By Nicole Johnson
“Lightning Strikes” is a dancehall album and yes, we’re talking about the same Aceyalone. In fact, it’s so dancehall that Funkmaster Flex could seamlessly scratch in a track like Acey’s “Pose (Remix)” between Sean Paul hits. The Aceyalone who complain-rapped about being bumped into in the almost agoraphobic manifesto “Five Feet” back in 2001 is barely recognizable here. Even when he dropped “Find Out,” which provided the backdrop for a heated battle in the 2003 alpha-dance movie “You Got Served,” there was still a chilly tension underneath those headspinning, pop-locking beats. This new 2007 Aceyalone better have gotten over his old fears because you can’t make hot, sexy jams like this without wanting to create some friction-in the club and beyond. In other words – Aceyalone might have to change his name to Aceyinapileofhotladiez (sorry!).
The first half of the album feels like a tiny, jam-packed club where everyone is dancing, paying no mind to what our amicable indie-rapper has to say. The smooth, rolling rhythm in “Supercool” is seriously destined to burn a hole in the dance floor and tracks like “Genie” and “Shango” could make that same floor crumble under the right crowd. But, make no mistake; Acey isn’t content to simply call out dance moves. Though his voice sounds more like a percussion instrument than a Creative Writing 302 paper here, he still has a lot to say and the latter half of the album features tracks like “Help Us All” and “Jungle Muzik,” which let Acey get as conscious as he wants to be. While most of the album flows quite fluidly, “To the Top” seemingly comes out of nowhere with its southern fried military call and response. What might have been a strong track on another record is jarring here and ends up sounding like leftover rice and beans from Outkast’s fridge.
“Lightning Strikes” leads a series of conceptual albums that Acey plans to make with the goal of “exploring the world of music through hip hop.” Now that he has conquered dancehall, he says that he would like to explore other genres like world music, jazz and funk. After about 15 years in the game, it sounds like Ace One is through being self-conscious and finally has the confidence to take on the world.
To conclude, let’s say you’re a vegetarian and you go to your local diner for a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. When the waiter brings the sandwich you take a bite and realize there’s bacon in it. You obviously didn’t expect that, but you also didn’t expect to like it. You eat the whole thing feeling a little weird and wrong about it, but you just can’t stop eating it. What you expected to get would have probably been more innocuous in principle, but also potentially boring. If you were expecting grilled cheese from Aceyalone, Lightning Strikes is that surprising, intriguing and in the end, quite satisfying bacon.