Artist: Masta AceTitle: A Long Hot SummerRating: 4 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone
Masta Ace is one of the game’s all-time greats, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a large number of 2004’s rap fans that would mention his name on their “Best MCs” lists. With classic albums Take A Look Around and Slaughtahouse under his belt, Masta Ace’s catalog is strong enough to compete with the best of them, but he has never been able to bring his lyrical genius up from the underground. The former Juice Crew member is ready to hang up his microphone, with his latest offering A Long Hot Summer (M3) serving as his final testament to the hip-hop community. A conceptual prequel to his critically acclaimed 2001 effort Disposable Arts, A Long Hot Summer boasts rock-solid production and expert songwriting that make it one of the year’s top records thus far.
One thing that Masta Ace should be commended for is an incredible ear for blazing instrumentals. He utilizes mostly unknown talents to provide the soundtrack to his varied subject matter. The always reliable 9th Wonder (Little Brother, Jay-Z) crafts a soulful ambiance for Ace to salute his beloved hip-hop music on “Good Ol’ Love”, and Xplicit blends flutes and conga drums to help Ace and guests Beatnuts and Rahzel talk slick on “Oh My God”. Dug Infinite conveys a lifelike urban atmosphere on “Big City,” where Masta Ace plays street-corner commentator over horns and sirens.
What makes A Long Hot Summer the stellar album that it is are the lyrics, which Masta Ace comes with in abundance. “H.O.O.D.” finds him paying tribute to ghettos nationwide with clear honesty and care, while “F.A.Y.” shows both his and guest Strick’s abrasive sides, as Ace spits, “No wonder why I’m kind of bitter, Strick told me I should quit player hating, but f### it I’m not a quitter.” The beautifully melodic backdrop provided by Koolade on the incredible “Beautiful” helps Ace uplift with positive observations, and the moody “Wutuwankno” allows him to answer questions that his career has raised. In regards to his one-time Juice Crew associates, he raps, “Nah, I ain’t sore at Marley, though I rarely ever see him and I call him Harley/ And nah I never lived in the Bridge, but Craig G and Shante did as kids.”
Masta Ace has stated that, unlike retirement home defectors such as Mase and Too Short, A Long Hot Summer is truly the last chapter in his recording legacy. After remaining consistent through 15 years in the game, he goes out the way he came in: blessing listeners with a quality rap album. While the album may not register heavily in the commercial realm, it should rest comfortably on top of the underground scene for months to come.