Masta Ace might have been one of the least-known Juice Crew members during the Queensbridge-based posse's late-'80s heyday, but he's outlasted certified legends in Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and Biz Markie, thanks to his versatility and ability to re-invent himself.
After playing the straight man to the Biz in the '80s and serving as the East Coast ambassador to Cali-style G-funk in the early '90s, Ace re-emerged as an indie-rap hero in 2001 with the concept album, Disposable Arts, just in time to catch the tail end of the backpacker/Rawkus wave. With his fan base intact after four years of guest appearances and touring, Ace didn't have to re-invent himself on A Long Hot Summer, a prequel to Disposable Arts released on his own M3 label. All the Brownsville, Brooklyn native had to do to keep things going his way was make a decent album. Unfortunately, A Long Hot Summer falls painfully short.
It's not that his flow has fallen off: It's as good as ever. But the album's plotline about a summer tour gone wrong, laid out in extended skits of dialogue between Ace and "tour manager" Fats Belvedere (a Joe-Pesci-in-Goodfellas-type with a grating, fake Brooklyn Italian accent) grows old quickly. So old that despite some excellent tracks -- the 9th Wonder-produced "Good Ol' Love" stands out, as does "Wutuwanknow" with Boston's Edo.G - Summer is seemingly impossible to sit through in its entirety.
Though they are less frequent than the decent ones (most tracks on the album at least fall into this category), there are also some straight-out dumb tracks. A true-school legend like Ace should be extended a pass on a couple stinkers here and there, but "Bklyn Masala," a mailed-in cut that finds Ace falling for an Indian chick (a reference to the early '90s Denzel flick Mississippi Masala) is one of his all-time worst. When Fats's irritating voice hits you after that song's over, it's time to turn the record off. Too bad, 'cause there are a couple of good ones after that, like the Beatnuts collabo, "Oh My God."
Hopefully Summer isn't the farewell album Ace has said that it will be. He owes it to himself to drop the concept schtick and come with one more record on the straight-up lyrical tip.
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