Sometimes Aceyalone (the first part pronounced "A.C.," as if he drove the lane with aplomb for the '80s Lakers) spits quick hip-hop lyrics over bouncy, flowy beats.
Other times "Acey," as he's called by his fans, slowly rolls his mouth like soft brush strokes, sweeping over the upswing of retarded bass grooves and keyboard tremors. He's known for lyrics that are smart and street-savvy, which is what you'd expect from an artist who's been in the game for more than 15 years.
"I'm interested in serving the mic when I got it in my hand," he says. "Dropping a dope line. I don't want to leave behind some bullshit."
Aceyalone came up through L.A.'s underground scene in the early '90s as a player in the Freestyle Fellowship. He was one of a community of artists-including, most famously, Jurassic 5-that formed around the Good Life Café in South Central.
Now their collective is known as Project Blowed.
"It's not "intelligent hip-hop', it's not "positive hip-hop,'" he said. "It's "indie-ground.'
"It's a long history of 10 to 15 years of music we've been making. You kind of have to do some homework to know what it's all about."
Through the years Acey has remained true to his art, even if that meant giving up mainstream appeal for something that just felt right.
"It's not in your face," he says. If the only way you know music is through radio and TV, then you're going to miss out on a lot."
Aceyalone recently finished his sixth full-length album and arguably his best, called Magnificent City. Some hip-hop records can have up to five or six producers handling the music that complements the verbal play. For this one, Acey enlisted just one: RJD2, a master of cut-and-paste and widely considered one of the best underground hip-hop producers.
"Each song stands on its own," Acey says. "I don't swing just one way. It's love. It's hate. It's fighting. It's going with the vibration of what's going on at the time.
"It's fully creative, how I live my life. To expand my thoughts and concepts in my head, to open other people's eyes."
He and RJD2 are headed on a two-week tour to support Magnificent City. Hopefully it'll be as worry-free as it was to make the album.
"We didn't think twice about a lot of the things. We just rolled with it."
Aceyalone performs twice on Feb. 16: at Access Hip-Hop (free, 5 p.m., 858-270-3987) and Porter's Pub ($14, 8 p.m., 858-587-4828).