(Did you think that the lack of my own Scarface write-ups was a strange oversight on my part? Then get a load of today's subject. A lot of you two have written to me wondering where the Masta Ace write-ups are. In case you haven't figured it out, aside from the Reader Review for the eMC project, there aren't any...until now. Danny C., a fan who admits to not knowing who Ace even was until fairly recently, took it upon himself to fill the void by jumping straight to his fourth album (and second solo project, technically), Disposable Arts. He even briefly explains why I may have not gotten to the work of Duval Clear just yet. Leave some notes for him below, and I'll see what I can do about his back catalog.)
Max feels a compulsive need to review albums in a specific order. I, however, do not. So today I'm reviewing Disposable Arts. This is not Masta Ace's first album, but I consider it to be his finest work (with its successor, A Long Hot Summer, coming in a close second). With that said, let's get started.
Masta Ace is a Brooklyn MC who, while never getting the credit he deserves, has garnered quite a reputation with the Hip-Hop community as a former member of Marley Marl's Juice Crew. His rhyme style is very accessible, and his conversational flow allows listeners to get into the music with little to no hitches. Oh, and he can rap, too.
This particular album, Disposable Arts, is largely considered his finest work. I'm not here to refute that. It's his fourth release, and it marked a major shift in Masta Ace's career. Disposable Arts is actually a concept album that follows our host from his release from prison to his enrollment and attendance at the University of Disposable Arts. Wikipedia states that many critics consider that to be one of the best concepts ever used on a hip hop album. I'm also not here to refute that.
Now, there isn't much else to say about this album. However, as Masta Ace is my favorite encee, you can probably guess what my recommendation is going to be at the end of this review.
Without further adieu, let's get this done...
1. THE RELEASE (SKIT)
The album opens with Ace being released from prison. It does a good enough job of setting things up, but if you aren't a fan of concept albums, you will feel obligated to skip it.
2. TOO LONG (FEAT. APOCALYPSE)
The first official song on Disposable Arts, and I must say: I'd never taken the time to listen to Masta Ace before I first heard this album, and this track really grabbed my ear. It's pretty good.
3. BLOCK EPISODE (FEAT. PUNCH & WORDS)
I love this song. The simplistic beat, mixed with Ace's superb storytelling abilities, make this an early standout. Punchline and Wordsworth both make appearances, but while they doesn't add much to the song, they certainly doesn't take anything away, either. A great track.
4. IDA COMMERCIAL (SKIT)
Moving the story along, Ace presents an ad for the Institute of Disposable Arts. It's kind of funny. That's all I got.
5. DON'T UNDERSTAND (FEAT. GREG NICE)
A lot of Eminem fans (myself included) will recognize the first line of this song from Marshall's “Who Knew?” (from The Marshall Mathers LP). The tracks are similar, but that's not why it knocks: the song itself is a banger. It would be one of my favorites if the Greg Nice hook wasn't so damn cheesy. (Greg Nice, cheesy? I imagine all of the older two readers descending to the comments section...now.)
6. GOODBYE LISA (SKIT)
A skit in which Masta Ace is talking to his (ex?) girlfriend about leaving for school. There's some arguing, a little bit of flirting, and an overall feeling of annoyance from me.
7. HOLD U (FEAT. JEAN GRAE)
This song is one of my favorites. Ace is telling his girl a story about their love and how there there were people that tried to stop them from being together. Jean Grae supplies a great verse, which surprised me, as I don't care for many female emcees outside of MC Lyte. Still a great track, though.
8. EVERY OTHER DAY (FEAT. SAS & MR. LEE GEE)
For some reason, the hook reminds me of the chorus from 2Pac/Makaveli's “Blasphemy”. Whatever, I still like the song. Masta Ace comes in with some stellar verses over a good, if uneventful, instrumental.
9. ROOMMATES MEET (SKIT)
This skit is actually pretty great. Masta Ace walks in on his roommate freestyling. The roommate is played by MC Paul Barman; if you're familiar with Prince Paul's work, you probably know who he is already. Disposable Arts has suddenly picked up a lot of momentum.
