Aceyalone: Never Cloned
It all began in the early '90s out of the Good Life Cafe in Leimert Park. As a founding member of the Freestyle Fellowship, Acey helped lead a movement offering an alternative to gangsta rap, which was still in its nascency in Compton. Immersed in the Jazz tradition of Central Avenue in South Central L.A. in the '50s and '60s Jazz was the Rap of today instead of hardcore boom-bap coming out of New York, Acey and his brethren blazed a musical path of which many in L.A. Hip Hop community are still in awe.
It has been more than 15 years since Acey and the Freestyle Fellowship released Innercity Griots, an album that born classic joints such as Innercity Boundaries and Park Bench People. Not long after the album was released, the band, which also included Myka Nyne, Self-Jupiter, P.E.A.C.E. and DJ Kiilu, went separate ways to focus on individual projects. For his part, Acey put out classic indie LPs in All Balls Don't Bounce and Human Language in the latter half of the 90s.
After some collaborations with Ohio producer RJD2, the last five years or so found Acey filling out his catalogue by doing what a Jazz musician would: experimenting across different musical genres. For example, 2007's Lighting Strikes featured reggae and dancehall-flavored records. Unfortunately for the artist, the album came and went, not generating much critical buzz or commercial success.
But doesn't seem to stop or even phase a musician in the vain of Aceyalone or his record label, New York-based Decon Records. The newest release, Aceyalone & the Lonely Ones finds the emcee dabbling in '50s Big Band, Doo Wop music. HipHopDX had a chance to converse with Acey about the new release, his place in L.A. Hip Hop history and much more.
HipHopDX: Who are the The Lonely Ones? What exactly does that mean?
Aceyalone: It's a group. That's my imaginary band on record. We're studying a particular year. The whole point of what I was trying to do was to put it out in a Hip Hop way. Just like Lighting Strikes, it's just about rhythm. Yet, these albums are not exclusive to a certain type of music to a certain era. It's American contemporary music.
DX: How did you meet the producer you worked with on this album, Bionik?
Aceyalone: Just meeting people. He moved to L.A. from Chicago and we started this thing on one of my albums and then we got together and decided to do a record, which was my last record, Lightning Strikes. We did that and now we're doing this project.
DX: Were you happy with how the last project was received?
Aceyalone: Nah. It seemed like it didn't have a home because ... Hip Hop couldn't grasp on to it and then Reggae community couldn't get it either. It's because different people couldn't appreciate the different sounds put together.
DX: Why don't people get the music, you think?
Aceyalone: I think at this point, if we put out a record it's more like ... if you go beyond expectations, you can make it whatever you want to make it. I believe you can make anything happen. One minute I don't have a clue and it's over their head. I kinda believe the music is part of me.
DX: That makes sense because it seems through your career you've never compromised.
Aaceyalone: Kinda. That's where the stronghold comes in with what you've done. It's good to see that appreciated.
DX: Can you speak to the musical direction of this new album?
Aceyalone: A long time ago, maybe like a decade ago, people in Hip Hop started losing the art form of it. These people value the business of it first and then the art second. I've always been there with the art. It's up for me to go different places and the more free I get, the more I like to explore musically. I do what I do. For example, stuff that we came up on in the '70s, when Hip Hop was getting too dark. I revisit and touch on that music and then keep it moving. I'm desperately trying to let everyone know that is what's it's all about. If I want to do a spoken word album, then it'll just be a project. It's just my mindset at the time. I guess for some people it's like you have to be the same person you were before --I don't quite believe that.
DX: Where was this album recorded?
Aceyalone: In Inglewood.
DX: I have to ask you this, since L.A. seems to be the hotbed for emerging rap talent these days. You listen to any new emcees coming up?
Aceyalone: I got my ear down. It's a big city, and there's a lot of artists out there.
DX: Can you elaborate a little bit more. What about the state of L.A. Hip Hop in general?
Aceyalone: I like to see it flourish. I spend a lot of time when I'm not dealing with my own shit I keep an eye on Project Blowed [click to read]. That's first, and then I see everybody else. I think [the scene overall] is dope. When I first came up it was only Ice-T and Rhyme Syndicate. They were the only ones making records and then N.W.A. [click to read] came and then it came to us. Then all these other groups came and went and the ones that are here are representing the west. It feels like the lyrical base and not just to put anything in categories of course you know gangsta rap is L.A. I'm always with L.A. Hip Hop. Within L.A., it's Project Blowed, for example there's the [Project Blowed group] Collabros, who Myka Nyne helped bring out.
DX: How is the situation with Decon?
Aceyalone: I've been with them for a few years. They are old school. I networked with a bunch cats and one of the dudes, Jason Goldwire, him and his partner started Decon. They were like, "We started this company and we want you to be a part of it." It's still a process but we managed to put out some good records. It's a blessing to have. I've known Jason, and have been working with him for more than a decade.
DX: You plan to tour in support of this album?
Aceyalone: I'm working with a band called Flippers. They're out of Long Beach. The band is learning my new material and my old stuff. I'm kinda vibing with them right now and then we'll go out on tour. The album has all live elements but it's still produced by Bionik.
DX: Have you toured with a live band before?
Aceyalone: No. Something that I wanted to do for a long time but the opportunity never came. We started doing that with the Freestyle Fellowship but I've never had my own band. That's a new adventure and I just want to do that through this year.
DX: Since you mentioned it, can you speak about the legacy you left as a member of the Freestyle Fellowship?
Aceyalone: It's about having an integrity in the art. That's how I feel about my art. Writers and poets too. I believe you got to leave something behind that's intricate, something significant, something that you can put on your back the whole way through. Some people learn to put their conscience on mute. I'm not saying I'm a preacher, but I like contributing to making things better. At the end of the day, that's how I want to be remembered. That's it and just to be respected among innovators.