The Art Of Story Telling: Interview With Masta Ace
With age, comes the ability to fine-tune a skill. Masta Ace has been working on story telling since he debuted on Marley Marl’s “The Symphony.” In the past, Ace has released concept albums like Disposable Arts and A Long Hot Summer that feature the protagonist at a key moment in their life. Now with the release of MA_Doom:Son of Yvonne, it seems Ace is putting forth his apotheosis to lyrical story-telling. The collaborative album which acts as a memoir, is not only a gateway into Duval Clear’s youth, but also as a gift of gratitude to his late mother.
The Come Up: You’ve been a busy man as of late, MA_Doom released on iTunes on Tuesday, and you’ve performed two shows in Brooklyn, how does it feel to rock the mic in your hometown borough?
Masta Ace: I really don’t look forward to rocking in NYC most of the time. The venues are usually half full or worse, the crowd response is typically weak. That’s cause in Brooklyn that’s how we are. We don’t like giving it up too much. You damn near gotta set yourself on fire to get people interested. I think touring Europe, Canada, and Australia have spoiled me. I like sold out venues full of enthusiastic fans who know the words to my songs. But hey, that’s just me.
Were you able to check out Joey Bada$$ at Betsy Head Park? If so, what did you think of him?
I was not able to check him out unfortunately.
When you’re not touring or recording, what other things occupy your time?
My family. I have a wife and seven-year-old daughter and we like doing things together as a family. I also coach high school football in the fall. It’s something I love to do.
Are you still coaching at Canarsie High?
No, my last season there was 2010. I spent nine years there. I’m coaching in New Jersey now. Queen Latifah’s Alma Mata
Are there any similarities to the way you approach coaching to performing or writing lyrics? If so, how?
Just being prepared with a “game plan” before I step on stage or in the studio. I stick to that plan unless unexpected circumstances occur. Then I make adjustments accordingly.
What do you take more joy in, a fan saying listening to Masta Ace changed my life, or seeing one of your students succeed on and off the field? Why so?
That’s a difficult one. I love seeing a young person move on in life and reach his/her goals. There is no feeling like having a former player who I saw as a 9th grader, come back and update me on his life. I realize I have had a huge impact on many young men and have hopefully instilled good positive values in them. I think that is the biggest reward.
I know you’re a big Eagles fan, what are our expectations for them this upcoming season?
I expect Philly to be in the thick of things! Our division is not easy but that’s how you get better. Playing in wars every week. We are very talented, it’s time that talent play up to its potential. I hope [Michael] Vick gets back in the film room. I was disappointed in his play last season.
Alright, lets talk MA_Doom, the album has a sort of memoir vibe to it, why did you take that approach to that album?
I wanted to make an album for my mom. I wanted to honor her memory by putting her name in the title. It’s a form of therapy for me as I am still dealing with her unexpected death in 2005.
It’s also a ode to your mother, the cover has a motherly illustration on it, and you have tracks like “Son of Yvonne” and “Dedication” on the album, what did your mother mean to not only your rap career but also as becoming the person you are today?
My mom has had EVERYTHING to do with who I am. She stressed the importance of education, manners, responsibility, accountability, street smarts, and mental toughness when I was very young. Her vinyl collection provided the musical backdrop for my first 2 albums.
Why do you feel like now is the time to release an album like this?
I realize I may be in the twilight of my rap career. There is no telling how many records I will release in the future. I wanted to make a record that was important to me and gave insight into my life as a kid.
How do you think you’ve stayed relevant and survived in the music industry 24 years after you’ve rapped leadoff on “The Symphony?”
By being a fan of this music. I always seek out new artists and music to see what is hot! I study sounds, flows, and deliveries from other artists and decide what I like and don’t like. Being honest on records in an industry where rappers refuse to address their vulnerability, has also endeared me to a whole new generation of hip hop fans
Are there any new MCs that make you go “Wow” and make you pick up a pen after listening to them?
Everybody from Drake to Kanye West have motivated me lyrically.
Speaking of the new generation, I remember watching a clip of you saying that you don’t wear jewelry. Why not?
I said that??? When and what year?? I don’t wear it often but I have a few items. Nothing gaudy or overly flashy though cause that’s not my personality. I have nothing against jewelry, and my wife has enough of it to prove that.
With that in mind, how do you feel about some lyrics that over emphasize the idea of wealth and swag to the youth? I mean I believe things are getting out of control, with people paying three-grand for a pair of Yeezy sneakers.
It’s all fake! The idea that you need to rap about material items in order to be accepted is stupid. It has given birth to high school aged kids who live in two-bedroom apartments with their mothers, rappin’ about mansions and Maybachs. It’s ridiculous.
Last question, got any plans for the rest of the summer?
I have a few spot dates coming up and then mid-August I start coaching full time.