MASTA ACE with PunchLine , Theology 3 and DJs Serious , Big Jacks and Taktiks at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Friday (January 28). 19+. $20. 416-466-0313, www.mastaace.com. Rating: NNNNN
Considering that many hiphop artists aren't around long enough to worry about a sophomore album jinx, the 16 years that Brownsville badass Masta Ace has been bangin' his brand of Brooklyn bass is an underground career run he can boast about.
In rock 'n' roll terms, it may not be Rolling Stones-type longevity, but it's at least AC/DC numbers, and fans of Masta Ace's truth-telling rhymes are every bit as loyal. His importance to the hiphop community can't be measured in terms of units shifted. So even though Masta Ace's Long Hot Summer (M3) didn't break any sales records, the news that it would be his final solo release was tough to swallow, particularly for Toronto producers - namely Saukrates, DJ Serious and Marco Polo - who've benefited from Masta Ace rhyming over their beats. After the current tour, Masta Ace will make running the M3 label his full-time job.
"People have been throwing around the word retirement," sniffs Ace from his Brooklyn home, "but I'd call it more of a career adjustment. I'm really just changing my focus and expanding on what I do.
"In the mid-90s I had a chance to do the artist-run label thing that people are doing right now, and in a way I regret not pursuing it back then, but I've always been more successful when concentrating on one thing at a time."
So why make the move now? Some might point to the similar "career adjustment" of rapper-turned-executive Jay-Z or the increasing irrelevance of major labels as influential factors. According to Masta Ace, there were much more personal reasons behind his decision.
"The birth of my daughter late last year was an important part of it. Having another mouth to feed made me look at doing things on a much larger scale. Yet at the same time, I wanted to be able to spend more time at home, which meant getting off the road and putting my energy into getting the label off the ground and making it a successful enterprise."
First out on the label will be Strickland, whose album will drop later this year. Masta Ace says another interesting project is in the works, but he won't talk about the details yet. All he'll say is, "We're putting tracks together for it right now, and it's gonna be crazy!"
He intends to continue touring behind A Long Hot Summer for the rest of 2005, and while he has no immediate plans to return to the studio, he hasn't discounted the possibility of guest cameo appearances or performances at one-off events.
"I'm still down for collaborations. Actually, I just did a track with your boy Serious for his new album and I'll still keep writing rhymes - that's never gonna stop. As far as this 'final tour' thing goes, I guess it's a good marketing strategy, but I'll be on the road until 2006 with this record, and probably after. If the demand for shows is there, I'll do 'em."