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  • SHOW REVIEW: Masta Ace at the Esplanada Hotel, Melbourne, Australia – June 11, 2013
  • 28Jun

    SHOW REVIEW: Masta Ace at the Esplanada Hotel, Melbourne, Australia – June 11, 2013

    Masta Ace

    It was a Tuesday night and the night steamrolled into being seemingly out of nowhere as we sat, sedentary and lazy in the winter chill, debating the worthiness of the pilgrimage “across the river” for a free Masta Ace show. Free shows are few and far between in this neck of the woods, so I guess the conversation was more about whether a hip hop show was a good idea in such close to proximity to emergency brain surgery. Yes really, brain surgery. Bleedy bleedy blood blood head staple stuff. The answer had to be yes, hand this old man his walking stick. The hour voyage accentuated other concerns – like what artist is going to start post midnight on a Tuesday during Melbourne winter. Strolling bayside we waved to the last tram of the night, strolling inside the venue we sighted Masta Ace dominating the stage wearing a backpack. “Dang, he’s on his way off into the night – this is the encore,” I think. We needn’t have worried. The Esplanade Hotel is kind enough to engage its patrons with a policy as follows: The main artist will never come on until the last public transport has ceased, thereby forcing you to stay and drink until close. Masta Ace spat one load of magnificent (sic) then undressed his back attached attire and settled for his set. We rejoiced with lemonades all round. So street.

    It had been a long break between me and hip hop, but I think we had missed each other. I’ll openly admit I don’t have a kosher memory of the show – I must pull that “Hey I have a giant hole in the side of my head” excuse. You know the one, you’ve all heard it before. But what follows is some of my recollections of this oh so durable master straight outta Brownsville. The backpacked lead off seemed to be a freestyle, and remarkable at that. Marco Polo served up a beat that was reminiscent of the killer repetition of Sittin’ On Chrome, a beat to which Ace excelled. We still thought he was leaving until he finished and introduced Polo and his talented stagemate Stricklin’ before quickly launching into a seamless trilogy of F.A.Y., Rap 2K1 and an opener I didn’t recognise (possibly the KMD reminiscent Me And My Gang). Real smooth opening. What followed was really touching though. If any of y’all reading this saw Stephen Colbert’s recent tribute to his mother on his show, move that to a hip hop setting and make it a prelude to Son of Yvonne from the recent Ma Doom: Son of Yvonne LP. “For my moms y’all”. That is a sweet, sweet loop, I can feel the sax reed bristling under the wordplay as I listen back now, and his tribute was worthy.

    These were the standout points to the show, the fiendishly dope beats that came along once in a while. Stricklin’ provided solid support onstage and even a track of his own, but much of the show’s success rested on Marco Polo’s beat selection. At other times, Masta seemed to be rappin just for the sake of it, it could be a little messy, and if not unplanned then at least haphazard. The dope beats, the party moments, the freestyles and Masta Ace’s anecdotes – these were the moments of lasting value, the moments that rose above to really impress. We were soon treated to a party moment, a karaoke sing along of hip hop classics. Sadly I was too busy singing along to remember anything beyond the engine engine number 9 routine. Strangely Masta Ace had whipped a pile of kids on a Tuesday night into enough of a fever to actually step towards that New York hip hop vibe that is usually sadly lacking down under. Stricklin’ added his tune I Be Damn, but not before another killer Ma Doom track – Nineteen Seventy Something. Masta Ace wowed us as introduction with another wonderful anecdote about his mother’s vinyl collection – how he would steal records away to spit over when his mother left for work.

    All in all, this was an impressive show – and all the more extraordinary being a freebie. Sure, there could have been some judicious editing of material for a snappier set, but I think everyone was pretty content when Ace started taking requests for the encore. In fact, folks were so damn loose as the end became nigh that my lemonade sobriety and the hole in my head compelled us to depart just as Masta Ace launched into his last number, aptly Enuff from Disposable Arts.

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