The title, of course, refers to the classic 1955 film Night of The Hunter
, starring Robert Mitchum as a creepy preacher/criminal. He memorably has the words "love" and "hate" tattooed on his knuckles and, at one instance, explains to his stepchildren how the two emotions are forever at odds with each other, with "one hand always fighting the other."
It's apt subject matter for Aceyalone, a veteran underground West Coast rapper and founding member of the Freestyle Fellowship collective. His fourth solo album recreates the Mitchum monologue in its title track, but focuses on the philosophical implications of love and hate more than the physical; he keeps his language simple and direct without seeming stupid or lightweight, and verbose and intelligent without seeming too wordy or pretentious.
Likewise, the bulk of Love and Hate is an even split between the personal and the political, although the two often intersect. For every track like "Lost Your Mind", a breezy jaunt whose chorus mocks/pays tribute to/outperforms Nelly's twangy singsong flow, there's something like the EL-P-produced "City of Shit", an ominous, profane, hilarious indictment of thug life, or the astonishing bonus cut, "Ms. Amerikkka", an even more scabrous societal critique that neatly (and vitally) updates Gil Scott-Heron for the age of Dubya and Michael Moore.
By no means a virtuoso, Aceyalone can still hold his own with an assortment of guests all over the album's second half, including Abstract Rude, Goapele (who could sing rings around Ashanti), and The Soul of John Black. He raps nearly as well as he writes, but on much of this record the production's the thing. With a slew of choice hip hop knob twiddlers (PMG, RJD2, Fat Jack, Riddlore), Love and Hate sounds fantastic, alternately steeped in warm, old school funk and terse, bubbly electroclash. The unstoppable, head-bobbing "Junkman" throbs to what appropriately resembles a sample of the Sanford and Son theme; "The Saga Continues" and "So Much Pain" roll like laid-back George Clinton; "Moonlit Skies" wraps itself around an acoustic guitar/electric piano flourish that might've been lifted off of a '70s Stevie Wonder record; "Lights Out" strips down to the very bare electronic-and-tape-effect essentials in its taut, bass-heavy groove.
Although it's a little long, Love and Hate shows that despite lack of commercial success, Aceyalone continues to evolve as a strong, alternative voice in a genre whose more famous figures seem all too ready to rest on their laurels. An assessment as biting, impassioned, and direct as "Ms. Amerikkka" also speaks volumes about his relevancy in rap today.