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This or That….Masta Ace Wk 2: Disposable Arts Vs. A Long Hot Summer

by Travis on October 27, 2008

Last Week:

It went according to plan, as Slaughtahouse was unanimously voted the winner over Sittin’ On Chrome. It wasn’t even close. I wasn’t surprise that Slaughtahouse won, but I was kind of surprised by the large margin. You won’t hear me complaining though.

This Week:

After Sittin’ On Chrome faded off into the sunset, we didn’t hear much from Masta Ace. He would sign to Big Beat and was set to release an album in 1997, but Big Beat would end up folding and the album would be shelved. It was during this time Ace reportedly thought about hangin’ it up, but changed his mind after he decided he didn’t want Sittin’ On Chrome to be his lasting mark on hip hop. Soon, he would be releasing 12 inch singles on an array of different labels. Around the the fall of 98 or spring of 99, I would be up in Salt Lake City’s “Hip Hop Shop” when I would run into a Masta Ace vinyl single, “Cars” b/w “Keep Livin’ “, which I would buy right then and there on the spot, and I didn’t even own a turntable at that time. By the time I would start getting into the depths of the internet, I would discover that there were several more Ace singles that had been released, most of which appear on the Hits U Missed Vol. 1 (which also has a few tracks that were slated to appear on the ill-fated Big Beat release).

By the time 2000 rolled around, it was reported he was working on an album for Yosumi/JCOR that was to drop in 2001. Of course, I was pretty excited. I didn’t know what to expect, but from that first listen to Disposable Arts on the way home from the CD store, I know it was something special.

Disposable Arts Vs. A Long Hot Summer

Disposable Arts

Ace’s second album (Slaughtahouse) and third album (Sittin’ On Chrome) were both loosely structured concept albums. He has always tied his albums together, and Disposable Arts would really get deep as far as the concepts go. Ace does a good job tying the story together through the songs and the well done skits. Toward the end of the album, the concept kind of comes unraveled, but for the

At the start of the album, we hear our hero leaving the Penitentiary. He has been locked up for five years, for what, we are not sure (at least if you haven’t heard A Long Hot Summer). After having the guard flip him shit, the song jumps into “Too Long”, featuring the dope Apocalypse. The smooth strings embed themselves in the hard drums as Ace drops sets up the tone of the album. He scolds the new cats out there trying to take his place and forgetting him and those that came before them. The track really sets the mood for the whole album, one of somberness, but also with packets of excitement mixed in.

It jumps immediately into “Block Episode”, with 3/4′s of the future eMC crew, Ace, Punch and Words. The three tale a story of one of the many unfortunate episodes that happen on Ace’s block. Again, the production is on par, with strings galore, including an ill Spanish guitar loop, that really kicks the track into the upper atmosphere. Punch comes on as the thug trying to recoup on a debt, and while firing some warning shots, he hits an innocent bystander. That bystander is a 4.0 GPA student (played by Words) and athlete who is going to Harvard. And the fucked up ending has him dying in a traffic jam. This all sets up the next skit, which we first hear for IDA, the Institute for Disposable Arts. That offers Associate Degrees in everything from MCing, DJing, to “Shiesty Label Guy”, “A&R Bitch N—a”, or “Halved Ass Producer” (business must be popping IDA lately)….get your freak on bitch….

It’s this humor and excitement that kicks into the Greg Nice hook track “Don’t Understand”. Produced by the EXTREMELY underrated Paul Nice, the party starting track jumps in your face with a bouncy type of beat, thanks to a modified bass line. Of course any track with Greg Nice is going to be a must at any party. It’s a track such as this is what I’ve always felt Ace was the best at doing. It’s somewhat of a cross between what you might have heard on Take A Look Around and the singles we had been hearing from him. Ace also starts to let loose on the memorable lines and verses that are associated with Disposable Arts.

