Accepted Eclectic (Nu Groove)

When the Freestyle Fellowship dropped Innercity Griots in 1992, the hip-hop underground shat its collective self. This progressive LA crew already had an underground classic under its belt, To Whom It May Concern. (Go buy it.) But when FF was introduced to the world by way of a major label, our jaws dropped at the hyperspeed flows, the Last Poets-on-more-drugs imagery and eclectic beats. After Innercity, FF would disband and Aceyalone would release All Balls Don't Bounce on Capitol. Despite several great songs and his trademark buoyant wordplay, Acey seemed rather alone, unable to carry the entire record. He was subsequently dropped and returned underground, and between then (1996) and now (2001), Acey has kept himself busy with appearances on assorted 12-inches and low-profile releases, which makes Accepted Eclectic something of a do-or-die record for him.

So, does Acey do, or does he die? Well, a little of both. Aceyalone is simplifying things musically and lyrically in an effort to expand his fanbase; generally, it doesn't work. Gone is the esoteric street prose, replaced by, well, rap. Although it's solid, Accepted relies too much on repetitive themes within a song ("Never Knew" and "Rappers"). The cleverness of such songs as "Master Your High" (a plea for drug users to not act stupid) and "Five Feet" (hip-hop's first ode to haphephobia) is negated by the paltry beats beneath. The most in-the-pocket member of FF, Aceyalone benefits most from deeply layered or uptempo beats. But Accepted's sparseness and sluggish b.p.m.'s find Acey struggling to keep the listener's attention. Aceyalone is in a predicament similar to that of Pharoahe Monche: a brilliant writer who is unable to produce anything terrible but, frustrated by lack of attention, makes music not creative enough to alienate or slick enough to sell.

This struggle is even more apparent on Accepted Eclectic's standout cuts; the common thread running through all of these is that it seems as if someone spent more than 45 minutes composing the beat, and this energy is contagious, giving Aceyalone the spring in his step he needs to be the genius he is capable of being. If he can harness more of this energy on the next record, this future Hip-Hop Hall of Famer can reclaim his throne atop the b-boy kingdom.

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