Unlike so many,
Masta Ace is arguably at his pinnacle as he leaves us. The Brownsville native
made it so that AllHipHop.com was one of the first to know. While we all hope
and fight to change the man’s mind, we joined Ace to remember a stellar
career, preview an outstanding album, and look to a successful future.
From his debut
verse on Marley’s “Symphony” to his curtain call, “Revelations,”
AllHipHop.com salutes the Hip-Hop heroes in a timeline of moments and actual
been heavy speculation to whether or not Ace really admitted retirement to us.
Read word for word, and you be the judge. Retire or not, Ace…we don’t
want you to go.
MC’s lack vulnerability. You’ve started doing this late in your
career, what role does that play on your record to admit day-jobs, thoughts
of quitting, falling off…how do you make that such an effective tool?
Masta Ace: The
history of MC’s is that we’re the best, nobody can beat us. We don’t
show any vulnerability. I just reached a point where I knew that that was all
bullsh*t and let’s lay all the cards on the table. Let’s give people
a little bit of a look into what goes through my head when I’m home alone,
lookin’ in the mirror, by myself. In a certain way, those kind of lyrics
are like therapy for me. To be able to say the things that I think people might
be sayin’ or thinkin’, behind my back – the fact that I can
verbalize that, and put it on record to say, “Look, I know what you’re
saying. I know what you’re thinkin’, and I’m probably thinkin’
that too, sometimes.” People have no choice but to respect that you’re
not so self-conscious that you’re afraid to let it be known.
The cover to Long Hot Summer is outstanding, and reflects the days
of album covers. It portrays you writing on the stoop. How has your writing
evolved in recent years?
Masta Ace: I think
when I first started out, my main goal in writing a rhyme was to prove to every
other MC, that I was the best. I was in battle mode. As the years went on, I
became more focused on expressing my creativity, but making songs. I guess most
recently, it’s come full circle. Again, I’m trying to prove to other
rappers that I can spit. It’s a little bit different than it was on the
first album. I’m more mature, I’m older, and just look at life in
a different light than when I was twenty years old.
But you say, “something to prove,” but I look at what you’ve
done for Hip-Hop, you truly owe us nothing to prove. You enhanced that. Why
Masta Ace: Because
once you’ve reached the point where you say, “I ain’t got
nothin’ to prove,” you shouldn’t be [on] records no more.
You’ve got to feel that, or else you out there going through the motions.
So, I kinda put that chip on my shoulder every time [I do an album], because
that’s what Rap is – every rapper against every rapper.
Besides from Dre’s cornered market and Cool J, Sermon, there’s very
people who made great albums in the 80’s, and still do it. Your arguably
“best” albums were your most recent. Is that very attitude that
pushes you to still be a top shelf MC, defying the laws of time in Hip-Hop?
Masta Ace: That’s
definitely what it is. That, and feeding off fans and listeners that appreciate
the music. When I hear those positive words from people, that puts fuel in my
tank to wanna keep goin’ and do it better every time.
Disposable Arts was a concept album. Does Long Hot Summer have
any real concept to it, or general theme?
Masta Ace: It came
to me very slowly and gradually. I was watching a lot of different movies.
Masta Ace: One
of the movies that got me goin’ was Thunderbolt & Lightfoot. Two guys
partnerin’ up. My original story changed a lot. I [didn ’t] share
it. So I developed the story in my head. I don’t really have a concise
That’s a classic! Who is Bridges and who is Eastwood?
Masta Ace: Fats
Belvedere is Bridges, and I’m Eastwood. Bridges is wild, no care in the
world. Eastwood been through some stuff, grizzled, don’t trust nobody,
like, “What do you want?”
You and 9th Wonder were just meant to happen. “Good Ole’ Love”
was circulating through our tape decks months ago. Tell me how that joint came
about, and how it’s setting off the album?
Masta Ace: That
beat came about from a beat CD that had a bunch of different producers. I didn’t
know who did what, and at that point, I had never heard of 9th Wonder or Little
Brother. Got the CD, immediately zeroed in on that beat, called in on this beat,
“Oh 9th Wonder? North Carolina? I want this joint right here.” How
I met him was, I was doing a show in his town of Raleigh-Durham. We linked up
out there. He introduced me to another producer that ended up being on the album,
Crisis. I recorded the joint, laid everything down. It wasn’t until after
we had done that joint that he came to New York and collaborated with Jay.
I gave you a lot of credit for saying, “F*ck Fat Beats for puttin’
it on wax” in the Boogieman situation. That could’ve really hurt
you, in terms of the biggest record store on the planet. That’s a bold
move. Did that end up hurting you?
