Review Summary: I was always tellin Ace it was CRAZY to go out there breakin his ass, makin phonecalls, sendin emails, runnin in & out of town, for a few grand here a few grand there, but he had a passion for it, he didn't care, and honestly I had to respect him for that
It is becoming rare to see rappers selling their personality as the forte of their music. Yet it was not so in 2004, the year Masta Ace dropped A Long Hot Summer
. Masta Ace brought a blunt-but-likeable personality to the rap game, and influenced many successful artists, such as Eminem. Ace is one of the few old school artists that evolved well with the times, while keeping the zeitgeist of the old school alive. A Long Hot Summer
is in the format of a developing story narrative that uses skits to connect the songs in a very similar fashion to Kendrick Lamar’s recent album Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
. The album cleverly teaches lessons and makes subtle points about the duality of life in Brooklyn. It also touches on the business side of rap, by using Ace's recent adventures on tour, during 'A Long Hot Summer', as a case study.
The story starts in the “Big City”, a song that sets the stage in a very negative light. The song is a list of all the problems with living in Brooklyn. This negativity is then balanced with some “Good Ol Love”, a track that highlights the type of pride, love, and respect that can only be gained by going through the type of struggle he faces in Brooklyn. The album continues in this sort of way, balancing negative topics with a dose of positivity on a relevant topic. On one song he figuratively says "*** these groupies they all hoes", then he has another song about ***ing groupie hoes, literally, on the road, and how it's awesome. Then on “Brooklyn Masala” he tells the story of how he fell in love with a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan. It's remarkable how he brings all of this together into a coherent and respectful philosophy regarding women. The yin-yang nature of this album doesn't stop there. After he's done pointing out the oft overlooked "Beautiful" things in every day living, he strikes back with “F.A.Y.”, a likeable rant about how Ace hates virtually everyone around him at times. He has a type of undiagnosed bipolar disorder that is as rational as it is funny. These fascinating and intertwining themes of the album are also complimented by his ability to tell a story without sacrificing the quality of his music. The beats help achieve this by being sonically diverse, but stylistically they all are generally of the traditional ‘80s-‘90s East Coast style, highlighted by simple, yet enjoyable sampling. The forte of the album though, is the rapping and the lyrics. The flow/production combination is almost always on point, and he does this while maintaining undeniably great lyricism that shows wit, talent and personality. He's a seasoned veteran that's been rapping longer than most rappers have been breathing, and there’s not a single line on the album that is not intriguing for its lyrics alone; whether they be clever, funny, or just likeable. A lot went into every bar.
From the first time the hook plays on the highlight track, “Da Grind”, Ace's struggle that he faces in his profession becomes extremely relatable. The inhumane amount of work he has to do as an underground rapper just to make a modest living is shocking and enviable. On one verse, he laments:
“I be the manager, road manager, and call handler
Booking agent, choreographer and tour planner
I be the V.P. of marketing and promotions
Producer and arranger, with a range of emotions
And after it all, I still gotta perform
At three o'clock in the morn', when half the fans are gone
But it's fine
Been on the grind since like '88 or '89”
It becomes hard not to have both respect and pity for Ace after listening to A Long Hot Summer
. One of the album’s themes deals with how he pours his mind, body, and soul into his music; yet, disloyal fans, clueless cunts and the soulless music industry make it all for nothing. It probably wasn’t surprising to Masta Ace, then, when the album went on to become unanimously regarded as superb, by both fans and critics alike; yet, it didn’t sell much at all. Even for an artist that is clearly not concerned with marketability, this had to be disheartening. What troubles ace more than not making a decent living, is he feels no one is listening to him, despite his talents. Masta Ace is the quintessence of an unsung emcee. He’s not the only emcee to experience this struggle, but he has probably captured the pain of the U.S.A. ( ‘Underground Starving Artists’) better than any other emcee ever has with this album.