- Masta Ace
- Disposable Arts
Few figures in hip-hop are the object of as much scorn, pity, and derision as the washed-up old-school rapper, still sporting thick gold chains and professing his lyrical superiority long after his time has passed. With a history that includes membership in the legendary Juice Crew, the classic singles "Born To Roll" and "Me And The Biz," a turn on "The Symphony," and most recently, a six-year hiatus between albums, Masta Ace knows that being old-school can be hazardous to a rapper's career. But instead of ignoring the threat of obsolescence in a genre with the collective memory of an ADD-addled infant, Ace has stared down his history and made it an overriding theme of Disposable Arts, his first disc since 1995's Sittin' On Chrome. Opening with Ace's release from lockdown, Disposable Arts follows Sticky Fingaz's similarly revelatory Black Trash: The Autobiography Of Kirk Jones in taking the form of a quasi-concept album detailing Ace's attempts to go straight following his incarceration. Masta Ace doesn't seem overly married to the concept, but he does take the opportunity to expound on everything from star-crossed relationships ("Hold U") to crime ("Unfriendly Game") to his stomping grounds of Brooklyn ("Take A Walk"). Also like Black Trash, Disposable Arts benefits from a fine supporting cast that includes reborn hook-master Greg Nice, Punch & Words, Jean Grae and Jane Doe as the women in Ace's life, and MC Paul Barman as his excitable roommate at The Institute Of Disposable Arts. The album starts off strong, drags a bit toward the end, and rebounds smashingly with "Dear Diary," a lacerated wallow in comic self-pity on par with Fatlip's "What's Up, Fatlip?" In it, Masta Ace peers into the void over an ironically chipper, retro folk-pop sample worthy of Dan The Automator, as he ponders his fate through a brutally honest interior monologue. This remarkable song, full of sadness and dark humor, is made all the more resonant by its position near the end of a disc that proves conclusively that Masta Ace is anything but washed-up.