I don’t do White music, I don’t do Black music
I make rap music, for hip hop kids
Y’all know what it is when I get biz with this

Flows thats hard enough it could hit your kids with this

Thugs walk through Queensbridge with this

Italian cats drive through Bay Ridge with this

Pump it in they IROC, your block to my block

I make hits like Chu
ck Knoblauch
But don’t make no error or get it confused

You’ll find yourself
gettin abused, you fittin’ to lose

I’mma send this out to everybody
Every nigga, every chick, every person up in every party

For all the shorties in the tight denim

And all the hood rats gettin’ jealous startin to start a fight wit’ em

And to the D’s in the black Taurus

Loadin’ up the lead in the clip put a gat for us (echos) for us

Our hero calls his girl to let her know he is dipping the next day to attend IDA. She thinks he is rather stupid for leaving the streets and a chance at getting paid via those streets. This all jumps into another of the top songs found on D.A. “Hold U” was one of several songs that I could have called my favorite from the album at one time or another. “Hold U” is actually one of those dual meaning songs. At first listen, you might think he is talking about a female, but after a few more, it’s obvious Ace is talking about his mic. Jean Grae offers the female (mic) perspective, which leaves you wishing for more Ace and Jean collaborations.

Never being overly crazy about “Every Day”, it’s one of the songs that originally I would skip over. It wasn’t until the day of the first Masta Ace show I would go to, I was riding the train to school on a Saturday, getting some studying for an up coming Calc test I had coming up on Monday. This popped up on my headphones and after actually giving it a chance (I had been skipping over it rather religiously for the past four years), I realized it wasn’t all that bad. I heard it in a new light, I guess.

The comedic relief of MC Paul Barman pops up as Ace’s roommate at the dorms of IDA. Paul plays the part of white wannabe to the “t”, as Ace is wondering if he has the right room or not. This jumps into another of the upper echelon tracks from D.A. “Take A Walk”, which Ace leads us through the Get-Go. A well placed sample is the basis for the track, as Ace brings in Apocalypse again, as the two rhyme about the ills of the ghetto. As I said, this track is made by the sample (name is escaping me right now), talking about the blue skies and sunshine. The next track is probably my favorite, which is due to the fact that everyone involved on the rhyme tip simple brought it. Ace, Strick, and Young Zee kill their parts. I think this was my first introduction to Strick, who had an appearance on Tommy Boys Hip Hop 101 Black Album, which I didn’t pay much attention to, but this cat got me excited to hear a solo album from him, which I’m still waiting for:

Yeah, big Strick, let‘s get it on…
Yo, last night I had a nightmare that I was wack
Nope, I’m sorry, it’s that you said something dope

Fuck it, it don’t matter, ’cause I know shit ain’t really like that

‘Cause if you said something dope, I know somebody else probably had to write that

You on the wrong song an’ I’m on the right track

I hit the cypher, and you bounce talkin’ ’bout “Strick, I’ll be right back!”

What the fuck you co
min’ back for?
I pulled up to the front of the club and hurried and scurried up out the back door

Just in time ‘fore your ass got a cracked jaw
Made ’cause I stack more, and what the Lakers sign Shaq for?

Incredible rhymer, what the hell am I sell c
rack for?
I’m real, you a ac-tor,
I’m hot, you just not a fac-tor

You on some bound to do, I’m o
n some already done shit
I’ll burn you with the same light you just lit up your blunt wit’
And I don’t came wit’ the style you probably ’bout to come wit’

You the opposite of smart feces, get it? Dumb shit
Couldn’t give a fuck who you run wit’
Or them niggas you ’bout to go get
Matter of fact, go get ‘em, you’ll just
be layin’ on the floor wit’ ‘em
Lookin’ up at me talkin’ ’bout: “Why you let the fo-fo hit ‘em?
I really don’t know these niggas, I just did a show wit’ ‘em

Went back to the telly and I hit a couple of hoes wit’ em

Met ‘em at the studio an’ just spit
a couple of flows wit’ ‘em
Bought a bag of dro and just sat back and got high wit’ ‘em”
Oh yeah, that’s good to know, now you ’bout to die wit’ ‘em

