You Gone Do With That?” each track is a polished-up vehicle for Aceyalone’s ride-along flow. Lyrically, Aceyalone is upbeat, near the brink of squeaky-clean, and it took about 4 tracks for me to realize that the rapper had no intentions of digging into heavy themes on this album, opting instead for playful syllabics and slightly banal wordplay.
Perhaps this was also the point where boredom started creeping in. Aceyalone and Bionik were starting to recycle their formula for slippery hip hop as a mid-album yawn started to come over me. Changes in tone or sonic texture are nowhere to be found in Slick except maybe the boisterous “Workin’ Man’s Blues,” which is actually a recycled track itself, lifted from Aceyalone’s last album and adding Cee Lo to the hook this time around.
But for one reason or another, I couldn’t fully dismiss this album, despite my overall lack of enthusiasm for it. I thoroughly enjoyed each of the songs a second time around, once I was able to shuffle them into a couple playlists. As it turns out, evaluating each track on an individual basis did away with the problem of repetitiveness and alleviated my irritation with the triteness of the lyrics; I was too busy grooving to the beat to care much lyrical depth.
The same album that bored me also got me dancing, and an album I wouldn’t easily recommend is also a collection of 13 songs I might suggest for a summer playlist. Enjoying Leanin’ On Slick is not simply a matter of taste, but also occasion. So by all means, put Aceyalone’s glossy, funkified hip hop into the soundtrack to your next barbecue, just be sure to hit that shuffle button.