Brooklyn’s own Masta Ace is a hip hop icon to say the least. He is a revered member of the legendary Juice Crew. He was also a part of the group eMC with fellow rappers Wordsworth, Stricklin, and former member Punchline.
Masta Ace is loved by fans worldwide. I personally admire his ability to maintain longevity ans consistency with the ever-changing climate in hip hop. Over the decades, he is one of the few artists who has put out music, effortlessly, and still be on point with the current sound.
Masta Ace dropped his first album ‘Take a Look Around’ in 1995. Then he came with other projects ‘SlaughtaHouse’, ‘Sittin’ on Chrome’, ‘Disposable Arts’, ‘A Long Hot Summer’, and many more. In 2016, he dropped one of my favorite projects of all — ‘The Falling Season’.
When I first saw the “Me & The Biz” video, I was floored. This was a time when hip hop music was about having a good time. However, the most iconic Masta Ace verse was on the hit song “The Symphony” produced by Marley Marl, which featured his fellow Juice Crew members Big Daddy Kane, Craig G, and Kool G Rap.
Watch “The Symphony” Below:
He was also part of the supergroup Crooklyn Dodgers, which consisted of rotating members such as Buckshot, Special Ed, Chubb Rock, Jeru the Damaja and O.C. I had a deeper appreciation for Masta Ace and his craft when I heard this collaboration:
Watch “Crooklyn Dodgers” Below:
Over the years, he has collaborated with some other hip hop dynamos like Edo G, A.G., 9th Wonder, Diamond D, Jean Grae, Greg Nice, Torae, MF Doom and so much more. His music just gets better with time like a bottle of fine wine. He is indeed a “Masta” of the art of hip hop.
The legend took some time off his busy schedule to interview with us over at Weekly Rap Gods and discuss his career and latest project with Marco Polo titled ‘A Breukelen Story’.
Who are your musical influences?
There are many. But in my earlier days of writing rhymes it was LL, Rakim, and Slick Rick to name a few. But honestly, I’m influenced every day I hear somebody spit a dope verse. That’s what keeps me motivated to elevate my skill.
Who inspired you to start rapping?
The culture was growing and developing all around me back then. I started out DJing. There was a crew of us from my block that would get together and make tapes. Instrumentals of us cutting and scratching breakbeats. Out of the 5 guys in our crew, I was 4th best and I decided I could bring more to the tapes if I spit a few bars. I was really just emulating what I heard on the tapes coming from uptown and around the city. But that’s how it started.
How did you become part of Juice Crew?
Won a rap contest back in 1985 and first prize was 6 hours of studio time with Marley Marl. After recording demos with him for two years, he decided to put me on his compilation ‘Marley Marl in Control Vol. 1,’ which led to my affiliation with the label and crew.
How did you come up with the “Me & The Biz” concept?
That was supposed to be a duet with me and Biz, but he didn’t wanna record where I wanted to record. It was going to slow down the album being completed, so Marley suggested leaving the demo lyrics I wrote for Biz on the song. I was really surprised to see that there were people who thought it was actually Biz on the song because I don’t think I sound anything like him. The idea for the video came later when Warner Bros forced me to put that out as my first single. A Biz puppet was made and the rest, as they say, is history.
Watch “Me & The Biz” Below:
How was your first time overseas? Where did you go?
My first time was in 1989. I went to the UK. I opened up for EPMD and Public Enemy at London Arena in front of 15k people. I had never performed in front of more than a couple of hundred before that day. It was incredible to know that people so far away from home knew my songs!
What was your stand out project? Why?
My career was ‘Disposable Arts’ (2001). I reached a point career-wise where I felt it was the end of the road for me. After having been signed to a bunch of majors and playing the industry game, I was tired of it all. That album was going to be my last hurrah so I wanted every song, hook, beat, concept to be 100% authentic and a representation of my mind state at the time. I put my all into that album, my soul, I was honest and didn’t have a major label telling me what to do and how I should sound. I didn’t care about radio play or anything. That album had single-handedly extended my career 17+ years.
Do you think technological advancements help or hinder hip hop?
Honestly it’s both. The digital age has made it much easier for people to put out music without any help from a major. But that’s a double-edged sword because now there’s no gatekeepers weeding through the garage to find the jewels. That means much more unpolished music is being put out and it ultimately lowers the talent bar because it’s like ANYBODY can make a song now.
What are your thoughts on the evolution of hip hop?
I’ts continuous. It’s going to always be changing. It’s important that the integrity of the music isn’t lost in the process. As long as we have a good balance of talent being promoted, things will be ok.
Name 5 of the dopest albums you’ve ever heard.
There are many top to bottom dope albums. But here are 5 of my favorites. Just know there are many more:
Mobb Deep — ‘The Infamous’
Nas — ‘Illmatic’
Dr. Dre — ‘The Chronic 2001’
Kendrick Lamar — ‘Good Kid Mad City’
Slick Rick — ‘Great Adventures of…’
Who are some current artists you like right now?
Kendrick, J Cole, Cyhi da Prynce, Marlon Craft. There’s a bunch more.
Your music is always so fresh and competitive with current sound of hip hop. How do you maintain longevity over the years?
By continuing to be a fan of the music and seeking out new music and talent, it keeps me on my toes. There’s a lot of talented dudes out here killing it lyrically. You just gotta raise your game if you wanna keep up.
Recently, Juice Crew went on tour. What was it like hitting the stage again?
That was fun. We did 4 shows in Europe, so far, and about 4 stateside as well. The hope is we can continue to do more dates as a collective. Time will tell.
Tell us about your new album
The new album is called ‘A Breukelen Story’ and it’s a collaboration between myself and producer Marco Polo. It dropped Nov. 9th and features Pharoahe Monch, Styles P, Lil Fame, Smif n Wessun and my eMC brothers — Wordworth and Stricklin.
Buy/Stream ‘A Breukelen Story’ — Out Now!
Watch “Breukelen (Brooklyn)” & “Kings” video below:
Do you have any upcoming shows?
Follow my Bandsintown Page for all show updates and tours: www.bandsintown.com/mastaace
It was an honor to interview such a prestigious and humble hip hop legend. Masta Ace is one of my biggest rap inspirations. There was no way I could truly reflect how rich his legacy is in this interview. Weekly Rap Gods salutes Masta Ace on his abundant contributions to the hip hop culture. Be sure to get Masta Ace’s latest album ‘A Breukelen Story’. It consists of 19 absolutely amazing bangers produced entirely by Marco Polo. Hip hop enthusiasts you must add this to your collection!