Friday, November 8, 2013

New. Essential Juice Crew History

Masta Ace's Shelf Life Vol. 2 has just landed from Chopped Herring; and I think it's even better than the first one! There's three more tracks from that second Cold Chillin' album that never happened, a super early demo track, a late 90's joint and another unreleased Take a Look Around instrumental.

The first track is called "Scared Of the Dark," and it just seems unbelievable to me that a song this well written could ever have been shelved in the first place. Granted, even back when this track would've come out initially, I think that break and bassline had been heard before. But it sounds fresh, and Ace specially sounds incredible on it. And lyrically, it's a concept I'm actually surprised ahs turned up in hip-hop more often than it has: "I often wonder when I sit up on the train, what makes a white man so scared of me?" And it's done in the style of a classic Ace internal narrative, where we hear it through the thoughts of a black man taking the train home after work one night.

Interestingly, it's produced by The Young Disciples. an R&B, new jack swing kinda group from the UK. The connection makes sense, though, when you realize Ace also appeared on their album in 1991. And anyway, "Scared Of the Dark" sounds nothing their stuff; I'm almost tempted to think CH got the credits wrong, switching their production credit with Outloud's, who's credited with the next song.

Outloud's the guy from Blahzay Blahzay, of course. And his track, "Younger Generation" starts out with a deep, kicking breakbeat. But then over that is more upbeat singing and instrumentation, including a scratched in reggae chorus. This really stands out as something different in Ace's catalog, but it's undeniably dope regardless. And Ace comes off as strong as ever, "trying to hold me back is gonna take more than just a nation."

What else is on here? There's a DJ cut by Steady Pace. DJ cuts have been much too few and far between in our generation. You know, those songs like "Touch of Jazz" or "DJ Premier In Deep Concentration," where the DJ is given a track all to himself to show and prove. If this had come out, I think Pace would've gotten a little more recognition than he has in his career. It's not a total instrumental, though; Ace does come on for a real short verse towards the end of the song. But since when is an extra Ace verse a bad thing?

Masta Ace self-produces a slower groove called "One Two, One Two." This is the late 90s tracks. 1997 places it in the stretch between Sittin' On Chrome and Disposable Arts. That "Top Ten List" period. It's really a shame he didn't drop a full-length then, because he seemed in a great, darker lyrically inclined mode at the time.

The Take a Look Around instrumental this time is for the "Brooklyn Battles," definitely an impressive production. PreCISE MC also flipped it on her album for the song "Don't Even." "Brooklyn Battles" had been released as a single (the B-side to "Letter To the Better"), but it only featured the same album version. Unfortunately, the version here is a Dub mix, not a true instrumental (which the label does accurately stipulate), where every other line of Ace's verse is on the track, and then the next is absent. So I don't know how much people will get out of that, definitely the weak spot of the EP for me; but here it is for those who want it.

However, I've saved the most exciting song for last: "Sold Out." This is an unreleased demo by Ace from 1987; making it Ace's oldest known recording. And hell yes, it is a Marley Marl production. It's a pretty hype, fast paced number - it sounds like, after the song was completely finished, they might've gone back and sped things up a bit more. It's got a nice, deep bassline and the kind of wonderful sparse horn stabs we love Marley for. It's also got an interesting use of skit-style dialogue mid-song, which you really wouldn't expect in a song as old as this. The whole EP is pretty great, but this song
flat out makes it essential, serious Juice Crew history right here.

Once again, this is limited to 300 and comes in a cool sticker cover. Actually, most Herring releases these days are pressed at 350; but for some reason this one's back to 300. And again, some of those 300 were also pressed on colored vinyl, which you only stood a chance at getting if you pre-ordered this literally within the first 15-20 minutes it was listed on the Herring website. Specifically, the first 75 were pressed on clear (clear) and purple vinyl, the second 75 are black and purple; and the other 150 are on your basic black wax. Whatever version you wind up copping, though, you should be thrilled to own this.

And to end on an even higher note, I'll just point out that Chopped Herring's site says, "Next Volume 3..........."


  1. Outload? Isn't Outloud the guy from Blahzay Blahzay?

  2. And who is Mastea Ace? :)

    One of the best limited releases of 2013!!