FILE UNDER: HIP-HOP, DIRTY WATER
A Long Hot Summer
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After the successful release of Disposable Arts, released in 2001 after a four-year vacation, Masta Ace has returned with his newest LP (and the first release on his new label M3). Ace grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and made his debut in 1988 on Marley Marl's In Control . . . Vol. 1 compilation, sharing space with Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap. A Long Hot Summer has that classic New York feel—dirty water hot dogs, squeegee guys and the Empire State Building—and Masta Ace has a deep, smooth voice that any telemarketer would kill for, with a delivery absolutely locked to his beats and his hooks that stick until the song ends. He says 50 percent of his lyrics—mostly about hustling in the drug and rap game—are fictional, but he feels like the personality is all him. "Da Grind" has a distinctive big-city sound, with a beat sprinkled with strings and piano and just the right amount of turntable action at the end of the track; Ace lays out the ups and downs of a rap career and guest Apocalypse dreams about the day he won't have to miss tours and shows because of his day job. "Soda and Soap" pulls its savory beats right out of a Scion commercial, then slides in backups by Jean Grae (noted in Rolling Stone as "the best-kept secret in New York's indie hip-hop scene") under Ace's lyrics as he flip-flops from "this girl named Fantasy on Wall Street/from Tahiti, a real Tahitian treat" to "maybe going to a mountain and doing a little skiing." His fast-paced approach makes you wonder how he actually manages to catch his breath, but Summer is still an album that doesn't lag from beginning to end.