Love & Hate

Artist: AceyaloneTitle: Love & HateRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Toshi Kondo

Mention the name Aceyalone and one will hear admiration for classics such as All Balls Don’t Bounce and A Book of Human Language. Or maybe reverence for his integral role with the innovative Freestyle Fellowship. With such high praises, complacency could be expected. However, with his fifth album Love & Hate, Aceyalone shows that he has no intention of shortchanging anyone, delivering another album worthy of his distinguished catalogue.

He embraces a more accessible sound with “Let Me Hear Summ” and “Lights Out”. The former finds him riding an aggressive synthesizer-hit driven beat with help from Big Arch and Casual, who steal the show with clever quips such as “The way I finesse the pen/ Keep me running through women like estrogen.” Sayyid and Priest of Anti-Pop Consortium assist on the latter, where the three spit belligerently over a bouncy beat that exudes an undeniable West Coast sound.

Resident Def Jux producer RJD2 lends his adroit touch to three tracks that should spark demand from fans for future collaborations. Repetitive guitar licks with adeptly placed horn samples on “Lost Your Mind” gives the impression that Aceyalone is being backed up by a live jazz band. The “Takeoff” has an incredibly complex beat that finds RJD2 making subtle changes to the sounds used during the verses to match the frantic nature of Ace’s delivery. The last collaboration, “Moonlight Skies”, features abstract musings over soft acoustics and haunting vocals from Oakland’s Goapele.

“So Much Pain” finds Aceyalone talking about his motivation for making music and his desire to maintain the art as he reveals, “I make these records just to keep me sane/ Cause the world’s more crazy then this song can explain…/ Live and let live on your own promised land/ And give rap back to the common man.” While the Joey Chavez-produced “Ms. Amerikkka” is an honest critique excoriating the United States for neglecting its citizens and displaying self-destructive behavior.

Unfortunately, not every track matches the high precedent set by Aceyalone. “Junkman” is somewhat confusing with its desultory lyrics. While the schizophrenic style employed on the title track seems a little forced. But these missteps are few and far between. With the exception of Shaq, releasing five albums requires talent and the ability to continually evolve with hip-hop’s rapidly changing environment. Love & Hate has enough versatility to satisfy a fiercely loyal fan base and acquire some new ones along the way.