Your mind tends to get blown when listening to Aceyalone. Some rappers exist just to get paid, so they can live the lifestyles of the rich and glamerous. Some rappers exist just to prove that there are no limits to how you rhyme or what you rap about in a song. If one had to pigeonhole Acey into those categories, rhymes would prevail over riches in almost every instance. Although he's bounced in and out of the corporate rap mainstream over the last 10+ years, more often than not you have to look a lot further than your local cookie cutter supermarket music store. To be sure, you won't find Aceyalone albums at Wal*Mart.
Aceyalone & Abstract Rude's "Who Framed the A-Team?" may at first seem to be a contradiction of either rapper's unstated but understood stance that art > and != record sales. (For the non-mathematically inclined, translate the formula to mean that creating art is more important than pushing units at retail.) After all you can't get more mainstream than the A-Team. Even those who didn't experience the television phenomenon in the 1980's have probably seen reruns, and even those who haven't seen reruns have probably seen the show's most ubiquitous star Mr. T as a product pitchman and pop culture icon in commercials and on talk shows - perhaps moreso TODAY than at any time during the height of the A-Team's success. The name could have been a coincidence since both rappers have nom de plumes starting with "A" but the duo go out of their way on the title track and in the liner notes to mimic the TV show's weekly introduction:
"If you have a problem no one else can help
An emcee no one else can serve
A show you really want rocked
And if you can find them
Maybe you can hire... the A-Team"
To assume Acey or Ab Rude traded in underground credibility for a paycheck though would be a mistake. If anything "Who Framed the A-Team?" is one of the HARDEST to find of Aceyalone's albums. If you're lucky enough to have a well stocked mom'n'pop record store or are willing to place a credit card order online with a .com who may or may not even have it in stock let alone ship it to you in a timely manner, you can indeed find the A-Team. And speaking of .com, you certainly won't find one for the AKLK Records imprint; in fact "Who Framed the A-Team?" seems to be their only release (or at least the only one this writer can find using Google). If you had any doubt about their intentions, Acey's rhymes in the previously mentioned title track will prove that creativity still comes first:
"I contact Abstract, and we check the tactics
to exit the projects, and combat this wackness
We discuss the details, 'bout all our duties
And plus this retail, this is a real life movie
So where we playin at? Where we stayin at?
I heard they sayin that, they more than ready
Cause we rock on and on and, and we rock steady
He's a scorpion on the scene, with the deadliest stings
And I'm the lone marine, marine, biologist machine
Who called for the A-Team?"
Although Aceyalone always has been and undoubtedly always will be the best known of the duo, Abstract Rude proves he's no slouch on the mic on "Like That Like This":
"We did it like that and now we do it like this
Et cetera, search rap and find no record of
tightness of this caliber; you ain't heard us
like we been locked down in Attica, top heavyweight challengers
without a blemished record, you better look at your calendar
'Bout time I'm selected, for the airwaves and Billboard's
Bust at you, plus on the RapPages 'nuff mentions
I put away like a tough sentence"
Unfortunately for this project the consistency and quality is hampered a bit by the fact the songs on it are culled from so many sources. The earliest "Deep and Wyde" was originally found on "All Balls Don't Bounce" in 1994, and the newest tracks like "Rally 'Round the Home Team" were recorded in 1999. While Fat Jack's tight beats on the newer songs bring up the level overall, the record at times feels more like a Project Blowed compilation than a conceptual album revolving around a reworked pop culture concept. Aside from the title track, "Acey the Faceman" and "A.B. Baracus," the majority of the album could have been sold or marketed any way they saw fit without the TV tie-in. Acey fans may also feel that he's a bit limited here, since he tends to soar his highest when left to his own devices, as leaving Freestyle Fellowship many years ago to go solo proved in the first place. "Who Framed the A-Team?" is essential to hardcore fans of either MC involved, and still a decent album overall for the underground heads. Unlike the TV show it's named after though, it will never become a landmark in pop culture's mainstream - which in the end suits the MC's who made it just fine.
Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: March 1, 2005