Masta Ace is an accomplished New York veteran who hails from the super-group, Juice Crew, and is commonly referred to as one of the pioneers of hip hop. He is recognized by those who know his music best as one of the most consistent of all time, with two illustrious, classic albums and the rest, remarkable works, to say the least. “Devoted” and “influential” would be the ideal words to describe Ace. He has inspired and paved the way for numerous artists, including Eminem, who was, and still is frequently criticized for “stealing” Ace’s flow. His dexterity in vivid story-telling is also commendable, and another skill that should land him a substantial status within the hip hop community. A real definitive quality Masta Ace possesses is that he although his confidence shines, he’s far from egocentric or narcissistic, and doesn’t try being someone he’s not, which may be why he recurrently calls out those who do. Despite all of this, he’s always been universally underrated and given far too little acknowledgment throughout his career.
Prominent are the revisions Masta Ace underwent throughout his career, which had begun in 1988. Starting off, he was a very vivacious, self-motivated MC, who had just begun building up his mainstream appeal. He later got exactly what he wanted, with the more radio-friendly Sittin’ On Chrome (with The I.N.C.) rupturing the face of the hip hop charts and reaching Billboard’s Hip Hop Top 20 list. 2001 and on, he goes to his more self-effacing, humble approach, redolent of earlier stages of his career, on Disposable Arts and A Long Hot Summer.
A Long Hot Summer is, in my opinion, a masterpiece, and Ace’s best release to date. The concept album took many by surprise because of a line from “No Regrets” off of Disposable Arts, leading many to believe it would be his last album.
Each interlude and song is extremely well-crafted. From the first track alone, you can easily recognize that with his reflective style, Ace will utilize his story-telling skills to the fullest, and speak on whatever topic he feels necessary. And so he does. The album ventures into various subjects, including New York, defiance, politics, fame, his fans, a very special woman, the rap game, and the state of the music industry. It’s handled by a large range of producers, including 9th Wonder, Marco Polo, and even Masta Ace himself. The judiciously soulful beats put forward a jazzy vibe, especially on “Beautiful” which gives you the feeling of a warm summer day. The production fits Ace’s pensive style and smooth flow quite well, projecting the emotion and impeccable fervor he puts into each verse. “Brooklyn Masala” is a standout track with it’s infectious rhythm, and again, Ace shows why he’s considered a literary craftsman. There are exceptional guest verses from Edo G, Jean Grae, and The Beatnuts, among others. The overall lively album comes to a pessimistic close with “Revelations,” in which Masta Ace wonders why he’s putting so much effort into making music if no one is there to appreciate it, while instructing industry puppets to feel ashamed.
When you reach a certain age, life is not a game
I was in the fast lane, I was out for speed
But now I got more than one mouth to feed
All in all, A Long Hot Summer isn’t completely and utterly flawless, but it comes pretty damn close, setting a prominent distance from some of the inchoate releases of today, that are often flooded with more filler than quality music. It’s a crime to sleep on an album that offers the essence of golden age hip hop so impeccably. My favorite tracks on the album were Beautiful, Bklyn Masala, and Oh My God.