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Grand Imperial

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Album Review

Just a few months after Magnificent City came out, rapper Aceyalone came back with a limited-edition mixtape (allegedly only 7,500 copies were pressed) of exclusive tracks, remixes, and other goodies. As to be expected (and desired), three of the songs on Grand Imperial were made with the producer he shared the honors with on Magnificent City, RJD2, who is really quite talented in his ability to make a diverse set of beats while still sounding like himself, and all three tracks included here continue to prove that. "Never Come Back" is all about sweeping synthesizer/xylophone rolls and hollow beats, while "Angelina Valintina" employs a fiery and seductive violin riff. "Impact," the closing track on the album, is probably the closest to a "traditional" RJD2 beat, with a fuller, lusher backdrop similar to what was found on his solo records. Unlike Magnificent City, Grand Imperial also includes guest artists. In fact, the songs that stand out on the album are actually the ones that Aceyalone did with other people. "Everything Changes," which features haunting vocals from Mystic (of "Neptune's Jewel" fame from a few years back) and a desolate piano and drum combination from Z-Trip, is fantastic, and while the hook to "Sunsets & Waterfalls" is a little grating, guest rappers Otherwize and Pterradacto are excellent, with witty rhymes that are so quick the song will be over before you actually catch what they're saying. There are a few cuts that don't quite live up to all that Aceyalone can usually provide: "Pose," for example, has a beat that's probably been used already in a thousand battles, and the rhymes are simply mediocre, and while the reggaeton club anthem "Push" is fun, it's boring lyrically, and depends mainly upon the bass. But these are just little quips, and songs like "Makebalillia," a live rehashing/medley of "Makeba" and "Annalillia," or the title track, with Kenny Segal producing a Faithless-esque guitar background punctuated by funky horns that would easily fit onto anything by Cut Chemist, all but make up for whatever mistakes occurred. If you can get your hands on one of the few copies of Grand Imperial out there, do it fast. You won't regret it.


Born: Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A founding member of Freestyle Fellowship, Aceyalone played an important role in the evolution of left-field hip-hop on the West Coast during an era when hardcore gangsta rap reigned. Following the dissolution of Freestyle Fellowship, Aceyalone embarked on a solo career that never resulted in enormous success but did allow him to maintain his revered status within the West Coast underground hip-hop scene. He debuted solo on All Balls Don't Bounce (1995) and followed-up with A Book of Human Language...
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Grand Imperial, Aceyalone
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