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by
17 August, 2004@12:00 am
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     There comes a time in a man’s life when it’s time to hang it up. When he has done all that he can in his profession and has to look at himself in the mirror and say “Damn, am I too old for this?” To many emcees, the answer is “no”, and they continue their career with less than average results. Instead of finishing at the top of their game, they finish trapped within the walls of being average or past their prime. Many leave the game flat on their back, looking up from the canvas.  Watching the younger, fresher legs drive past them for the two handed dunk. Rifling off rhymes circa ’94, rather than of ’04, many of them hurt their legacy. This rings true for many once great men, but not about Masta Ace. Nah kids, 16 years the veteran and still running circles around kids 16 years their elder. No looking up from the mat, no watching a youngster breeze by him for the jam. Ace is still putting fools on the canvas, ripping youngsters who claim to have handles, tearing beats to shreds with the same dominance he displayed back in ’88. This isn’t going to  happen to Masta Ace. As a matter of fact, he has gotten better since ’88. From the Cold Chillin’ days to Disposable Arts, and now to the prequel of that album, A Long Hot Summer, he has been killing shit. And at this very moment, with rumors floating around about his retirement, Ace appears to claim arguably his finest work yet.

     For those of you that remember, Disposable Arts began with Ace coming out of jail. A Long Hot Summer serves as the prequel to the events that put him behind bars in the first place. For Masta Ace, this album is special. It demonstrates the ability to create a concept album without making it sound forced. From the jump, Ace will grab many heads attention with the Dug Infinite produced  “Big City” which provides the perfect intro to his tale. Dug Infinite puts together a ridiculous track that Ace pounces on with the ferocity and hunger of a youngster trying to get in the game. From there Ace rolls with 9th wonder on the buttery “Good Ol Love”, where 9th takes his craft to yet another level, with a beautifully soulful track. Masta Ace ages like fine wine on this album, effortlessly rhyming with the consistency shown on his previous works. Where Ace demonstrates more than apt ability is on the concept driven “Soda & Soap” (feat the sexy Jean Grae on the hook) where each verse runs with the theme of using the names of soda and soap respectively. Sounds like it has been done before right? Wrong. Ace liquefies his words into each verse making it rather difficult to find the name drops until the 3rd or 4th listen. Rather incredible considering the fact that many who have tried to run with this concept make it entirely too obvious to notice what they are attempting to accomplish. Ace also develops his Slick Rick-ish storytelling ability with his quest for a lady narrative “BKLYN Masala.” Lyrically, everything that Ace does on this album is effortless making it hard to believe that he was so overlooked during his Juice Crew days.

    Masta Ace also balances the appropriate amount of guest spots and never lets them outshine him. The artists featured here coincide so well with the story and Ace that it almost becomes abundantly clear that Ace has come up with something special. When Punch & Words join Ace once again on the groupie loving “Travelocity”, it’s all love as the three vibe so well. Strick joins Ace in one of the more comical joints “F.A.Y.” (Fuck All Yall). The duo trade witty, “fuck everybody” lines, like when Ace states “No wonder why I’m kinda bitter/Strick told me “quit playa hating” but fuck it I’m not a quitter” but not to be out done Strick strikes back with “…and fuck my girl/Soon I’ll be starting to creep/She’s a slob who don’t care if her apartment is neat/She got a slick mouth and always gets smart when she speaks/and can’t cook a lick and the bitch farts in her sleep…” Even Edo G. comes thru with the solid “Wutuwankno.” This only helps Ace prove that he is light years ahead of his competition.

     The other thing that makes this album special is the production. No big names here besides 9th Wonder (“Good Ol Love”), DJ Spinna (“Soda & Soap”), and Dug Infinite (“Big City”, “Wutuwankno”) for those who remember. Ace has a wonderful ear for music and displays it with his selection of beats from a plethora of unknowns. D.A.M.S from France chips in two beauties with the soulful “H.O.O.D” and the bouncy “Travelocity.” DJ Serious from Canada follows thru with the smooth vibe of “The Ways.” But the crown jewel may have to go to Koolade from Croatia with the incredible “Beautiful”, where the sultry sounds caress each and every one of Ace’s verbs and nouns to the point of no return.

     Time dictates classics and will only tell if A Long Hot Summer will reach classic status. By being one of the few emcees to consistently put out hot albums (including Born to Roll and another classic, Slaughtahouse) Ace has proven his value to this rap game. If he does indeed choose to walk off into the fog, he has left us with a massive catalog that many will go back to as one of the best to do it. A Long Hot Summer is able to accomplish so much in so little time. The idea that it is stringed together to create a story is a feat all to itself. Nothing here is wasted as Masta Ace puts together easily one of the finest works of the year. So if he does indeed choose to put down the mic, he will do it gracefully with nothing left to prove. And on the flipside, he’ll leave many young emcees sighing in relief knowing that the “old man” that kicked their ass for years is finally calling it quits. But you never know…. 

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