Head straight to the pearly gate, say hi to the big guy wit’ ‘em

Or take it to that other level, down with the devil and fly wit’ ‘em

Grumble and groan, piss and moan, boo-hoo and cry wit’ ‘em

At least go home and tell his momma bye bye wit’ ‘em (bye, momma)
‘Cause duke, I’m the hottest nigga on earth right now
And bust my gun in nine months ’bout to give birth right now

Run all up in a nigga hood and take his turf right no
Nothing’s what your life is worth right now

I’ve been in shit for too long, it’s about time I burst
A & R’s ready to quit ’cause they ain’t find me first

Record labels ready to shut down ’cause they ain’t sign me first
So let me stop right now ’cause I know y’all niggas be dieing to be writing
my verse

Ace doesn’t let his new protege outshine him though, as he drops probably his best verse on the album:

I came outta rap training camp as a reigning champ
An’ lay motherfuckers down just like the pain of a cramp

I won’t stop ’til I see my name and my face on a stamp

And y’all still won’t be able to stick me or fuck wit’ me

I’m ’bout to leave my mark on this game like a buck fifty

Took shots but I duck swiftly, you just missed me

Fuck Alice, ????, Norton and fuck Trixie
I’ma fuck like it’s my honeymoon ’til I touch sixty

You ain’t a thug so don’t try to get tough with me

If you think about tryna hit me, you’ll get snuffed quickly
Deep down, hate Bobby Brown, but love Whitney

At time
s I wish it was O.J and the glove fit me
Then I wouldn’t have to hear none of you wack niggas

Talk about how your crew’s rich and you stack figures

In my hand’s a chrome gun with a black trigger

I know you think your shit’s big, but I pack bigger

Just ask your wife, ’cause I blasted her pipes

If I tell Strick to pass me a knife would you ask for your life?
You’s a pussy, I
can tell by your song
Homo/thug rapper, I can tell by your thong

Got sugar in your tank, you probably shit syrup

The world’s about to see what it is when I hit Europe

And when I come back on for my birthday

I’ma do another video, too explicit to play

And following up the rear, the Outsidaz, Young Zee, comes with a verse that doesn’t look all that great on paper, but his delivery and style is second to none. I’ve long loved this verse as Zee is one of my favorite MCs to ever grace the mic. More Zee in the future would make my view on hip hop much better:

Niggas fear me like the fear of Aids
I take out pretty boys wearin’ shades
Or thug niggas with they hair in braids

Then fuck yo’ girl through that thing she wearing

Get her pregnant to leave tha
t bitch a single parent
Got mad cars, you probably apin’ in a Jaguar

Drunk at Justin’s, while you hang out at a fag bar

cared at jail, but at home you tryna rob

When you got inside you got sodomized by a lotta guys
Girls pile up in Young Zee room
I fucked the wives of about twenty grooms on they honeymoons

We had a check sellin’ bottles of rock

An’ so much dope came w
e re-modeled the spot
That’s why y’all cats spittin’ ??????????

See you grinnin’ when I stop and the rims keep spinnin’

Fuck with Zee I’ll bash ya face
I’ll fucks wit’ {*scratches*} Masta Ace, bitch

Then comes one of my all-time favorite dis tracks, don’t fuck with Ace, he proved he’ll fuck you up with a written, fuck the freestyle. The track is broken up into disses toward two different subjects, a verse for each. The first, funny enough, was a misunderstanding. Over haunting strings, Ace comes after the Philly duo, the High & Mighty. During a show, Eon was kicking a freestyle and Ace’s name came up in his verse. It wasn’t intended to be a dis, but instead a show of respect. Instead, somehow it got back to Ace that they were dissin’. He let them have it:

You about to be dearly departed, you gotta be nearly retarded
To let me hear my name mention, try’na gain attention

Now I’m runnin’ through this game lynchin’

And I heard a few cats tryna take shots on the low

These XFL rappers tryna fuck with a real pro

One thing; who named y’all the High and the Mighty?

