(I ran Danny C.'s Reader Review for Masta Ace's Disposable Arts back in January, and the comment section picked up enough steam for me to realize that you two are probably sitting around waiting for me to tackle the man's back catalog. While I have no decisive timetable for that, I do have Danny's follow-up to that review, a Reader Review for, conveniently, Masta Ace's follow-up, A Long Hot Summer (which he submitted at the same time), so I figured I would run that to keep the momentum going. Leave your thoughts for him below.)
You may remember me as the guy who wrote about Masta Ace's Disposable Arts. And, as you can see, I'm reviewing another Masta Ace album. Yes, I consider myself a Masta Ace freak. And yes, I probably am being overly positive, and yes, Max's opinion most certainly differs from mine, but, that aside, here's the backstory.
A Long Hot Summer is Masta Ace's fifth solo studio album. It acts as a prequel to the events that occurred on Disposable Arts, recounting just exactly what led up to Ace being released from prison at the beginning of that earlier project. (Unsurprisingly, just like that earlier project, it is also a concept album.) A Long Hot Summer skews more toward the grimy side of hip hop and is much darker in comparison than its partner. The Masta Ace that is featured on here is out hustling on the streets, and to his credit, he attempts to explain why he's there in the first place.
As with its predecessor, A Long Hot Summer was highly acclaimed by the critics, and it also was met with terrible sales. However, those that took the time to listen to the album were in for quite an experience, and it's probably fair to say that this album served as an introduction to Masta Ace's world view for more than a few of them. Ace had accepted long ago that he would never become as famous as some of his peers, but I still think it sucks that he was never able to ride the wave of critical acclaim to a broader audience. I feel the same way about AZ. Not that AZ is relevant to a Masta Ace album review by any means, of course.
And, with that pathetic sob story out of the way, let's get started.
1. THE COUNT
A Long Hot Summer starts off with a skit in which Masta Ace and his hypeman/manager are counting money in a motel room. Toward the end of the skit, the viewpoint switches to first-person, and Ace begins to fill in the blanks regarding where he was when this entire ordeal began. A nice intro which leads into…
2. BIG CITY
Now this is a good verse! “Big City” is actually only one, big, three-minute -long tangent, but fuck is it good! The beat is pretty damn great as well. A great opening: we are off to a terrific start here, folks. The only thing I don't like about the track is that highlights the fact that Ace's work after A Long Hot Summer (such as with his supergroup eMc on The Show) was nowhere near as good as it is on this song. I hope he manages at least one more solo release before he bows out completely.
3. GOOD OL' LOVE
Unlike Disposable Arts, A Long Hot Summer gets going right from the start. For some reason, I never tire of Masta Ace's love raps. Maybe it's because he's just so damn fun to listen to, or maybe it's just because they actually work, unlike (*your favorite rapper's name goes here*). Either way, this was still an awesome track. Also worth noting: This is the first love song that doesn't include a female emcee backing up our host. Score!
4. FATS BELVEDERE
Another skit, but one that actually has an effect on the overall story. You get to know Masta Ace's hypeman/manager, and you also get to see just how shady he is. It's not a great skit, but for a concept album, especially one from Masta Ace, I'll let it slide. Also, am I the only one who feels that Fats' voice sounds similar to that of B-Real from Cypress Hill, even though it's not nearly as hard? Maybe that's just me.
5. DA GRIND (FEAT. APOCALYPSE)
This song knocks! What else am I even supposed to say here? This is a dope track. Plus, from a musical standpoint, it still sounds good today. Hell, even the hook works! I wouldn't normally bring that to anyone's attention, but since there were some notoriously awful hooks on Disposable Arts, it's worth noting.
I'm going to use this space to admit something: A Long Hot Summer is much more consistent than Disposable Arts, even though I consider Disposable Arts to be the better album. Take that for what its worth. Oh, this song was really good, too.
7. THE STOOD
Another skit. Fats visits our host while he is writing a song about the beautiful things he sees. I mainly just like this skit because it leads directly into…
This is the best song on the album. Period. Plus, it's also my absolute favorite Masta Ace song. The instrumental is sad, but uplifting (if that makes any sense), the hook is fucking great, and Ace spits three of the best verses of his entire career. This track is absolutely fantastic. I tend to keep this one on repeat for a while before moving on, and even then I end up wishing I had listened to it longer.
