AC-Nova - House of Francis

Imagine a barren landscape, a vast desert with winds blowing purple sand all around. In the distance is an immense kingdom bathed in pale moonlight, a king surveys his surroundings as a simple, somber piano line creeps into your consciousness through the howling wind as the Pharaoh speaks, “They say I got it in every sense of the meaning, but...” his words are strong, but convey an underlying vulnerability showing that he is in fact, human.

“Moonrise Kingdom” begins this album with introspection and the idea that we must stay resilient and positive in our struggles. “Perhaps it's all or nothing in this game, do what you like, it's up to you, right? Under the moonlight.” Musically, this is a very fitting introduction to such a dark, yet uplifting album.

AC Nova definitely stands out as a solo artist, but proudly represents his group, Z Generation Rebels both lyrically and through the utilization of their distinct sound. The beats here are often dark and cinematic, a welcome change from the super-slick, poppy production covering so many Hip-Hop releases over the past decade.

However, this isn't some sort of throwback, everything here sounds fresh even though Nova often makes references to his prior material like the chorus for “Panda” for example. Guitar solos over trap drums? Yes, absolutely! Wrestling references? Of course! Unshakable confidence? If you're familiar at all with AC Nova, you know he's got that in abundance and exudes it masterfully once he grabs a microphone.

The hooks on this album are quite infectious for the most part, “Sunny in the South” plays on the old Martin Lawrence, “Jerome” bit with “The south's in the house, watch ya mouth!” with a hard beat to back it as he shows plenty of respect for the forefathers of Southern Rap and Hip-Hop in general.

The title track displays more of the duality of a confident emcee displaying vulnerability in dealing with personal issues through their craft. Another cinematic masterpiece of a beat accompanies such lines as “I studied the tree of life until those roots turned bone. That water turned blood, my back grew wings now I'm on another level, close curtain, end scene.” To use an often overused, but in this case fitting word, this is epic and lyrically it gets just as dark as the music.

The lead-off single “Back for the Summer” deals with the ever-increasing problem of gun violence with a melancholy string section and piano line accompanied by the soulful vocals of Hillary Keane on the hook. The final 90 or so seconds of the song is a sort of second part to this theme, featuring the line “Murder she wrote was the phrase and now it's a shame how the world knows your name.” and the brief tale of a girl getting struck down by stray bullets.

This album isn't a downer, don't get me wrong, it's just real. “Jazz VI” features a ridiculously upbeat African groove after a confident, almost braggadocios verse peppered with righteous phrases like “wanna change the world, give a fuck about a car” which seems to be part of an underlying theme on this album.

“Good Soul” is an old-school slow jam pulled straight out of an alternate dimension that's still in 1976, complete with psychedelic reversed snare hits. Groovy. “Weekend in Atlanta” and “Young and Restless” are like a counterpoint to the aforementioned song and it's predecessor, “Lovechild”. This block of songs runs the gamut from building relationships and providing emotional support to one-night stands and strip club adventures; driving home the reasoning behind the “Biggie-Drake” moniker AC Nova chose for himself.

The acappella section at the end of “Baby in the Jungle” lamenting loneliness further illustrates this reasoning before he further bares his soul on “The Dreams”. Overall, this is a fantastic album that runs an emotional gauntlet while gorgeous instrumentals provide the scenery. Sometimes it's dark, sometimes hopeful, much like life itself.

The album's closer, “Exodus of the Pharaoh” shows Nova at his most confident, letting his would-be competition know that he intends to never pull punches and will always strive for excellence in spite of any struggle. “Hard work pays off, dreams come true, bad times don't last, but bad guys do.”

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