Max Bell  has been known to sit on park benches.

Snoop is a stoned lion who thought making an anti-gun song with wheelchair Jimmy was a sound decision. Dre continues to make headphone money (and will probably never release another album in his lifetime). Ice Cube makes more movies and TV shows than music, if you can even say that of his recent work. Basically, the faces of L.A. rap in the early/mid ’90s, at least on a national scale (Pac obviously notwithstanding), are all on some other shit. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality.

Fortunately, financially profitable, but artistically detrimental decisions like those above have not plagued many of the “underground” MCs who held things down in Leimert Park at the famed and long since defunct Good Life Café (watch the doc before it goes offline) during that same time. Jurassic 5 has reunited, Abstract Rude is on tour, and, as far as I know, Medusa is still doing her thing. But, best of all, Freestyle Fellowship will be performing this summer at the Airliner and Aceyalone has a new album.

You should already know all about Aceyalone. If not, just know that he’s read the grid and done every column. Think of any cadence, rhyme pattern, pitch, vocal inflection, etc., and  know that Ace has been there and done that. The proof is in the “Cornbread” and the “Hot Potato,” as well as all over A Book of Human Language and every other piece of his catalogue.

After over a decade of deftly chopping his brand of wax poetics and rhythmically refusing to be boxed in, Ace has decided to make like the aforementioned ‘90s rappers and move on to something else.

“Leanin’ On Slick” is the title track for his new album, due out on Decon at the end of this month. It’s a subdued slice of funk complete with bongos, bass,  (I believe ) James Brown drops, and solid sax. The few rhymes Ace delivers are surprisingly simple, at least for him. Still, he’s as on beat and as smooth as ever, and his voice lends itself nicely to this type of music. It’s not mind-blowing from a rappity rap standpoint, but it’s not supposed to be. Regardless of what you think about this move on Ace’s part, “Leanin’ on Slick” (it’s definitely slang for something) is so much better than this.

Something similar to Guru’s Jazzmatazz, and perhaps a little darker, might’ve seemed like the obvious choice for Aceyalone given the Fellowship’s often jazz style of delivery. But I don’t think so. The days of the dark, meditative Ace are well documented on All Balls Don’t Bounce and A Book of Human Language. That, and I’ve also always thought that Myka 9, given his hard-bop solo-esque cadences, as well has his scatting and sing-song stuff (Bone Thugs got it from somewhere), would be more suited to something entirely jazz related.

What Ace, who I’ve always felt the most pleasant, smoothest, and articulate of the Fellowship, needed was shake things up, to take him a outside of his comfort zone. So instead of stacking more syllables, he’s pulled back, reigned himself in while stepping out. There are probably less words on all of  “Leanin’ on Slick” than in one of his verses from his early work, and it works. Even though Mystikal will always and forever hold the crown as hip-hop’s James Brown, Aceyalone’s new album should be a welcome addition to the line of funkdafied rap albums.

Below you’ll find the video for “Leanin’ On Slick,” which the incomparable Jason Goldwatch directed and shot with Ace at a bar in Cuba. As he raps, Ace pours drinks and has fun with the patrons. Something tells me there were no video permits or liquor licenses involved.

As a postscript, and in keeping with the good Fellowship news and the thread of reinvention, Self Jupiter—one of the heaviest of all Project Blowed heavyweights, who released the fantastic EP of art-rap noir that is The Kleenrz in 2012—is also working on new material.

His new work is a half-sung, half-spoken word project with a band called Slippers and is under the name Burgundy Fats, the best name for a music-making pimp since Fillmore Slim. The tracks on the prelude to the Burgundy Fats LP, Myriad of Thoughts, are described on his bandcamp as “sketches. There’s no telling if they will become more fully fleshed out on the final product (due out this summer), but if they are any indication of where the album is headed, nothing is out of Self’s orbit, or really any member of the Fellowship. Honestly, I doubt they will ever fall the fuck off. They promised.

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