Masta Ace & Pharoahe Monch Battle In A Fight For Life (Video)

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Masta Ace, the low-key overachiever, a stoic influence on the likes of Eminem, has been able to endure different eras without sacrificing style or flouting a fan-base determined to mature alongside his work, project by project, decade by decade. Earlier in the year, Ace followed up an emotionally charged “Tiny Desk” concert with a collaboration alongside beat-smith Marco Polo, the narrative-driven and drum-heavy, A Breukelen Story. That album, featuring Styles P, Elzhi, Lil Fame, and Pharoahe Monch, among others, was eventually named to one of Ambrosia For Heads‘ best of 2018.

I spoke with Ace at Passion Of Weiss shortly after the release of Breukelen. We explored his storied career— from Kangol-clad Juice Crew heydays with Biz Markie puppets, to taking a bite out of Delicious Vinyl with the bombastic, “Born To Roll (Remix).” Despite eras of Jeep beats and shiny suits, he pushed solo joints (Disposable Arts and more) as well as collabs (Arts & Entertainment) while dealing with health struggles unbeknownst to the public and even close friends. Says Ace, on his recent health: “I’m in the gym three or four days a week. A lot of cardio, a lot of movement, those are things that keep my body strong. It’s very strange because, with this disease, inactivity is the worst thing.”

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“The Fight Song” from A Breukelen Story is an intensely dark account of dealing with Multiple Sclerosis, on nurturing an aging body and listening to it, featuring blistering verses from the great Pharoahe Monch as an abusive personification of MS itself. “Never heard of me? You’ll listen, when I attack your spinal cord and weaken your immune system… I’m coming for all races and all rhymers / I’m jealous of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” bellows Monch in typical ferocious form. In an interview with AFH TV last Fall, Marco Polo explained tapping his frequent collaborator to play a role in a song. “That was a very intense record for both of us, especially Ace. We needed somebody to become Multiple Sclerosis. It’s not an easy task; you can’t just call up any MC and do that. It had to be somebody special that got it. I knew [that] Pharoahe right away, he’s gonna get it.” Masta Ace added, “I knew too.” Marco noted, “He became that.” In the conversation, Ace recalls being diagnosed in 2000. In the early years, he admitted “I didn’t make the connection between my diet and my well-being. Like most people don’t—it’s not taught.” After further research, Ace adjusted his diet by eliminating unhealthy and processed foods. In 2018, he stated, “I still have MS, and I know I still have it, ’cause there’s moments where I am reminded that I have it. But because of those diet changes and those dietary restrictions that I put on myself, I feel like it’s prolonged and extended my health and well-being far beyond [what was expected of me].”

Masta Ace is winning the fight. But it has not always been easy, and the odds were not in his favor. Premiering at Ambrosia For Heads, the video for “The Fight Song” takes this personal journey and puts it to graphic art. Pharoahe Monche plays a sadist that is torturing Masta Ace, who is tied to a chair and defenseless. Masked, the Organized Konfusion member delivers his bars with the same menacing approach that he used on another symbolic song, “Hate.” He is preying on the helpless. Just as he has done behind the scenes since 2000, Ace eventually gains the strength to fight back. Sequences about for the terror-dome show the MC building muscle, making changes, and training to conquer his oppressor. This is demonstrated through boxing. Marco Polo’s pounding drums and intricate accents capture the gravitas of one of the best songs on Breukelen Story, and one of the most personal songs of Ace’s 30-plus-year career.

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Fat Beats Records has released A Breukelen Story on CD as well as several different vinyl pressings, including collectors items.

The Masta Ace & Marco Polo interview is available at AFH TV, along with a Blackout TV interview. We are currently offering free 30-day trials.

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Additional Reporting by Jake Paine.