The legacies of both Aceyalone and RJD2 have produced a handful of underground classics, whether it be Freestyle Fellowship’s Innercity Griots, Aceyalone’s Book of Human Language, or RJD2′s Dead Ringer, among other releases from each artists’ respective catalogs. So when the announcement was made that the legendary emcee and the coming-of-age producer would be teaming up for an LP, it seemed like an easy win. But does Magnificent City live up to the hype built up thus far?
The album jumps off with the captivating “All For You”, which pits Aceyalone versus RJD2′s rolling basslines, a latin horn section, and commands from Frankie Cutlass. It follows into the groovy “Fire”, which seemingly takes Acey back to his All Balls Don’t Bounce roots, tinged with a Love and Hate edge. While these cuts find Ace riding the beat with typical emcee flare, he shines brightest when taking things in a more experimental direction, especially the more daring RJ’s production gets. “Moore” for instance is classic Aceyalone, finding the emcee delving deep into the topic of gluttony, while ridiculous production eggs him on. The same can be said for “Supahero”, a beautifully produced, moving track that finds Acey wooing Annhililia, Makeeba, or any one of his other dirty birdies.
However while Magnificent City has brushes with greatness, other times it doesn’t seem to deliver. It’s hard to place blame on either party, but it seems when the beats are uninspiring, the lyrics are as well. Tracks like the abrasive “Cornbread, Eddie, and Me” and the repetitive “Disconnected” unfortunately drag down this album from being “great”, to just “pretty good.” While redemption is found on the interesting narrative selections for “Solomon Jones”, “Heaven”, and “Junior”, things again wander off into stranger directions with “A Beautiful Mine” and “Here and Now”.
While this album does have its moments, we’ve seen better results in the past with both artists, using this same formula. First on Aceyalone’s Book of Human Language where he teamed with one producer, Mumbles; and then later on Soul Position’s 8 Million Stories, where RJ teamed with one emcee, Blueprint. But these records both seemed to go in a uniform, focused direction, while Magnificent City travels several different paths in both sound and style. Perhaps it’s because there are so many points of reference for these two artists, that this thing has been built up too big in our heads, with no way to all of the people, all of the time. Meaning, that if every fan out there expected something different - some wanting this to be All Balls Don’t Bounce, others wanting Dead Ringer, and others still, expecting, maybe, Book of Human Language - there was no way to cover every base and satisfy every fan. Don’t get it twisted, you’ll definitely find some joints on this record that are get the formula down perfectly. But with so much built up expectation, this city just falls short of being truly magnificent.
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