To me, ya’ll just sound like a couple of High Whities

Next comes an artist who was a thorn in his side, Boogieman (where is he now?). Boogie was pissed about Ace doing a song entitled “Ghetto Like”, which he said stole his concept for a song he did himself. He would drop a dis track toward Ace, entitled “Just You Wait”. The two would meet up at the Lyricist Lounge and battled, which even Ace admits Boogiemann won. He covers the whole situation later on the album on “Dear Diary”. Ace would get the last laugh, as he slices, dices and purees the Boogiemann:

Yo, yeah I heard of the Boogiemann when I was a youth, scary
And I found out that he was as fake as a tooth-fairy
Since my last mission this nigga’s been ass-kissing
I took a minute, I gave your single a fast listen
Tell me this, no pot to piss in? How you dissin’
You group holmes are about to report that you missing
And I don’t know who was worse, the track or the verse
I’ma get to your producer, but I’m smacking you first
See I couldn’t even find one nigga that heard of you
I did find a few cats that wanted to murder you
But I told ‘em “Chill”, I let ‘em know you was my son
And I promise I can pay support to you twenty-one
Consider me the clothes on your back and a warm meal
Who knows, this might just get you a deal
And the day that your album go on sale for the first hour
Just remember like Nas nigga, +I Gave You Power+
I figured I give ya some help, cause you need lots
I make your producer change his name to Speed Nottz
Tell him I say “Fuck him!” for doing the tracks
Matter of fact, fuck Fat Beats, for doing the wax
I’ma diss you via e-mail and then through a fax
I’ma diss you by two-way, I ain’t gon’ never relax
I’ma diss you over fast, slow track or no track
If your shit wasn’t so wack, I dissed you to yo’ track
You that little fish that I catch and I throw back
And by the way, give 50 Cent his flow back
You that cat in the club that get hit with a bottle
Fuckin’ with me? You better off trying to hit lotto
And don’t answer back, this is hard shit to follow
And you can’t spit nigga, so you obviously must swallow, motherfucker..

It’s at this point where, in my opinion, the album, both as a concept and as a piece of whole work, kind of loses it’s focus. “Enuff” is decent enough, but not up to par with anything else that we have heard up to this point. That’s the problem with most of the next few songs, “Alphabet Soup”, “Unfriendly Game”, “Dear Yvette”, “I Like Dat”, and “P.T.A.” (which I figured would be great, with two of my west coast favorites, King Tee & J-Ro) are all good tracks, but just not on the same quality as the ones preceding them.

It’s not until we get to the last two songs, “Dear Diary” and “No Regrets” that things get back on the high level that we heard on the first half of the album. Both tracks are two of the most self exposing and vulnerable hip hop songs we’ll probably ever hear. In a world of gats, bitches, and MCs bragging about how many chick they bang, Ace exposes all his insecurities in “Dear Diary”, talking about the Lyricist Lounge battle, how he might be perceived in the industry and other topics. “No Regrets” was supposed to be Ace’s swan song, the song that wrapped up his career. As we know, it didn’t happen that way, but it’s still a heartfelt song…..

A Long Hot Summer

By the time A Long Hot Summer dropped, I was active on one of the few hip hop related boards I visit much, It was on there that I learned that Ace was going to be dropping another album, something that we had all be hoping for was coming to reality. The anticipation began to grow and by this time (2004), things were already leaking on the internet, and of course, I was faced with the choice of waiting until the album dropped in stores, or give into the suspense and give it an early listen. Never one being good at waiting, I broke down to the temptation and listen to the album early. What I heard was an album that was equally as good, if not better than Disposable Arts. At least that was my thoughts after my first few initial listens.

Once again, Ace brings a concept to the album. If you were a fan of Disposable Arts, it ends up being an interesting twist to the story found on D.A. It was a prequal, Star Wars style. Things jump off further in the story, with Ace and his boy, Fats Belvedere in a hotel room with a grip of cash and someone knocking on the door. We soon find out how and why Ace’s character was in that room. The first track, “Big City”, picks right up where Disposable Arts ends off at. Backed by a wicked Dug Infinite beat, Ace rides the acoustic canvas effortlessly as he speaks on the hustle of coming up in the Big Apple.

