Masta Ace has been around this game called Hip-Hop for a long time. Even though he has always been underrated and overlooked, Ace has survived 10 long years in this business. He started off his career with the legendary Juice Crew, and has released three critically acclaimed albums. However, still many of today's generation of Hip-Hop listeners do not know much about Ace. But Ace's track record speaks for itself, and he has continued to put out quality music no matter the situation. After being gone for a quick minute, Ace returns with his fourth release, "Disposable Arts," and like his previous efforts, it is a solid album, front to back.
First off "Disposable Arts" is put together beautifully. The album acts as a story, and follows the plot, somewhat, through each skit on the album. While the story line isn't as dramatic or put together as well as previous albums that have utilized the idea (Prince Paul, Sticky Fingaz), it still ends up as enjoyable with only a few bumps in the road along the way.
The album starts off with Ace being released from jail, which immediately goes into the first track "Too Long" (featuring Apocalypse). The track is a nice self produced joint that features Ace discussing his struggles and the long ride he has endured. From there we go into the street tales of "Block Episode" featuring Punch and Words, and "Don't Understand" featuring Greg Nice. "Don't Understand" is one of the albums true highlights. It is a fast paced, club anthem type track featuring Greg Nice doing his best hype man impersonation, while Ace rips the Paul Nice track.
After learning about a Hip Hop school in upstate New York, Ace enrolls, which leads to his break up with his girl, played by Jean Grae. "Hold U" is the metaphoric love tale between Ace and Grae that utilizes a magnificent soulful sample by none other than Ayatollah. Eventually Ace heads up to his school in order to change his life around, and ends up rooming with a "token white Hip Hop fan" played by MC Paul Barman. The two have a humorous relationship together which leads to songs such as, the Brooklyn anthem "Take A Walk" and the fiery diss track "Acknowledge", where Ace rips apart The High & Mighty (which has been cleared up between the two) along with the Boogieman.
The album continues on from there, with many hit or miss tracks such as "Enuff", "Alphabet Soup" and "Dear Yvette." Towards the end of the album, the story line slows down and fades into obscurity, making the album a little less consistent. Tracks like the reggae inspired "Every Other Day," and the over burdensome collaborations "I Like Dat" featuring Punch & Words, "P.T.A." featuring J-Ro & King T, and "Type I Hate" featuring Rah Digga & Leschea are all average tracks that suffer from less than stellar guest appearances.
But Ace rebounds nicely, especially when he opens up and gives us some really deep tracks such as "Dear Diary" and "No Regrets." On "Dear Diary" Ace plays the other side of the fence and looks at his career from a critic's point of view. "No Regrets" features Ace on a more positive note telling the world he truly has no regrets about his career. The story ends abruptly when Ace graduates from the university, and ends up starting his own record label, completing his mission to escape the rough streets he so longed to get out of.
Besides a few bumps in the road, "Disposable Arts" is a superb album. There are a couple of joints that are unnecessarily thrown in and take away from the flow of the album, but these mistakes are slight in comparison to the overall picture. The production is rock solid and really provides Ace with the tools necessary to succeed on the album. Lyrically Ace is still able to deliver in more ways than one. His variety in topics help broaden the album's horizon, and provide it as entertaining, rather than most albums these days which become very dull and repetitive over time. While most emcees falter in their later years, Ace proves that age isn't a barrier. "Disposable Arts" is definitely one of the best underground albums of 2001, and should be picked up by every Hip-Hop fan. Support a man who has put his heart and soul into his music for over a decade, and truly epitomizes what an emcee should be.