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Aceyalone's 2003 album, Love and Hate, inspired a lot of hand-wringing, as critics bemoaned the glaringly obvious gap between the MC's slick, flowery raps and his bullshit-ass beats. It looked like he'd hit a career zenith with 1995's All Balls Don't Bounce (reissued in 2004) and wasn't destined to produce anything else worth writing about. But this year, Aceyalone makes a comeback: On his new, phenomenal joint, Magnificent City, the MC isolates what was good about Love and Hate (producer RJD2), casts off the bad (fellow beat-cobblers Sayyid and Priest), and tones down what was also bad (his penchant for moralizing and philosophizing without actually saying anything). RJD2's beats — a seamless garage-funk blend of horn loops, vocal vamps, and electric organs — enhance and sometimes outpace the MC's verbal stylings, but on most tracks, Aceyalone proves himself worthy. The persona he cultivates on this album — sarcastic, dislocated, tired of the world — is what he should've been going for on Love and Hate. Maybe he needed three years to grow into it.


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