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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