Masta Ace Premieres “Young Black Intelligent” & Champions The Art Of Storytelling (Audio)
This week (May 13), Masta Ace will release his fifth solo album, The Falling Season. Although the LP follows the conceptual storyline of 2012’s DOOM-supported MA_DOOM: Son Of Yvonne, it also reportedly also stands in the cult-championed lineage of 2001’s Disposable Arts and 2004’s Long Hot Summer. Released on Ace’s M3 imprint and produced entirely by Kic Beats, the album traces Ace’s Brooklyn, New York adolescence in the early 1980s, prior to his prominent Rap career and ties to the Juice Crew.
After releasing “Me and A.G.” last month, The eMC front-man showcases his latest single “Y.B.I.” with Ambrosia For Heads. An acronym for “Young Black Intelligent” (featuring the sounds of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble along with protégé Pav Bundy) Ace spoke with AFH about the song’s resonance, not just in recalling his own coming of age, but to the 2010s, amidst the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“I honestly didn’t look at the bigger picture when I was writing the song,” said Masta Ace, who is a graduate of the University Of Rhode Island. “It wasn’t until after it was completed and I played it for others that I started to realize the lyrics weren’t just about me. Many young people growing up in the ‘hood trying to balance who they wanna be and who they need to be to survive in their environment.” For those following Hip-Hop, Masta Ace is a symbol of intelligent-cool. Just as his rhymes are stuffed with literary tools, the writer has been a role-model for those staying informed on issues, self-awareness, and family.
In “Y.B.I.,” the MC narrator chronicles a day in the life as a teenaged young man. The lyrics reference desire for love and sex, alongside the pursuit of opportunity through education. Both of those themes are set against survival in the the streets, even for teens simply trying to get to school and fit in. Above all, like most kids, the song’s protagonist is navigating his way in the world, while still hoping to make those who raised him proud. Set against an evocative beat with brassy accents, the song captures a universal mood—applicable then and now, to Masta Ace and to us all.
As an adult, Masta Ace embraced a role as a mentor. Beyond his more than 25 years as a recording artist, the MC born Duval Clear has been a high-school football coach in New York City. “I tried to give bits and pieces of my journey to the young men I was mentoring,” he says of his great experience within the themes of “Y.B.I.” “Often times young people think adults are giving them advice from a vacuum. It’s not until they can hear specific stories of your personal challenges when you were their age that they begin to listen more carefully.” Stories, as it were, are at the center of Masta Ace’s music throughout the last 15 years.
Kic Beats, who has previously worked with artists such as KRS-One and Edo. G, created a canvas that inspired the onetime Masta Ace Incorporated leader. “Kic Beats did an absolutely brilliant job on the music. When I heard the horn section I knew bringing in some live horns would give the song a real musical lift,” Ace acknowledges of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s role. “I reached out to the incredible Hypnotic Brass Ensemble out of Chicago to lend their talents to the song. The triumphant horns brings the song even more to life.”
Just under 26 years after releasing Take A Look Around, Masta Ace is one Hip-Hop veteran who may be getting better through his years. He has been a documented influence upon Eminem (who later remixed an Ace legacy hit). Meanwhile, in the early 2000s, the New Yorker would mentor a crop of independent artists mentally and artistically. His own eMC group – which has included Wordsworth, Stricklin, and formerly Punchline – is a testament to Ace’s pivotal role in Hip-Hop. “I think my goal is to make the most heartfelt music I can. I want people to get a glimpse into who I was, who I am and who I am becoming,” he reveals. “My life story, everyone’s life story, has value. Our lives are important. Not just the most famous people have important lives. Everyone has a journey, everyone a story that’s worth telling.”
From challenging the sound of East Coast lyrical Hip-Hop in the mid-1990s to reinventing himself after the major-label system fallout in the early 2000s, to making light of a declining industry on The Show, Masta Ace’s story has always been intricate, driven by character and plot, for albums that are propelling and cohesive.