Despite mixed results, this Iowa-based emcee is strong on ideas and concepts.
The cover of Aeon Grey's Primate Curriculum depicts a monkey sitting with his right arm resting on his right knee. Wild, huh? Well, get this -- both of the monkey's wrists are shackled to a boom box. It's an interesting cultural statement, especially if the "primates" referenced in the album title can be considered symbols of humanity. We've seen the interplay of primates and music before, notably on Me'shell Ndegeocello's album cover for Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape. Known for making bold artistic statements, Ndegeocello arguably turned down the volume of her political acumen on Cookie. By contrast, Aeon Grey cranks it up on his release and, with the exception of one track, the result straddles the line between a concept album promoting human evolution and a rant that laments one social problem after another. The beauty of the album is its commitment to its messages. Grey is quick to point out the problems, whether the problems are intertwined within the educational system ("Violent By"), wrapped up in the political system ("American Dreams"), or merely imbedded within the human psyche ("Nature"). Primate Curriculum is ambitious, experimental, and certainly different from the hip-hop norm. For that, it deserves applause. It appears, however, that the experiments don't always succeed and, for all the problems Grey manages to target, the album is lopsidedly short on solutions. The strength of the release is its production, handled by Acebandage's cymbal-laden "S.O.S." featuring Mike Jupiter, Sabieas ("Makeshift", "Violent By", and "Resident Evil"), and Aeon Grey himself. Aeon Grey's production seems strikingly superior to his mostly staccato flow. Often, the delivery of the content, though intense and sophisticated, fails to match the quality of the music. When it does, Aeon Grey is at his best, as demonstrated by "S.O.S.", "Makeshift", "Nature", "American Dreams", and "Average Joe". However, the most brilliant track, by far, is "Concrete Flower", an ode and homage to a woman of breathtaking inner beauty. Both poetic and disarmingly conversational, this song reminds us primates what we should use our opposable thumbs for.