Masta Ace, MA_DOOM: Son of Yvonne

Hua Hsu

By Hua Hsu

on 08.28.12 in Reviews
A nostalgic ode to his late mother

Of the many things a time-traveling, 1988 Juice Crew fan wouldn’t understand about contemporary hip-hop: How did Masta Ace end up with the steadiest, most interesting career? It’s no knock on Ace, but he never possessed the gusto of Kane, the goofy charisma of Biz, the sheer arrogance of Shan and Shante. Now entering his fourth decade as a recording artist, though, Ace has excelled in recent years at making thoughtful, well-crafted concept albums that are nostalgic but never backward. Disposable Arts (2001) tracked the day-to-day comeback of a young Brooklyn ex-con, while A Long Hot Summer (2004) detailed the summer-long rise of a scrappy, neighborhood rapper. For Son of Yvonne, Ace draws inspiration from his late mom, chronicling his adventures as a young kid (“D-Ski”) and her influence on his evolving character. The perspective telescopes back-and-forth, from ’70s-era tales (“Me and My Game”) to scraps of back-then, grown man retrospection — “Moms even had a box fulla 45s/ Put the needle down, yeah that sounds sorta live,” Ace recalls on “Nineteen Seventy Something.” “Outside with a curfew/ Got lessons on honesty and virtue/ And the people that’ll hurt you,” he raps on the affecting title track, a thank you of sorts for “mom’s intervention.” The beats will be familiar to fans of DOOM (formerly M.F. Doom), as they draw from his Special Herbs series. But what Ace does with them is a different kind of fantasy. “I be hopin’ that/ Maybe one day/ Them old clubs I used to go open back,” he raps on “Da’Pro,” and it’s a reminder that Son of Yvonne is for a certain kind of audience. “Want y’all to hear me loud and clear/ If you don’t care for the real shit then get outta here.”