10. TAKE A WALK (FEAT. APOCALYPSE)
The beat on here is creepy, but direct, and Masta Ace spits some of my favorite verses of the entire album. I think that this is the first hook that actually sounds good on Disposable Arts. Love it.
11. SOMETHING'S WRONG (FEAT. STRICK & YOUNG ZEE)
Hey, no way! Two dope tracks in a row? Awesome. Yet another standout. (I have a feeling that Max would be a lot harder on it if he were writing this himself, though.) Ace speeds up his flow a little bit to rhyme alongside his guests, but he actually pulls it off overall. The hook isn't that great, though: he really needs to work on those.
12. THE CLASSES (SKIT)
Another funny skit. Nearly every skit involving Barman is funny on here.
One of my favorite songs on the entire album, and one of my favorite songs from Masta Ace in general. It's a dis track against Boogeyman and the duo The High & Mighty, but that's not why it's good: it works because Ace remains focused on the task at hand. Also, producer Xplicit provides one of the best instrumentals on Disposable Arts.
14. ENUFF (FEAT. MR. LEE GEE)
A decent track, but it doesn't pack the same punch the previous track had. Oh well, I still liked it enough.
15. WATCHING THE GAME (SKIT)
Another skit. Not essential, but it helps move the story along, if only a little bit. You can skip this one if you'd like.
16. UNFRIENDLY GAME (FEAT. STRICK)
A long, extended metaphor using sports as a way to describe the hood, which sounds pretty damn good. It shows the evolution of Masta Ace's talents, as I do not believe that the Masta Ace from the Slaughtahouse era would be able to pull this off. Another standout track.
17. ALPHABET SOUP
God, another standout?! Ace uses the letters of the alphabet to tell a story. Some people may be inclined to believe that Papoose's rendition of the same concept, “Alphabet Slaughter”, is a better song, but those people would be wrong.
18.DEAR YVETTE (FEAT. JANE DOE)
Three?! This song knocks, and I like it more than “Hold U”. It's a love song, but Ace handles it in a much better manner than most (*ahem* LL Cool J *ahem*). A great, great track.
19. I LIKE DAT (FEAT. PUNCH & WORDS)
Nice old-school beat to go with the mandatory sex rap. It's far from the best song on Disposable Arts, but it's still good enough. Punch & Words actually add surprisingly good verses, as well.
20. P.T.A. (FEAT. KING TEE & J-RO)
I'm gonna use this space to say that Masta Ace is able to salvage almost any beat whenever he starts spitting. Unless the instrumental is absolutely awful. Which the beat on this track is not.
21. TYPE I HATE (FEAT. RAH DIGGA & LESCHEA)
Not great, but okay enough. The hook kind of annoyed me, but the statement I used for the previous song description applies on here, as well.
22. DEAR DIARY
I actually love this song a lot. It features two of Ace's best verses of the entire album, rhymed from the perspective of his diary. Kind of twisted, and kind of backwards, but still loved it.
23. LAST RIGHTS (SKIT)
This is the only skit on the album featuring Paul Barman that I didn't like. Or maybe I'm just tired. Take your pick, but feel free to skip it regardless.
24. NO REGRETS
We finish Disposable Arts with my favorite song from the album.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Masta Ace's Disposable Arts happens to be one of my favorite albums. Maybe you already picked up on that. But even if it wasn't, you cannot deny the quality of this record. Ace comes in full force on nearly every track, and it actually is one of the better concept albums in hip hop. It will most likely lead you to some other high points in Masta Ace's career (Sittin' On Chrome and A Long Hot Summer are my personal picks). I very highly recommend that you pick this up. Masta Ace deserves every penny and more, seeing as he will never be as famous as some other emcees who didn't put in half the work that he has. Namely, Lil Wayne.
BUY OR BURN: Buy this. Now. I guarantee you will not regret it.
BEST TRACKS: "Block Episode"; "Don't Understand"; "Hold U"; "Every Other Day"; "Take A Walk"; "Something's Wrong"; "Acknowledge"; "Unfriendly Game"; "Alphabet Soup"; "Dear Yvette"; "Dear Diary"; "No Regrets" (actually, if you want the honest opinion, all of the songs on here are dynamite)
(Leave your comments below.)