Masta Ace on Disposable Arts Getting the Deluxe Treatment
This week, Masta Ace's Disposable Arts, one of the most treasured rap albums of the 2000s, finally gets a long-awaited deluxe reissue treatment that brings us the out-of-print classic along with a documentary on its making featuring new interviews with all of the parties involved. One of rap's all time greatest comeback stories, the former Juice Crew member hadn't released an album in over a half-decade, but then, in October of 2001 dropped, a groundbreaking album that was part-memoir/ part-manifesto that, in the words of writer Andrew Noz, "sonned a whole generation of back-packers." To celebrate the occasion, we spoke to Masta Ace about the making of the album and how he feels about it today.
Courtesy of Below System Masta Ace
In 2001, Disposable Arts was your first album in since 1995's Sittin On Chrome. Was it much of a challenge getting back into the album writing groove?
It was, but what I did was around '99 and 2000, I did three or four one-off independent singles. I did a couple with J-Love, a couple with Jazzy Jeff, that's kind of how I got my feet wet. Those records are what got me going again as far as writing, being in the studio and finding my voice again.
That lead to Disposable Arts which was a concept album, a rarity in hip-hop. Did you always envision the project as having its story from the jump or did it come together while making it?
I definitely knew I wanted to make a concept record while making it because that's what I always did. Slaughterhouse, my second album, was a concept record. Sittin On Chrome was a concept record. To me, those records didn't go the full length of what I wanted to do, which was tell a full story from beginning to end within the context of an album. That was the new challenge for me, so I went into it trying to tie a story together for a full album and have it make sense.
Which is something you also did with Disposable Arts' prequel, A Long Hot Summer. In that regard, are you happy with how both of those albums came out?
Extremely happy. The most happy I've been with any project I've done within my record making career. Disposable was exactly the record I wanted to do with no outside info. You have to understand, when I was signed to Delicious Vinyl and, before that, Cold Chillin' Records, there was always other voices in my ear suggesting I try this or try that, which dilutes the creative process. When I went into Disposable, I told my creative partners that I don't want to hear from anybody. If you have a suggestion or idea, keep it to yourself. I'm not interested in anything anybody has to say. I might be thinking of it anyway, so just keep it to yourself. I wanted to go and do the exact record that I wanted to do, and they gave me that freedom so I have to give credit to them for knowing what I was doing and being the label behind it to not know what I was doing but let me do it and hope that it comes out good. That was a big risk on their part.
So you were the beginning and end of the creative control on that record?
The beginning and end. I sometimes refer to Sittin On Chrome as my "compromise album." When that record was done, Delicious Vinyl had really pushed me very strongly in the direction of that type of album. They wanted me to chase the success of my song "Born to Roll" which was a huge single for them and wanted me to follow that song up with an album that followed car culture, so I went into that album compromising all the way through.