Aceyalone – Leanin’ On Slick album review

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.

G&D – The Lighthouse album review

G&D are the husband and wife Duo of Georgia Anne Muldrow and Dudley Perkins (aka Declaime). Their new full-length The Lighthouse is a robust album blending funk, soul, and hip hop. Following up on their 2010 Mello Music Group release SomeOthaShip, Georgia and Dudley turned to their own imprint, SomeOthaShip Connect to put out The Lighthouse. The product is a much more personal effort, and the two decided to produce the entire album themselves, whereas SomeOthaShip featured a different hip hop producer for nearly every track. As a DIY effort, this album is even funkier and more message-forward than their first full length release. The album is sonically dense with a smoky haze backdrop, resinous bass and jittery, paranoid funk riffs. What really impressed me about the album is the wide variety of influences on display. There’s Parliament-esque “Power” and “Muthadear,” a heartfelt tribute to motherhood, with a melody so instinctive and sentimental, it reminds of classic Motown. Georgia and Dudley share the spotlight pretty equally, and Georgia stuns with the poise of her delivery in her only rapped verse on “Fam Bam.” Her singing voice is velvety smooth and low, and compliments Dudley’s declaratory rapping style.

The fusion of so many styles is held together with various musical interludes that thump the eardrums and bend the mind with brooding samples and top-notch DJ cuts. Even so, the album does collapse a little under the sheer weight of its own scope. Not so much unfocused as ambitious, its easy to get kind of bogged down by it. Listening to The Lighthouse can get kind of claustrophobic, like being crammed into a tiny, dark closet with Georgia and Dudley as they blow intoxicating hash smoke into your nostrils and school you solemnly on their musical taste and spiritual discoveries. Feel free to take a breather from this daunting album if things get too heavy for you.

All in all this is a highly intelligent album from two artists who are committed to a particular sound, despite the melting pot of influences that conspire to bring that sound to life. That sense of commitment, and of purpose has yielded a fully-rendered vision of spiritual funk and soul melding with hip hop. I will definitely look for G&D to continue to forge their very own path through music in future releases, but I’ll come prepared next time I get invited to hotbox with Georgia and Dudley, and make sure I’m ready for a lesson or two.