Real heads know exactly why this album is a classic a deserves to be revisited and exactly what impact it had on the hip hop landscape. 2001 was a big year for rap with both Nas & Jay Z dropping albums (so did KRS-One, Beanie Sigel, De La Soul and others), but it was the release from one of the flagship members of the legendary and iconic ‘Juice Crew’ that really made an impact at street level.
‘Disposable Arts’ was a long awaited release. Masta Ace hadn’t dropped anything since his 1995 release ‘Sittin On Chrome’ so fans were really ready of a dose of real rap from the Ace. From the get-go, you could tell Masta Ace was back and sharper than ever. ‘Too Long’ captured the sentiments of hip hop fans everywhere and was a great way to set the scene (after ‘The Release’ intro) for this epic ‘concept album’ that follows our man from his release from jail to his attendance at the University of Disposable Arts.
This ‘concept’ is brilliantly executed and Masta Ace puts himself in the position to make one of the best hip hop records of all time. He is a crafty story teller who spits wise and intelligent lyrics without sacrificing the style or quality of a song. Plenty of emcees since, probably ones you know and love like Eminem, have obviously studied Ace and his ability to paint verbal pictures, while also having a commanding knowledge of the English language and how to make it as agile as required. ‘Dear Diary’ is a perfect example of the honesty portrayed by Ace as he speaks on his own limitations in an inspiring self-reflection.
Another brilliant aspect of the album is the careful and clever use of features. In the modern game, albums tend to be heavy on the features – sometimes to the detriment of the emcees and the overall product – but Ace gets it just right. He brings out a diverse range of emcees – all of whom are handpicked to help deliver the overall album and their particular place within it. Outsidaz Young Zee and Strick, Rah Digga, Jane Doe, Jean Grae, Punch & Words, J-Ro (the Alkaholiks) and King Tee, Greg Nice, Leschea and Mr. Lee Gee all feature on the album and play a key role in the narrative. They also hold their own against one of the better lyricists of all time.
So, with an album like this, it’s always hard to pick highlights – not just because all the elements essentially intertwine, but also because it is just so fantastic from start to finish. The production is impeccable and Mast Ace attacks each and every track with such energy that you are fully committed to each line. If I was to pick a few favourites, I have to admit that joints like ‘Take A Walk’, ‘Dear Diary’ and ‘Enuff’ are up there – but in reality is a flawless album. The very fact that we can listen to this today and it’s relevant speaks volumes, but also how we can still compare modern emcees and see just how Masta Ace and this album influenced them makes it a staple in the Hip Hop Hall of Fame.