Aceyalone offers an album for the older, more mature hip-hop listeners.
Aceyalone is a veteran of the rap game. Although he’s never seen a lot of success in the mainstream, he’s maintained a zealous fan base thanks to strong records, most notably 1995’s All Balls Don’t Bounce. However, it has been many years since Aceyalone has had any sort of relevance in the music business. Musicians tend to overstay their welcome in general. Unlike athletics, where a player’s body will break down until they are eventually forced into retirement, an artist never reaches a point where they’re no longer physically capable of making music. Usually they think they sound as good as ever, too. Sometimes we can be pleasantly surprised. David Bowie popped up with The Next Day this year and most people would agree that it’s a good album. However, most artists aren’t able to pull this feat off that late in their careers.
Hip-hop in particular is a genre where rappers don’t have a long shelf life. It’s a culture that is dominated by the youth, often setting the trends in fashion and lifestyle choices. It’s difficult for an older artist to stay in touch with the younger fans or make music that sounds modern. It’s clear that catering to a younger audience wasn’t Aceyalone’s goal with Leanin’ on Slick. The opening track is called “30 and Up” and Aceyalone clearly states that this music is for grown men. If this music is for a certain demographic, I can understand that. I’m questioning, though, if there’s really a big market out there of people above 30 years old who are looking for adult-themed raps. Seeing as I don’t fit the target demographic, maybe it’s unfair of me to review this album. Perhaps one day I’ll hit 30 and look back on Leanin’ on Slick and appreciate it as a work of genius.
As it stands, Leanin’ on Slick just isn’t that good. Aceyalone is rapping over ho-hum beats produced by long time collaborator Bionik. The production has a jazzy vibe to it. It’s nice and laid back, but the beats are far from being original or that interesting. Aceyalone still can rhyme, but definitely not as creatively as he could in the past. On top of that, he just doesn’t sound like he’s that into it. Thankfully, Aceyalone isn’t trying to appeal to the kids in his subject matter. You won’t hear him rapping about his swag on Leanin’ on Slick. At the same time, he doesn’t touch on any really deep or introspective subjects like you might expect from this album aimed at adults. Apparently grown up rap just means boring rap. Most of the songs sound rather similar, with the only standout being “Workin’ Man’s Blues” featuring Cee Lo Green. This song is over a year old, but it was good enough to find itself on the NBA 2K12 soundtrack. It’s a fun upbeat song and it’s easily the highlight of Leanin’ on Slick.
Aceyalone is still making music, and he’s not letting anyone pressure him into making music that he doesn’t want to. It’s impossible to be mad at him for that. Unfortunately Leanin’ on Slick just isn’t that commendable. Aceyalone doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done significantly better on other laid back jazz rap albums. Leanin’ on Slick is certainly for an older audience who want to appreciate the simplicity of hip-hop. If you’re looking for simple, laid-back beats with pretty standard, old-school rapping over top of them, Aceyalone offers that on Leanin’ on Slick. There’s none of that new flashiness of current hip-hop, and this album is completely free of any trend-hopping. It’s probably easier to appreciate Leanin’ on Slick if you’re older or a die-hard fan of Aceylone, but it’s probably not a great album no matter what angle you’re listening from.