9. F.A.Y. (FEAT. STRICK)
This sounds like a beat Eminem would have used during his first year at Aftermath, but since Ace was Marshall's biggest influence, of course our host sounds pretty good over it. Basically, this is Masta Ace's way of saying "fuck the world”. His buddy Strick is all right, I guess, but he's nothing special. Overall, this track is nice enough, but it pales in comparison to the previous track.
10. FATS CRIB
So…Masta Ace is going to the market? Cool. You don't need to make a thirty-five second skit out of it, though.
11. SODA & SOAP (FEAT. JEAN GRAE)
This was another one of those love tracks that I enjoy so much, especially because of the DJ Spinna instrumental (is that a sitar?). I still don't care much for Jean Grae, but she sounds decent on here.
12. DO IT MAN (FEAT. BIG NOYD)
I've always found myself enjoying Big Noyd's contributions to Mobb Deep songs, even though he can be rendered fairly indistinguishable when thrown in with other rappers on posse cuts. I think this song is pretty great, though. It's not as though Masta Ace and Big Noyd have fantastic chemistry or anything, but they both supply entertaining verses, and as a result, there isn't too much for me to complain about.
13. BKYLN MASALA (FEAT. LESCHEA)
Starts out with a little skit with Masta Ace buying his shit from the store and asking a girl if he can holler at her. When the melody kicks in, Ace presents listeners with one of his hidden gems (even though pretty much all of his stuff is hidden, I suppose), and it still holds up very well today. I love this track, and it's easily one of my favorite Masta Ace songs. The hook is pretty great, too: it uses a Nas vocal sample with good results. I'm left wondering why this particular sample didn't spark any beef, however…
14. THE PROPOSITION
You can skip this skit.
15. TRAVELOCITY (FEAT. PUNCH & WORDS)
The hook on here is pretty embarrassing. It's a decent track overall, but I could not get into this beat. I liked the back-and-forth flow between the three artists, seeing as Punch & Words are seemingly the only emcees who can keep up with Masta Ace when they share the same track. But you can probably skip this one, too.
16. THE WAYS
Masta Ace is spitting some pretty introspective verses, in which he fills us in on his experiences with rap. I love this track. It's just one more reason why Masta Ace is my favorite MC. It's not going to win any awards, but it's very good.
17. WUTUWANKNO (FEAT EDO G.)
Don't let this absurd title fool you; this is a serious track, albeit one with an instrumental that sounds mystical and unsettling. To be honest, I'm still a little lost as to why this song is called what it is. Judging by the hook, it seems like a better name for it would have been "Take A Look In My Eyes." Oh well, you can't win them all.
18. THE AFTER PARTY
Fats apparently wants to "show his appreciation" to Masta Ace when they get back to the hotel. I'll leave it at that.
19. OH MY GOD (FEAT. THE BEATNUTS & RAHZEL)
Oh my God. What. The. Fuck. This track his horrendous. Everything about it is terrible. Skip this godawful shit and never look back. This is the only shit-break on the entire album.
20. THE CELLMATE
Masta Ace is in jail talking to his cellmate about what he did last summer. The entirety of A Long Hot Summer was a story being told to his cellmate. Get it? Anyway, as you can imagine, this is exactly where Disposable Arts picks up. This is the reason I can cope with the skits.
And like Disposable Arts, Masta Ace closes things out with a somber track. And were out.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A Long Hot Summer is considered Masta Ace's definitive work by many. I love this album, as you probably picked up on while reading the review: I find it to be much more consistent than Disposable Arts, and it has much better production, too. The album has quickly become one of my favorites; I consider A Long Hot Summer to be one of the most underrated works in hip hop, which is part of its appeal to me. It's clear, concise, and worth listening to. And so is Masta Ace. Give this man some time and at least one of your ears, and I think you'll enjoy what you hear.
BUY OR BURN? Please buy this album. It deserves you money just as much as Disposable Arts did.
BEST TRACKS: "Big City"; "Good Ol Love"; "Da Grind"; "H.O.O.D."; "Beautiful"; "Soda & Soap"; "Do It Man"; “Bkyln Masala"; "The Ways"; "Wutuwankno"; "Revelations"
(Questions, comments, and the like go below.)