Masta Ace: Nah,
it actually helped me. They liked the record. The ironic thing is they distributed
the vinyl [on my diss record]. Fat Beats is an entity and a company and all
that. But behind that, there’s actual people. The people know me. DJ Eclipse
is one of the main cats. He called me and told me that, “Yo, we’re
puttin’ this record out with Boogieman dissin’ you.” Because
he didn’t want me to be caught off-guard. I said, “Well, you know,
I’m gonna probably have to say somethin’.” And he was happy
to hear the reply. It was all in the spirit in the Hip-Hop, diss everybody!
Since we’ve been spotlighting tracks…one of my favorite beats of
all-time, and verses to match is “Music Man.” That record is just
timeless. You were such a young dude, tell me how that moment happened.
Masta Ace: We were
at the tail-end of doing my first album. Pretty much, all the songs were done.
We still kinda didn’t have that one banger. During that time, Craig G
and I were spendin’ the nights at Marley’s house working on the
albums. I spent the night that night, in the basement, right next to the studio.
I woke up early in the morning, ‘cause we was up til’ four-five
doing joints. So I got up way before Marley. I started sifting through his records
and just listenin’ to joints. Just coincidentally…as I put the needle
down on this particular groove, he comes walkin’ down the stairs, just
wakin’ up, like, “Yo, what’s that?” I said, “I
don’t know. I just found this.” He immediately wiped the cold out
his eyes and jumped on the sampler and turned it on and immediately sampled
it, looped it, I mean we made that joint in probably ten – eleven o’clock
in the mornin’.
It was fate.
Masta Ace: Musta
been. I remember it like it was yesterday. That whole scene.
I watch everybody bother you guys about the Juice Crew. I’m not gonna
ask about a reunion, but I would like to know who’s still there, and who
isn’t, as far as your life and career.
Masta Ace: The
people that I speak to, or see the most would be Kane, Biz, Craig G. The last
time I saw Marley was when Disposable dropped, I went and did his radio show.
The guys that I never see is Shan, G Rap. I saw Shante at a video shoot in 2000.
But the rest of those guys, I never see.
When Eminem came out, people made these comparisons. My first thought was, “He’s
got more of Ace’s rhyme style, than anybody.” I know you and Em
did an early joint called, “Hellbound” together, so I’m sure
you have thoughts on that.
Masta Ace: First,
I’mma say that I personally don’t hear the similarity at all. When
I first heard him on a mix CD freestylin’, to me…he didn’t
sound like anybody I had ever heard, before. I don’t feel like I ever
rhymed like he rhymed when he came out. We didn’t actually collaborate
on “Hellbound” in the studio together. But, I was able to meet him
at the Up In Smoke Tour. He actually invited me to be a guest to the show. So
I got to go backstage and chill with him. What he had said to me when we were
alone, chillin’, was that Slaughterhouse for him and his D-12
crew, was an album that musta come out when they were really on their grind
of tryin’ to get on in the Rap game. It was the one album that they just
played over and over and over again, back when they were broke. That’s
as it really goes.
Tell me this though, I’m not the first person to say that to you, though.
Masta Ace: People
come with it all the time. I think where it comes from is the song on my album,
“Dear Diary.” Where I kinda borrowed a little bit of his cadence
on that record. People know that I came out before him and they assume that
I been rhymin’ like that. On the record, my cadence was purposely the
same cadence he used in certain spots on [“Stan”]. People thought
he musta took that style from Ace.
We do this Breeding Ground bit at AllHipHop.com, where we spotlight rising artists.
One of our first was Stimuli, who was Lord Digga’s brother from your Inc.
crew. How does it feel to see the connection grow like that from then to now?
Masta Ace: I didn’t
even know that was his name. He was Kid Dynamite on my album. Nah, that’s
crazy! I’d like to hear some stuff. He’s a good kid. I watched him
grow up, to a certain extent.
You mentioned quitting on “The Grind” on the new album. The Beatnuts
recently alluded to that in an interview with us. How high are the stakes to
stay in the game?
Masta Ace: Before
I finished recording this record, I had it in my mind that this is the last
one for me. It had nothing to do with, “It all depends on what the record
does.” It just was time for me to apply myself behind the scenes. We have
this new label, M3, and I wanna get it off the ground. I really can’t
get it off the ground if I’m runnin’ around tourin’ and recordin’
and doing interviews. My goal is to promote new talent in this thing. Hopefully,
[I can] guide them through some of the roadblocks and obstacles that I tripped
over and bumped into along the way. My goal is to be the guy behind some big
records that come out in the future. I look at MTV and I see this kid, Eamon.
Milk [from Audio II] is kinda the man behind it. What he’s doing, and
what I’m not gonna do is, I’m not gonna be in the video, or on stage
with him, performing it. It’s just kinda corny. It looks like he’s
trying to kinda come out again.
I feel you completely. But why, what’s your justification?
Masta Ace: It’s
just time man. It’s just…my first kid is about to be born in [Fall].
There’s gonna be some drastic changes in my life.
Long Hot Summer
is out now.