Friday, July 24, 2015

Hip Hop Nostalgia 101, Session 45: Masta Ace's "Take A Look Around" (1990)

This session will come verbatim from the first part of my Masta Ace project from 11/20/2012. Any new/updated comments throughout the session will be in bold.


As of this (first) post, I currently have 7 favorite MCs of all time (and the last 3 slots are STILL open), and I recently gave Masta Ace the 6th slot, respectively. (Those 3 slots have been occupied since, lol, with #8 going to Big Daddy Kane, #9 being Redman and KRS-One rounding out things out at #10.) Beginning with part one of this project, I'm going to dissect Ace's debut and the rest of his discography, showing my support and appreciation of one of the most underrated and slept on artists in hip hop history. And yes, expect Nas and Jay-Z projects too! (In addition to the Full Nas and Jay-Z projects, you can go through the archives to check out the Masta Ace project as well, probably my most popular one.)

With the exception of four songs, this entire album was produced by Marley Marl.


Release date- July 24, 1990



1. "Music Man"
Sample check



"I'm here to reach the youth/The only way that I can to that is to teach the truth, so I do."
 
Ace is a "music man", and that's evident with this good opener. (Marley essentially used the "Nothing is the Same" instrumental courtesy of Grand Funk Railroad, with a hip hop twist of course.)
Grade- A


 

2. "I Got Ta"
 Produced By: Mister Cee

Sample check
 
Ace runs down a long list of things he "gots to do" over a nice beat with a James Brown sample, including having mustard on his hot dog, lol.
Grade- B+


 

3. "Letter To The Better (Remix)"

Nothing special on this one, but not skip worthy. (Ace does show and prove on said "letter", ranging from aggression to dropping knowledge to professing his skills on the mic all at the same time.)
*Grade- B

4. "Me & The Biz"




Sample check
 
Apparently Biz Markie was unable to make it to the studio for this session, so Ace ended up doing Biz' role as well as his own verses to very good and creative results in this tribute to a fellow labelmate. (Lots of points for sheer creativity, as well as Marley's dope use of Cymande's "The Message".)
*Grade- A+


  
 
5. "The Other Side of Town"
Sample check #1

  
Sample check #2

Sample check #3
 
We get one of the first looks at Ace's (early) storytelling prowess on this apply titled song. (Complete with more effective sampling. Excellent song right here, one that you may have to take your time with just a bit.) 
*Grade- A


 

6. "Ace iz Wild"

Sample check
 
Although Ace doesn't go wild on this track, it's still a good one. (This is one of my favorite songs on the album. Lyrically Ace may be wild, but he's still relatively calm, confident and smooth with it.) 
*Grade- A


 

7. "Four Minus Three"

Sample check
 
(I bet 25 years after the release of this album and 27 years after the release of hip hop's greatest posse cut ever, "The Symphony", most probably still don't know that Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle" was sampled by Marley in the dopest way possible.) Without Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, and Craig G, Ace delivers a freestyle over the classic "Symphony" beat. (It does come off as a freestyle, and whether that was the case or not, it's still funky!)
*Grade- A+



8. "Can't Stop The Bumrush" 
Produced By: Mister Cee

Sample check
   

Mister Cee is behind another very good track, which is almost uptempo and of course Ace keeps up with the beat like only he can. You can't stop this lyrical bumrush. (I also liked how Little Royal & the Swingmasters' "Razor Blade" was slowed down for the sample. Very good stuff here.)
*Grade- B+


 
9. "Movin On"

This is almost like a reflection on life in the past type song, but the message is clear. 
*Grade- A


 

10. "Brooklyn Battles"

Sample check
 
In what was likely a frequent occurrence at the time, Ace talks about some of the fights in Brooklyn in a story form. (Revisiting this, I feel Ace is talking about more things taking place in Brooklyn at the time, but not just fights, leading me to believe that there's a double meaning in this song, or it could be I'm just over-analyzing it. Either way, another very good song.)
*Grade- B+




11. "Maybe Next Time"

Over a nice Stephanie Mills sample, this is another song where the message is clear: maybe next time, what you attempted before, you'll be successful in it. 
*Grade- A




12. "Postin High" 
Produced By: Mister Cee
 
Sample check
 
 
We get a third very good Mister Cee track, this one with a feel good, old school vibe (featuring a WELL worked sample courtesy of The Crusaders' "Street Life"), even if it doesn't match the theme of the song. (It matches, lol.)
*Grade- A


 

13. "As I Reminisce"
 Featuring Eyceurokk
Produced By Mister Cee

Sample check #1

Sample check #2
 
Although I tend to like songs where the artists talks about happenings back in the day, this one is decent, nothing more, and again, Mister Cee's beat is nice. (Um, was I occupied with something else when I did my post back in November 2012, lol?? Seriously, saying this one was decent, nothing more, that's crazy. This song is great, featuring the artists doing a song I love, especially when done right: reminiscing about the good ol' days with total nostalgia.)
*Grade- A+




14. "Take A Look Around"

Sample check

This is a deep, spoken work by Ace. 
*Grade- A


 

15. "Together"
Sample check

 
A positive way to close the album, as Ace touches on "getting things done if we pull together, even with a fork in the road".
Grade- A+


 


Initially I gave this album a solid 4 star rating, but I have to bump this up to a 4.5, mainly because I continue to like the album more and more with each listen over the years, plus it has grown on me a little more. (Yes indeed, this album has aged well and I still like it more and more with each listen). Very good debut. (This is a slight understatement. Not only has the album aged well, but most of the songs are truly reflective of the world today moreso than 1990, respectively.) And of course, mad props and respect to Ace, Marley, Mister Cee and all involved for this album. Salute!!!!!

Final Grade- A 

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