The solo path of Aceyalone has moved forward for 18 years, and as one of the members of Project Blowed, he has continued to be the focus of those who show a priority towards making hip-hop their own. For Leanin’ On Slick (Decon) he is showing the positive side of the ageism some fans claim is the biggest plague of hip-hop. I say the biggest plague is ignorance, and Aceyalone goes through it and causes it to disappear.
On the music side, Acey goes for a wide range of styles by rhyming over classic soul and funk, or gracing his voice and lyrics over tightly knit hip-hop. In many ways, some of the best hip-hop tracks are sourced from classic soul and funk, but the difference is that with the classic retro feel of these songs, what he’s trying to do is show the parallel between the two ears and how the traditions are passed on while still showing the unifying theme of the music. “One Cup, Two Cups” sounds perfect to bust out moves on a piece of cardboard while “Pass The Hint” has an undeniable groove that is driven by guitar riffs, a horn section, and a mean Hammond B-3 that digs deep into the song. While one can get a feel for what “I Can Get It Myself” is doing, it sounds like a tight head nodder and one that someone would want to pass on to the next generation.
On the lyrical side… c’mon, this is Aceyalone we’re talking about here, the coordinator of many verbal concepts that take you to the place where he wants to take you, whether it’s about finding a lady to get warm with (“Cold Piece”) or making the sacrifice to prove yourself as worthy of a representation (“Boss”). Despite the representation people create for him, there is a true side to Edward Hayes and as he says in “I’m No Casanova”, “I just go where my heart go” and if that path is unpaved, he will make the first step towards a new trip. Daniel Merriweather joins in on vocals in “Things Get Better”, and the Northern Soul feel may remind some of the poppy jump Gnarls Barkley’s “Smiley Faces”. Speaking of Gnarls, Cee-Lo enters the scene in “Workin’ Man Blues” where he blesses the song with his vocals, almost as a means of approval and perhaps a way to let people know that he too has been the workin’ man in his career for the last ten years. Aceyalone becomes descriptive about the daily grind, punching in the clock, and doing what one must do in order to pay the bills.
The character (or characters) Aceyalone portrays on this album may be shades of his true self, or the self he would like to be, but he also details the journey he has taken so far through his music. The voice is pretty much the same but while some may say his flow lacks that old school elation, what I hear is growth and maturity that comes from experience and a wiser sense of self which re-establishes the confidence he has had for decades. The music may be a partial detail of the elders he may be trying to acknowledge as the reasons for his love of music, but also for the person that he was, is, and will become. Leanin’ On Slick may be a declaration of the person he is today, while also acknowledging the attitude passed on from generation to generation to him, which in turns allows him to pass that frame of mind to those willing to listen and comprehend.