10 February, 2004@12:00 am
In 1995, at the tail end of hip-hop’s short lived fascination with sampling jazz records, there came a lone voice still struggling to establish himself after two little heard, critically acclaimed Freestyle Fellowship albums. The voice belonged to Aceyalone, and with All Balls Don’t Bounce, he ventured on his first solo mission, with a ridiculous stream-of-consciousness rhyme style over heavy beats that mirrored the sound of A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory and virtually all of the first generation Hieroglyphics releases. Despite the fact that All Balls Don’t Bounce was overlooked and/or dissed by mainstream hip-hop press, it still remained a fan favorite, however after lackluster sales, it eventually disappeared from record store racks. Coming up on the album’s tenth anniversary, Aceyalone’s new label, Decon, has re-released this highly sought after record, now in it’s definitive version, including beautiful new packaging, packed with a bonus disc of all of the outtakes and remixes from the All Balls recording sessions, as well as the videos.
While the chaotic title track set the stage for this release, the album’s second track “Anywhere You Go” was the attention getter, as Punish hooked up a breezy summertime track while Acey freestyled death-threats to wack emcees, showing off his dynamic skill on the mic spitting rhymes-within-rhymes, “Eat these and stand at attention / Did I forget to mention / my classes aren’t expensive / that’s if you are an uncomprehensive / defensive / sen-sa-tive / toy rapper / little boy rapper / mama’s little wappin’ man wapper….” Thought you would be dope?
“Deep And Wide” introduced that one-of-a-kind vocals of Abstract Rude, who coaxed the listener to “breathe in, breathe out” as Vic-Hop’s blunted beat relaxed the listener, setting up shop for the A-Team’s mellow mic trading. Following shortly thereafter was “Annalillia”, another laid back beat, this time produced by The Nonce, where Acey wove a memorable tale of a girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day, until one day he kicked her to the curb with that classic last line “I said self, what are you doing / why are you canoeing / when you could have a motor boat instead / then I told her hold her head, peace / this ain’t what I wanted / but right before I shook that spot I said let me tell you something / Annalillia, I’m proud to announce / that all balls don’t bounce / and that’s all that counts / and I’m out! Peace!” And Acey’s trouble with the ladies didn’t end there, as they were further documented on the Mumbles produced “Makeba”, the often overlooked, but perhaps the greatest track on the album. As the precursor to Book Of Human Language, Mumbles murky basslines set the mood for the story of Aceyalone’s lost lover. (But it was not a love song).
“Makeba” was one of the few tracks that foreshadowed the darker turn Acey would take with his follow-up LP, however the sinister style was also found on the awesome “Arythamaticulas”. Yet C.V.E.’s production was much different than Mumbles, as Acey slyly masked a track that would typically be reserved for an L.A. drive-by shooting into an amazing display of double-time lyricism and show-off skill. As perhaps THE pioneer of this style, which would later be bitten & rewritten by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Acey’s infectious hook still leaves its imprint in the minds of listeners ten years later; “Aryth-a-matic / Aryth-a-maticulous / this rhythm is sick / this rhythm’s ridiculous…..” Acey’s west coast pride came through on this track as much as it did on the classic Project Blowed posse cut “Knownots”, as each Acey, Ab Rude, and Mikah 9 tried to outdo each other over Vic Hop’s classic Cali claps.
There are so many mentionable moments on this CD, not forgetting about the lyrical free-for-all “The Greatest Show On Earth”, or the beautifully (Fat Jack) produced “brighter-days-are-a-comin’” outro, “Keep It True”. But greatest of all, is the fact that not only is this rediscovered piece of hip-hop history available again, but that Decon packed it with DVD-style extras. The bonus disc includes some of Acey’s best songs you’ve never heard (unless you were a nerdy internet “tape trader” in the pre-MP3 era…. like this writer). Included here is the incredible pre-Battle Axe Kemo remix of “Mic Check”, which featured the Canadian producer refreaking a sample from “The Nutcracker”, actually outshining the original mix, flawlessly making it seem as if Acey was right there in the studio spitting over Kemo’s remix contest submission. Not to mention the promo only remixes of “The Greatest Show On Earth” and “Headaches and Woes (Remix)”, but also perhaps the greatest lost Aceyalone track of all time, “Tweekendz”. “Feet Up On Tha Table”, “Show Ya Right”, and other legendary tracks are included, and one brand new outro track, “Believe In Yourself”, where Aceyalone remembers the All Balls era of 1994 and compares it to his rap career today. And oh yeah, the videos too.
Looking back at All Balls Don’t Bounce brings back memories, and in this day and age, it’s a shock to think that a major label would actually invest there money into something this smart, with virtually no commercial appeal or affiliation with another popular rapper. Thankfully, these days indy labels are picking up where the majors are slacking, and because of the folks at Decon, heads old and new can celebrate the re-release of this seminal hip-hop album that many fans’ (and artists’) foundations of hip-hop were built upon.
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