Masta Ace Remembers Feeling Ostracized By His Native Brooklyn…& Other Personal Stories (Audio)
Masta Ace’s nearly 30-year career as a tremendously gifted MC has hit its rough patches along the way, but as his fans around the world are well aware, his resiliency and tenacity have allowed for his name to be continuously mentioned in conversations about great – even if underrated – lyricists. On this week’s episode of the Cipher, the immersive Hip-Hop focused podcast hosted by Shawn Setaro, Masta Ace (born Duval Clear) spent over an hour providing Heads with anecdotes about his joyful and painful memories involving his career, beginning with his early success with the Juice Crew’s “The Symphony,” to his acclaimed solo career, and to his contemporary standing in the industry, both at home in the U.S. and abroad in Europe.
Over the course of their conversation, the two touch upon everything from Ace’s unreleased music for Cold Chillin’ Records (21:30), working with Mr. Cee (17:15), his goals with his debut LP (12:20), his definition of “freestyling” (40:50), having to look for another job when he felt rapping wasn’t working out (44:20), his supposed beef with Onyx (28:00), pressure from his label to go R&B (45:30), why Disposable Arts is his most important album (50:10), the difference between American and European Hip-Hop promoters (51:50), and much more. While his sharing of personal feelings and vulnerabilities remains a theme present throughout the entire discussion, certain chapters allowed for heartfelt reflections on his own feelings of sadness around particular parts of his musical career that many Heads may not have heard before, including his frustration at feeling neglected by his hometown.
While discussing his 1995 album Sittin’ on Chrome, Ace remembers the negative reactions his East Coast fans were having, particularly surrounding the single “Born to Roll,” based on the fact that for many, the album sounded like he was a “West Coast sell-out.” “It was just trying to bring the coasts together…and hopefully there could be some cultural exchange between the two coasts,” he shares (31:25). “I was pretty much across the board embraced by the West Coast…and at the same time, in many ways, ostracized by my own hometown, you know, the East Coast in general.” As the conversation shifts to the post-East Coast/West Coast beef era in Hip-Hop, Ace mentions his frustrations that more contemporary artists were not chastised as heavily for embracing bi-coastal flavors in their music. Setaro mentions 50 Cent, who less than ten years after “Born to Roll” was released came out of New York City and released an album (Get Rich or Die Tryin’) in which the rapper admits his sounding Southern. “How did you feel when that started happening? ‘Cause that’s a template that you set in some ways,” Setaro asks (35:17). “I was happy for him. For me it was like ‘Oh, I was the West Coast sell-out but suddenly ten years later, sounding like another region is acceptable and as a result, successful for other artists.”
Listen to their entire interview here.