Masta Ace A Long Hot Summer

Few MCs can claim to consistently put out better material as time advances, yet Masta Ace can count himself amongst this group. Over 15 years ago, he emerged with Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and the rest of the illustrious Juice Crew, and went on to release a brace of critically-acclaimed albums in the ’90s. Re-emerging in 2001, after a five-year absence with the excellent conceptual opus Disposable Arts, he reconfigured himself for heads unfamiliar with his track record. As that record began with Ace leaving jail, A Long Hot Summer is a conceptual prequel, preceding the incarceration and centring on the relationship between Ace and his shady friend, Fats Belvedere. The characters are pretty much polar opposites and Ace plays up the yin and yang theme on many levels, as he works out his own conflicting emotions of being a veteran in the hip-hop game, while managing to push along the narrative. "Good Ol’ Love,” featuring Little Brother’s 9th Wonder, underlines the joy he derives from the music, while his frustrations come to a boil on "The Ways,” held down with head-nodding aplomb by Toronto’s DJ Serious. Despite the constrictions of the storytelling format he has chosen, Ace still manages to flex his mic skills — the most notable example being "Soda & Soap,” where he weaves various common consumer products into a self-contained narrative. Much like Disposable Arts, the ending of this record will have you questioning whether Masta Ace will continue on as an artist. But what is not in doubt is that he is one of the most underrated mic veterans around and widely acknowledged props are long overdue. (M3)