Review: Masta Ace & MF Doom – MA_Doom: Son of Yvonne
Published on August 8th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
…on which Masta Ace takes us on a tour of his formative years set to a stellar selection of bold, warm and colourful beats courtesy of MF Doom’s Special Herbs series. They may be existing beats rather than freshly pressed material, but they supplement the air of fond nostalgia so perfectly that it’s almost jarring to imagine them being in any way different.
The album gets underway with a 12-year-old Ace introducing us to his “crib”, the centrepiece of which for him is his mother’s record collection; it is over these records that he harnesses the flow we hear today, but there are attendant dangers involved in furtively raiding this vinyl goldmine.
“Nineteen Seventy Something” is instantly likeable for its playfully inquisitive beat, and the deal is resoundingly sealed when Ace’s laid-back, friendly and expertly crafted rhymes name-check Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Curtis Mayfield on its way to telling the story of how he feared one scratched record resulting in his untimely demise at the hands of his indomitable, to whom he pays tribute in the ensuing title track (“All I do / I do it for you / It’s for all you did / When I was a kid”).
The glowing, heavy lounging “Son of Yvonne” also catches the ear for rhyming “ditching school” with “ritual”, not to mention the image of his grandmother sitting in a chair while he opens his Christmas presents to the strains of The Jackson 5’s version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. “I’m a bunch of things sewn together” attests Ace, “To make one man who’ll be known forever”. We can but hope, because this is wonderful fare, a benevolent embrace of an LP.
“Da’Pro” sees proceedings make a rare foray into the Big Issues (“Is this a racist nation? / Or is it just my imagination / Like the song that Smokey wrote?”) before declaring itself, with some justification, an antidote to today’s overly ostentatious hip-hop scene with “I be the gateway, you better know the fact / The way some believe that weed leads to the coke and crack / I’m-a take you onto harder shit / This is a starter kit / To bring back what’s dope in rap”). Lush string sample, too.
Ace introduces us one-by-one to the colourful characters that make up his circle of friends in the hilarious “Me and My Gang”, declaring over a funky descending piano line “We don’t want no trouble / We just came here to hang” and “No Bloods, no Crips / No guns, no clips / Just a bunch of fellas running off with their lips”. It’s good to hear, but you can’t help but wonder about the aptly-named Bud, who smokes “two blunts for breakfast” and drinks a “six-pack for lunch”. Might be an intervention required, there.
The joys keep on coming: the ultra-smooth, Pav Bundy-showcasing “Crush Hour” (“I just need to keep my eyes on the road / But I keep thinking about those caramel thighs à la mode”), the Big Daddy Kane-featuring “Think I Am”, the cautionary tale of “Slow Down” and the blissfully sun-drenched “Home Sweet Home” could all be stand-out tracks in their own right, but it is the spoken-word “Dedication” that truly brings the house down with a moving speech to his late mother, the titular Yvonne, delivered first by young Ace and then by modern-day Ace. You, er, might feel a bit of dust in your eye when you listen to this one.
“In Da Spot” leads us out in beautifully sleepy fashion, getting stuck into phony rappers and playing host to a contribution from Milani the Artist as it does, and the curtain is lowered with “Outtakes”, a bloopers reel culled from the album’s various amusing skits. Some might take issue with the lack of new Doom beats, but Rocksucker wouldn’t have MA_Doom: Son of Yvonne any other way.
A sublime listen from start to finish, then, and perhaps the finest album’s worth of peaceful, sepia-tinted hip-hop since Nia by Blackalicious.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!