Following the albums jump off track is the projects first single, “Good Ole Love”. When I first heard about this track, I was pretty excited. At this point in time, 9th Wonder, who was doing no wrong in my book at this time, crafted an excellently executed beat. The strings and the vocal sample gave it that somber “on the come up” type of vibe that Ace conveys in his lyrics:

This is for my Shaolin shooters and my Brooklyn teens
Uptown Bronx and them crooks in Queens
I work like a maid when she cooks and cleans
Cuz it’s about to be a wrap from the looks of things
The game is changed, the game is strange
The game is lame and it ain’t the same
But that’s how it is, you can ask Giz
You can ask Biz, we did it for the kids
Listen here, this is different here
If you got an eye for detail and efficient ear
I won’t disappear, I’ma keep on givin’
I’ma keep on livin’, I’ma keep bein’ driven
I’m down to earth and I’m close to ground
And spit shit better than most around
This how hip hop is supposed to sound
Tear them other cats’ posters down now

Looking back at it, I’m not sure if the track was the best choice for the lead off single, but it accomplished what A
wanted and built the buzz for the album.

The first half of the album is near flawless, and after Fats comes on and explains his hustle and how Ace’s character plays into it, we jump into possibly the best track found on A Long Hot Summer and the albums second single, “Da Grind”. Produced by another Justus League beatsmith, Khrysis, the mellow beat sets a fat pitch down the middle of the plate. Armed with a wicked string sample, the beat is one of those that gets stick in your head and won’t leave like an unwanted guest. Ace and his homie Apocalypse discuss how hard it is to earn your living in the rap game, and just life in general. This track should be everyone’s daily song before they head out to their 9 to 5 that the dislike. I know it’s crossed my mind a few times on the way to the grind. Sometimes Ace gets criticized for his hooks, but he did the track well with this hook:

I’m on the grind
Still got my money on my mind
And I, feel like I’m walking on the line
And it, seems like I’m running out of time
That’s why I’m always on the grind

The soulful “H.O.O.D.“, brings that happy go-lucky sound as Ace brings “it ain’t all bad”, despite the shortcomings found in the hoods all around the world. This is what appeals Ace to so many people, he has always come off as the cat you would see walking down the block, that cat who your brother hangs out with, or the dude that is friends with your boy. He just brings that feeling to his tracks, and “H.O.O.D.” is a perfect example of that.

The track that contains one of my favorite beats of all times pops up on the scene, as Ace tells the listener to see the good in the ugly on “Beautiful”. Unknown Croatian producer, Kool Ade brings a sparse piano and a beautiful synth sample to the the forefront as Ace delivers his “Glass Half Full” message that has helped me in some tough spots. It was also the b-side to “Good Ole Love” on the first single and also was a little different, with no adlibs over the hooks. The message found on this track is one of positivity, without sounding all preachy:

Yeah, this is brand new Uptown still in the box
This is the Yankees, 10-nothin’, killin’ the Sox
This ain’t huggin’ the block wit’ a gat in ya hand
This is Boca Raton on the Catamaran (that’s right)
With the sun beamin’ down while you sat in the sand
I feel like I’m more than a cat wit’ a plan
This feels like it’s more than a flash in the pan
This is milk in the cup and cash in ya hand
This is a warm coat on the coldest night
That’s why I stole this mic, y’all don’t hold this right (nope)
First in a class of many
This is a bottle of Jack and a glass of Henny (that’s right)
Now drink it up ’til there ain’t nothin’ left in it
I’m reppin’ it, BK, that’s a definite
There’s more of these amazing rhymes
A song like this in these days and times is beautiful

In a move that almost makes you chuckle, we go from positivity, uplifting, full of happiness, find the rainbow in the rain shower type of shit, to the “I hate you”, shit sucks, everybody die steez of “F.A.Y.”, which has also been used as a theme song of mine over the years. The ever impressive Strick comes on the assist Ace as the both scream, “fuck all y’all”, more than once. Frustration will cause even the most positive person to screw those three words, and after a bad day, this song will serve that purpose quite well.

