Masta Ace Disposable Arts

Masta Ace has a case for being one of the most underrated MCs around. The one-time Juice Crew member, whom Marley Marl put on the supreme posse cut "The Symphony," released an overlooked and recently reissued debut, Take A Look Around, and spent much of the '90s trying to balance his underground credentials with commercial success. Notice came with his 1995 effort, Sittin' on Chrome, which featured the hits "Born To Roll" and "INC Ride," but Ace was criticised for dumbing down his intellectual style for the masses. It's apparent that the rap game has made Ace weary, and much like Slaughtahouse, his critically acclaimed 1993 album, he's constructed a concept album to talk about it. The premise finds Ace portraying a convict leaving prison who resists the lure of the streets to enrol in the Institute of Disposable Arts, where you are taught how to become a hip-hop artist. In a dubious moment of Canadian content, nerdy Prince Paul protégé MC Paul Barman plays his nerdy roommate, "Paul from Saskatchewan." So while it's clear he's a bit teed off, Ace's performance and the solid beats lay waste to any diminished expectations you may have had about a veteran MC who hasn't released an album in five years. "Acknowledge" is a track that's already got a buzz due to the disses delivered to the Boogiemen and to the High and Mighty. But the wry irony of "Take A Walk," the banging "Enuff" and the metaphorical "Unfriendly Game" proves Ace has much mileage left in his flow. However, on "No Regrets" he hints strongly he may hang up his mic for good. If that's the case, this is a pretty solid swan song to a terminally underrated MC. (JCOR)