Masta Ace Talks His Influence on Eminem and Successful Middle-Aged MCs
Dana Scott goes in depth with Masta Ace about career highs, influencing Eminem, and squashing a 20-year beef with...
Masta Ace (born Duval Clear) is a rapper from Brooklyn, NY, known for his storytelling capabilities and often heralded as one of the pioneers of New York hip-hop. He is also a member of the rap collective, eMC, formed in 2001 with Stricklin, Wordsworth, and Punchline. While attending college in the late ‘80s, Ace met Marley Marl, and was given the chance to rap on his 1988 song, “The Symphony.” The track also featured Juice Crew members Craig G, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane, and appeared on Marl's album In Control, along with two other songs that Ace was featured on. The following year, Masta Ace released his debut single, and in 1990, released his debut album, Take A Look Around via Marley Marl’s record label. The album was a moderate commercial success and well received within the hip-hop community, as it touched upon pertinent issues like conflict with urban youth, among others. His sophomore effort—1993’s Slaughtahouse—introduced his crew, Masta Ace Incorporated, which featured EyceUrokk, Lord Digga, Paula Perry, and Leschea. The album spawned Ace’s first Hot 100 hit, which was quickly followed up by a second Hot 100 hit when Ace did the title track of the album soundtrack for Spike Lee's Crooklyn with Special Ed and Buckshot that same year. Ace’s 1995 effort, Sittin' on Chrome, was his most commercially successful album to date, and included Masta Ace Incorporated (also known as The I.N.C.). However, the group went their separate ways following its release. Ace wouldn’t release another album for six years, though he did appear on numerous singles. To date, Masta Ace has released six solo albums, three albums as part of eMC, and one collaborative album with Ed O.G.
While MF DOOM (born Daniel Dumile) is highly regarded as one of the most inimitable figures in hip-hop, part of his legacy also lies within his collaborative work and in his eccentric half-dozen alter egos. Of those experimental projects, his partnership with Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) is one of the most celebrated. Their debut project, The Mouse and the Mask, was released to critical acclaim in 2005, utilizing the collective moniker DANGER DOOM. The project was released in the UK through Lex Records, as well as in the United States through punk label Epitaph Records, marking the latter imprint's third foray into hip-hop. Best known for his work with the Gorillaz, Beck, the Black Keys, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Grammy Award-winning producer Danger Mouse handled the instrumentation, while DOOM focused on the animated vocals and eccentric lyrical direction. For DANGER DOOM‘s debut, Danger Mouse chose to sample exclusively from various animated shows airing on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night programming block—with a handful of cartoon characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force making appearances on the album, in addition to the likes of Cee-Lo Green, Talib Kweli, and Ghostface Killah. With support from the network and famed comedian Dave Chappelle alike, the project was released in October 2005 and quickly became a cult fan favorite. While the album sparked several noteworthy talking points, MF DOOM's diss against his former collaborator, MF Grimm, undeniably stood out. The Monsta Island Czars (M.I.C.) member later responded with the track "Book of Daniel," during which he accused DOOM of selling out. With many hailing the seemingly unlikely pairing of MF DOOM and Danger Mouse as an undeniable success, DANGER DOOM delivered once again the following year, releasing their 2006 EP, Occult Hymn, exclusively though AdultSwim.com. Although DANGER DOOM has not reunited since 2006, their small-but-impactful body of work remains heralded as one of the most experimental and pleasantly absurdist collaborations to come out of the 2000s.