The story progresses as Fats and Ace meet to discuss a “business venture”, before they do talk about it, Ace goes to get a soda and some soap for Fats, which leads into a fan favorite of “Soda & Soap”. Produced by the talented DJ Spinna and backed by Jean Grae, who had an impressive showing on “Hold U” from Disposable Arts. I’ve never been crazy about the song, but I know a lot of you will disagree. An interesting guest appearance from Big Noyd blesses the next track, but it actually works rather well. “Do It Man” was a track that I would have considered my favorite at one time. Marco Polo brings the heat with his own trademarked sound, and serves as a the rough and rugged Brooklyn streets anthem.

Ace brings a track that, to me, is the same vien as “Bonita Applebum”, “Ms. Fat Booty” and other ghetto love tales in “Brooklyn Masala”, which ironically enough features Ace’s own wifey on the tracks adlibs. Over a spacey, airy beat, Ace spits a story about meeting a middle eastern cutie while coming out of the bodega. He spits game to the cutie and ends up taking her out for a date. Nothing like a little bodega love story to add to the story.

We find out what the scheming Fats Belvedere wants, as he hits up Ace about going on tour with him as a cover for some shit he has going on, involving credit cards and the such. After Ace sees into the plan and Ace offers up some tokens of appreciation, in the name of a big screen TV, Ace is down. This jumps into the Punch and Words assisted “Travelocity”, which I’ve never saw anything breathtaking about. “The Ways” is the next track and is produced by DJ Ody-Roc. Another solid track that adds to the story, but again, nothing more than a good track. This leads into the track that is making me eagerly await the recently announced A&E project, between Ace and Edo G. “Wutuwankno”, has the two grizzled veterans bringing out the best in each other. They spit game over a beautifully produced Dug Infinte beat, discussing the way it is and their place in the game. The chorus is sung by Ace, who does a fi
ne job at it and it is also probably the reason I dig the song so much.

As the story goes on, Ace and Fats get busted and Ace ends up in the clink. The final two songs, the Beatnuts assisted “Oh My God” which surprises the listener that it isn’t a Beatnuts beat. It’s nice, but somewhat unnecessary, albeit, this is probably the only song that would fall into that category. The end of the album “Revelations”, is Ace’s answer to “Dear Diary” and “No Regrets” found on Disposable Arts. It’s heartfelt, but doesn’t really match the two previously mentioned songs. If it came before, I’m sure it would be the one everyone talked about four years later.

The Verdict

I’ve long debated this very subject in my head when I’m bored at work or day dreaming in class, or avoiding looking at homework. For the past four years, I’ve gone back and forth over which is my favorite album of the two. A Long Hot Summer is executed better as an overall concept, the songs fit the story and vice versa. There is not too many skits, the ones there are humorous and not automatic fast forward fodder after a few listens. The album as a whole is a better overall piece of work. The production might be considered better overall, and the whole thing is just a strong album. So then I’m picking A Long Hot Summer then, right? It’s not that easy. While ALHS is a probably a better overall album with little or no weak links in it, it just doesn’t contain those tracks that make you go “WOW” and rewind. Yes, “Good Ole Love”, “Big City”, “Da Grind”, and “Beautiful” are all tracks that are classic tracks in my Stan like way of thinking, but I’m not sure they are on the same par as “Dear Diary”, “Too Long”, “Block Episode”, “Don’t Understand”, “Acknowledge”, “Hold U”, “Something’s Wrong”, and “Take a Walk”, all of those tracks I probably favor over anything found on A Long Hot Summer. So what is it? The all or nothing, homerun swings of Disposable Arts, or the well crafted, four for four game of A Long Hot Summer? In the end of it all, I’m going to with the fireworks and Disposable Arts, by a narrow margin, after all, chicks dig the long ball.

Disposable Arts

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