Clearly engulfed in an era of the producer (see Kanye West, David Banner, Lil' Jon, Madlib, etc.), hip hop fans have all but forgotten what for so long dominated their hearts and minds: the inner-city griot, the visionary, the microphone magician … the lyricist. The “Revisited” tag lobbed on the end of this reissue not only denotes a return visit to Aceyalone's classic All Balls Don't Bounce, but also signifies a flashback to the obscured art of rhyme, particularly of the West Coast variety. And no one represents this era better than Los Angeles MC Aceyalone. While All Balls Don't Bounce isn't quite the holy grail that at one time we'd imagined it would be, it does work as both nostalgia and a glimpse down a path forsaken.
The album is most successful when Aceyalone engages in his trademark avalanche of language, i.e., the freestyle dadaism that he'd perfected over the course of two previous albums with the seminal Freestyle Fellowship. Double-time raps, slanting inflections, and bubbling assonance inform such tracks as “Mic Check,” “Makeba,” and “The Greatest Show on Earth,” in which the MC raps, “Accusation aggression stolen light picture convexity contrast/ Prepare aware/ Humanize imitate overpower initiate.”
By All Balls Don't Bounce, Aceyalone had supplemented this language free-for-all with attempts at linear storytelling. “Annallillia” finds our microphone messiah drunk and horny, attempting to pick up the last girl in the bar with little success. With the technical flourishes kept to a minimum, the song finds Aceyalone abandoning one bag of tricks for another, using setting, irony, and a steady procession of other narrative devices. But when you refocus and listen beyond the formal gimmicks, the story is largely boring and clichéd. Like many of the underground lyricists from the '90s, Aceyalone knows exactly how to spit his raps, but what he says is a different matter. And perhaps that is why technical MC'ing is all but dead (granted, there are exceptions). While a small audience sees these lyrical gymnastics as an end in itself, the majority of listeners have more immediate concerns. Nine years later, most hip hop fans would rather be shaking their asses or crying into their blunts than picking apart multisyllabic rhymes and complex patterns of inflection.