A Long Hot Summer by Masta Ace

Most of my albums of the year are ones where I’ve seen plenty of discussion about them on I Love Music – Streets, Big And Rich, Smile, Tom Waits, Dizzee and so on. I just did a search on this album title, and found no threads, and three single-digit-posts ones on the artiste.

He’s been around a long time, and it’s partly because he has announced that he isn’t making any more records that makes me want to mark this, but it’s mostly because I think this is a really tremendous album. It’s one of the most lyrically interesting hip hop albums I’ve heard in a long time – mature and intelligent in ways that don’t lose strength and freshness, thoughtful and rather wistful, lovely and tuneful but with musical muscle backing it up – it sort of puts me in mind of the Wu if the RZA were looking for beauty rather than sinister force in his music, if you can imagine such a thing. He also has terrific flow: his big influence on Eminem is well documented, though Eminem has I think surpassed him in this regard, but they aren’t far apart in style or standard, except Ace is much less of a comedian.

It’s the lyrics that are the great strength here, setting this above just about any genuine hip hop record this year (well, maybe excepting Ghostface’s Pretty Toney Album). It’s the words of a mature and honest man who’s been at this for a long time, fairly successfully without ever being a superstar, and wants to tell us all about it, a kind of musical autobiography that seems to be saying a lot of new things, while not abandoning the staples of hip hop, the girls and money and bragging and so on. It’s full of strong and original rhymes. I’m sure it’s one of the albums of 2004 that I’ll be going back to regularly in years to come.