Masta Ace life and biography

Masta Ace picture, image, poster

Masta Ace biography

Date of birth : 1966-12-04
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-12-13
Credited as : Rapper, member of Juice Crew, eMC band

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Duval Clear, known better by his stage name Masta Ace, is a rapper from Brownsville, Brooklyn. He appeared on the classic 1988 Juice Crew posse cut "The Symphony". He is noted for his high level of rapping skill and for influencing other MCs, including Eminem.

The career of rap star Masta Ace has nearly spanned the life of the mainstream American hip-hop movement. With his streetwise wordplay, deep bass beat, and lyrics about ghetto life, Masta Ace is an East Coast rapper whose audience has spread to the West Coast and Europe. Early in his career, he was a member of the legendary Juice Crew--a late-1980s hip-hop "posse" that included such artists as Marley Marl, MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane, and Biz Markie. Although he grew disillusioned with the music business and took a three-year break from recording in the late 1990s, Masta Ace returned with 2001's full-length album Disposable Arts, and remains a major presence in the world of hip-hop.

Born Duval Clear and raised by a hard-working single mother, Masta Ace grew up in the Brownsville projects of Brooklyn. In the late 1970s he joined a deejay crew; by the early to mid-1980s, Masta Ace told Underground Sound magazine online, he was "poppin' and electric boogie dancing, and writing graf[fiti].... I started writing my first rhymes probably in 1978 or '79."

Masta Ace got his big break in 1987, when he won first prize in a rap contest: six hours in the studio of hip-hop star Marley Marl. At the time, he was on summer break from the University of Rhode Island, from which he graduated with a degree in marketing in 1988. It was a year after the rap contest that Masta Ace took his turn at Marley Marl's studio. After proving his mettle, Marley Marl invited the young rapper to participate in his first compilation, 1988's Marley Marl's in Control, Vol. I. The album included two songs by Masta Ace: "Simon Says" and "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize," which also appeared on Masta Ace's debut double A-sided single. Also on the album is the multi-artist track "The Symphony, Part 1," in which Masta Ace raps alongside Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, and Craig G. "The only reason I was even on "The Symphony" was because MC Shan backed out at the last minute, not wanting to 'play himself' by being on a song with a bunch of new cats," Masta Ace told Underground Sound. "I was only there at the session to observe.... It's funny because I could have easily not been there that day ... it was pure luck ... or fate."

In Control-- and especially "The Symphony"--garnered rave reviews; for Masta Ace, the album earned him membership in Marley Marl's legendary Juice Crew--a posse of rappers including Biz Markie, Roxanne Shante, and others. The album was also a stepping-stone to a successful recording career. Soon after the release, Masta Ace signed a contract with Cold Chillin' Records, Marley Marl's New York City label, and recorded his debut LP, 1990's Take a Look Around. Although the LP included the hit song "Me and the Biz," which led to Masta Ace's first music video, the Cold Chillin' label did not give priority to the album's promotion.

Take a Look Around was not a commercial success, and for three years after its release, little was heard from Masta Ace. The rapper quietly changed labels, signing with Los Angeles-based Delicious Vinyl, and teamed up with the group Brand New Heavies to record a track on their 1992 album Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. I.

Not until 1993 did Masta Ace--now billed as the trio Masta Ace Incorporated, with Lord Digga and Paula Perry--released his second full-length LP, Slaughtahouse. Previously considered an East Coast rapper, with this new album he entered new terrain, fusing West Coast sound with an East Coast sensibility. Included was the hit "Born to Roll," which brought the album into the national spotlight. "With the success of 'Born to Roll,' a whole new audience discovered me for the first time," Masta Ace told iMusic Urban Showcase, noting that he called his signature sound "Brooklyn bass music."

In 1994 Masta Ace teamed up with Special Ed and Buckshot to record the title track to filmmaker Spike Lee's Crooklyn. The following year, the release of Sittin' on Chrome kept him in the hip-hop spotlight. The album, with help from hip-hop artists Leschea and the Cella Dwellas, included the hit "The INC Ride," a song about cruising in cars, which wove in samplings from the Isley Brothers' "For the Love of You." Masta Ace told iMusic Urban Showcase he hoped the song would promote cruising as "just a thing for kids to do that's fun and nonviolent.... Much of the current 'staying real' talk in hip-hop has to do with rapping about such negative things as blunts, 40s, and guns," the rap star continued. "That's not for me. If the masses of hip-hop are saying one thing, I'm pretty much the type of person who goes in the other direction."

After Sittin' on Chrome, however, Masta Ace split from the Delicious Vinyl label and spent the next few years producing projects for his Incorporated artists Leschea and Paula Perry. He also started his own street promotions company. Meanwhile, he took a break from recording full-length albums, and released only the occasional single. "I had no intention of putting out another album," Masta Ace told Underground Sound. "I began to hate the industry and the politics. I had a whole album, two years' worth of work, get shelved by Big Beat and I was not interested in recording for another label ever again."

Yet, he did. After a very successful European tour in October of 2000, with club shows in Germany, England, Scotland, Italy, and Switzerland, Masta Ace returned to the United States ready to make another album. "Most artists feel like if they can't shine here in the U.S., then they don't want to shine," he told Evil Monito online magazine. "I didn't feel that way." He signed with JCOR Records, which let him create a record on his own terms, and in 2001 he released Disposable Arts. The album includes Masta Ace's signature observations of ghetto life, but also takes a hard look at the world of hip-hop and the need for songs about more than the pursuit of diamonds and expensive cars. "I feel like the average hip-hop fan is not well-rounded at all," Masta Ace told after the release of Disposable Arts. "Their musical diet is not a balanced one.... My job in this is to be one of the providers of balance."

Ace killed the rumors by returning in 2004 with his fifth album A Long Hot Summer, another highly acclaimed effort. The story concept, similar to that on his last release, served as a prelude to the story told on Disposable Arts, chronicling the "Long Hot Summer" that led to his character's incarceration at the beginning of the Disposable Arts album. Rumors once again spread about a retirement, which were again squashed, when Ace announced the formation of his new rap crew named eMC, including himself, Punchline, Wordsworth and his protege Strick. Ace remarked in a December 2006 interview that he would no longer record as a solo artist, only with eMC. eMC's first group album, The Show, was scheduled for early 2007 but was released in February 2008 digitally and April 2008 physically.

In 2009, Masta Ace joined forces with Boston rapper Edo G to release Arts & Entertainment which was released on November 3, 2009. Arts & Entertainment got shortened to A&E which resulted in the cable TV channel A&E asking Masta and Edo to remove the symbol from their original album artwork. The albums already printed have been sold at live shows following the release of the record.

Take a Look Around (1990)
SlaughtaHouse with Masta Ace Incorporated (1993)
Sittin' on Chrome with Masta Ace Incorporated (1995)
Disposable Arts (2001)
A Long Hot Summer (2004)
The Show with eMC (2008)
Arts & Entertainment with Edo G (2009)
MA Doom: Son of Yvonne with MF Doom (2012)

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