Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Masta Ace

With an impressive resume in rap that includes membership in the legendary Juice Crew (along with Marley Marl, MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Roxanne Shante, and Craig G) and a verse on the 1988 classic posse cut "The Symphony," Brooklyn's Masta Ace is truly an underappreciated rap veteran and underground luminary. Two years after "The Symphony," Ace released his debut album Take a Look Around on rap's version of the Motown label, Cold Chillin' Records. While not a huge commercial success the album spawned a hit single and video for "Me and the Biz" which popped up on many popular rap video shows in the late '90s for nostalgia's sake. The album has Marley Marl's keen production aura all over it and also features a guest appearance from the Biz himself. After three years on the hush, Ace returned to the fold in 1993 this time with his crew as Masta Ace Incorporated (Lord Digga and Paula Perry) and dropped Slaughtahouse. The album broke new ground by taking the synthesized West Coast Sound and filtering it through an East Coast mentality. The memorable "Born to Roll," with its tweaked Moog/Kraftwerk bass line, brought Ace some serious commercial attention. In 2000, De La Soul used this classic beat on a remix of "All Good" featuring Chaka Khan. The album also produced a few hits for undergrounders including "Jeep Ass Niguhz" and "Style Wars." The album is highly notable for its cross-coast compatibility. In 1995 Masta Ace Incorporated dropped Sittin' on Chrome, a continuation of the themes on Slaughtahouse and owning an even slicker sound. Using the Isley Brothers' much-sampled "For the Love of You" for the track "I.N.C. Ride" may have offended some of Ace's loyal fans but the song's catchy vibe made it a hit. Sittin' on Chrome is another album chock full of Jeep beats that doesn't relinquish its standing with underground tastes. "B Side" and "4 the Mind" featuring the Cella Dwellas are also crucial jams. Ace has been known to release sleeper singles that cannot be found on his albums; one of the rarest, 1996's "Ya Hardcore," is a bumping indictment of studio gangsters and thug rap neophytes. The talented survivor in the rap game released a variety of singles in 2000 including "Hellbound," a duet with Eminem, giving him over twelve years of experience in the rap biz.

Masta Ace - Take a Look Around (Jul 24, 1990: Cold Chillin') (Remastered 2007)
Take a Look Around, Masta Ace's throbbing, Marley Marl-produced debut, mixed the loopy humor of Biz Markie (who shares a cut here, on "Me and the Biz") with the urgency of the best LL Cool J. The best cut by far is "Music Man," but nearly every track is up to a high caliber, including "Can't Stop the Bum Rush," "I Got Ta," and "Letter to the Better."

Five years after making his name as a member in Marley Marl's legendary Juice Crew (he was one of the featured MCs on the classic 1988 posse cut "The Symphony" from Marl's In Control, Vol. 1) and three years after recording his buoyant, artistically on-point (though commercially stillborn) debut album, Take a Look Around, with its memorable hit duet with Biz Markie, "Me and the Biz," battle-scarred Brooklyn underground star Masta Ace returned for his second album with a newly tweaked name and his own supporting crew (Masta Ace Inc.), a new sound and sharply honed style, and a cynical new outlook on the entire rap game. In fact, a disgusted new outlook might be a more appropriate characterization, as a controlled abhorrence oozes from every pore of SlaughtaHouse, lashing out not only at easy outside targets (bigoted police, for instance) but also at those shady characters inside the "SlaughtaHouse" whose violence is enacted physically (Ace himself places the part of a mugger on "Who U Jackin?") rather than lyrically, bringing the entire community down in the process. A loose concept album, it is at once an intense exposé and a roughneck paean to the hip-hop lifestyle that broke new ground by merging the grimy lyrical sensibility, scalpel-precise technique, and kitchen-sink beats of East Coast rap with the funk-dripping, anchor-thick low end of West Coast producers. The classic "Jeep Ass Nigguh" was one of the quintessential cruising singles of the summer of 1993. Its unlisted remix, "Born to Roll," with its subsonic gangsta bass, is an equally thumping highlight and (with its sample borrowed from N.W.A's "Real Niggas Don't Die") can be seen as the most explicit bridge between East and West. But other hectic, relentless tracks like "The Big East," "Rollin' wit UmDada," and "Saturday Nite Live" are just as excellent, and Ace's crew — particularly Bluez Brothers Lord Digga and Witchdoc — really shines.
Although it suffers from the same lack of imagination and uneven songwriting that plagued SlaughtaHouse, Masta Ace's second album, Sittin' on Chrome, is a stronger effort than his debut. The best tracks show that Masta Ace Incorporated can turn out by-the-books gangsta rap with flair, but it's a little distressing that the best song, "Born to Roll," was initially featured as a bonus track on SlaughtaHouse.

After a six-year period of disillusionment with the rap game, one-time Juice Crew member Masta Ace returned with this supposed sayonara album that reads like a bittersweet memoir. Though Ace had been active in the underground scene since the release of 1995's Sittin' on Chrome, appearing on a number of singles and contributing memorable verses to various collaborations, the artist's disdain for the industry and disgust with his contemporaries kept him out of the studio for lengthy recording sessions. Feeling that rap's heyday had passed with the deaths of rappers like 2Pac and Biggie, and seeing a media- and market-influenced, watered-down product, Disposable Arts broods with anger, cynicism, and satire for the modern rapper bent purely on trend capitalizing. The paradox here is that Ace himself seems to seek and feels worthy of the same multimillion that he accuses his contemporaries of securing through less-than-artistic means. The burden of underground respect that nets only underground sales seems to be the primary source of Ace's frustration. While smacking of classic player-hate, Ace's response for the Cash Money Millionaires and Roc-A-Fellas of hip-hop is: "the rap game's a book and I read mad chapters/and if you ask me, it ain't enough Madd Rappers." Ace enlists a healthy balance of true schoolers (King T and Greg Nice) and eccentric up-and-comers (Punch, Words, and the delightfully weird MC Paul Barman) for the project. Musically, the album offers anything but the disposable; highlights include the eerie narrative "Take a Walk," the fierce dis record "Acknowledge," and the ingenious "Alphabet Soup," where Ace runs through the alphabet with some witty old-school rhymes. More four-alarm flames light up "Something's Wrong," the psychedelic "Dear Diary," and the thumping homage to the West Coast, "P.T.A.." A knockout punchliner with an airtight flow and delivery, Ace, in the face of everything he hates about hip-hop, turns in his most expansively satisfying work. With 24 strong tracks and only faint signs of misstep, Disposable Arts is tightly wrought thematically, musically, and lyrically, not to mention one heck of a parting shot. Most hip-hop albums of the modern era are lucky to cover even one of these areas.
Masta Ace - A Long Hot Summer (Aug 3, 2004: M3)

Mirror (filefactory)


Darko said...

Whats up with the "Sittin' on Chrome" album being a compilation zip, "Hits U Missed"? Re:Up the Chrome!

Anonymous said...

I hate rappers because they use generic viagra to feel relaxed and create more and perfect lyrics I think they lack of ideas.

Anonymous said...

this men sing like he take Viagra, but in the good sense, is wonderful the music this men produce.