‘Magnificent’ tracks from Africa to Los Angeles


Yohanna Figueroa

Daily Sundial

If intelligent lyrics are what separate “underground” hip-hop MCs from “commercial” rappers, then Aceyalone is king of the MC-ing gophers.

Aceyalone is part of West Coast underground hip-hop legendaries. When gangbanging, bi-coastal rivalries and repetitive negative rap was bumping through Pioneer speakers in the early nineties; Freestyle Fellowship and Project Blowed fame, featured Aceyalone as a slick, positive lyricist who always raised my left eyebrow and question: Was this dude for real? Did he really just rhyme that?

He was then the West Coast’s answer to the current, Talib Kweli. Clear. Intelligent. Positive.

When hip-hop began pouring $500 bottles of champagne on half naked models and flashing their “ice” every chance they’d get in music videos, I took a break. I stopped listening at around the time they started making me feel worthless. Their lyrics were about three things: money, girls and ‘hood status. hip-hop took an arrogant turn and I just couldn’t listen or watch.

Aceyalone’s latest, Magnificent City, with production from RJD2, makes me feel significant. The album delivers an early 1990s west coast underground hip-hop vibe that feels good and familiar.

Production on the album sometimes outshines the lyrics and at other times, the production is not as well-polished and the rhymes are sharper. But when Acey and RJ are in sync, it’s a two-member boy band heaven. (Too easy).

Acey effortlessly rhymes between dirty guitars, simple pianos and rock beats as if his voice was designed for RJD2’s provided accessories.

Of Definitive Jux family, RJD2’s electronic funk is a strong theme for half of the album. This half includes the songs “Mooore” and the love themed “Supahero.” ?

In “Mooore,” Acey rhymes passionately through jerky beats and Nintendo sounds, as if his verses would get him closer to the princess he is trying to save.

He finally saves the princess in the song “Supahero.” It’s the only song on the album dedicated entirely to the object of his desire. With lyrics like, “I want to love you/ ‘Cause that’s my duty/ It’s not your booty/ It’s not your beauty/ You’re not just a cutie/ You make me whole,” I am sure he made it to the next level.

The other half of the album is classic hip-hop loops, scratching, sampling and MPC tricks, as heard in the opening track “All For U.” The song’s lyrics have range beyond three topics and have enough word play to give Scrabble a run for its money.

The production of Magnificent is reminiscent of DJ Shadow’s “Endtroduction?” It’s electric jazz, fused funk and a dash of chill tempo beat. Laced with positive uplifting lyrics like on “Disconnected,” “Caged Bird” and the final track, “A Beautiful Mind,” this album is a great attempt at shifting hip-hop back to how it should be.

“Magnificent City” was released on Feb. 7.

Yohanna can be contacted at Yef71686@csun.edu.

Yohanna Figueroa

Daily Sundial

Under the World Music genre, wedged between African and Electronic music, is where this album can be found. In a dark-lit lounge somewhere in Paris’s 18th arrondissement is where this album would visually come to life. The sights, sounds, smells and chaos of a vibrant city like Paris’s Little African neighborhood is this album’s visual equivalent.

“Congotronics 2: Buzz ‘n’ Rumble in the Urb ‘n’ Jungle, is one of the wildest records I have heard in a long time. It is difficult to put into words what this album is. It is just as fuzzy and dirty, gorgeous and funky as Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Femi Kuti’s musical love child could ever be.

Kalimbas play along side synthesizers. Rough guitars dance with guicas. Djembe drums and accordions hold hands. This is a new breed of African pop.

The traditional drum patterns and call and response lyrics are a given in African music. Filter it through amplifiers, add a sonic edge to it and you have a species all your own. You have Congotronics.

With no more than four instruments, “Soif Conjugale” by Kisanzi Congo is one of the lightest tracks on the album. But don’t mistake its lightness for weakness. The improvisation performed on the kalimbas is hearty and inspiring.

The social call out song, “Le Laboureur” by Masanka Sankayi, featuring Kabongo Tshisens, is a political groove that invites you to release your frustrations about employment issues through dance.

The last track “T.P.Couleur Cafe” performed by the originators of the Congotronics series, Konono N?1, sums up the entire new African pop movement in one word: fresh.

Yohanna can be contacted at Yef71686@csun.edu.