Duval Clear (born December 4, 1966), known better by his stage name Masta Ace, is an American 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.
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Clear graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1988, after meeting Marley Marl in 1987 during his summer break. Ace made his recording debut as on the Hip Hop posse-cut "The Symphony", along with fellow Juice Crew members Craig G, Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane, released on Marley Marl's In Control album. The album also featured two additional Ace tracks, "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" and "Simon Says". In 1989, he released his first solo single, "Together" b/w "Letter to the Better". His debut album, Take a Look Around, was released through Marl's Cold Chillin' label in 1990, featuring production from Marl and DJ Mister Cee. The album featured two minor hit singles in "Music Man" and "Me & The Biz", the latter being a track with Ace's impersonation of Biz Markie, rather than a duet as previously thought the song would be.
In the early stages of his career, Masta Ace was very energetic (cf. "Jeep Ass Niguh", where, tongue-in-cheek, he taunts police officers for their knee-jerk predisposition to harass black youth on city streets.) He also recorded material with a six-member supporting entourage, Masta Ace Incorporated. In light of his newly claimed status as a veteran, he has gravitated toward an earnest, matter-of-fact plainspokenness in the new millennium. Many of the songs that have lent newfound heft to his reputation are simple, no-nonsense rumination on feelings and facts of urban American life, including "Soda and Soap" and "Beautiful".
During the years between his debut and his second album, Ace began having bitter feelings toward the commercial state of hip hop music, as well as the prominence of Gangsta rap, feelings which ruled the content on his second release, 1993's SlaughtaHouse, with the loose concept of the album seeing Ace taking the fake "gangsta emcees" to his "SlaughtaHouse". The album featured Ace's new crew, Masta Ace Incorporated, which included Eyceurokk, Lord Digga, Paula Perry and R&B vocalist Leschea. The singles "SlaughtaHouse", "Saturday Nite Live", "Style Wars" and "Jeep Ass Niguh" were taken from the album. The latter featured an unlisted remix titled "Born to Roll", which became a crossover single in 1994, peaking at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In the same year, Ace became a member of a temporary crew Crooklyn Dodgers, formed for the release of Spike Lee's movie, Crooklyn, along with MC's Special Ed and Buckshot of Black Moon, and recorded the title track of the album soundtrack. The song became Ace's second Hot 100 hit in 1994, peaking at #60 on the chart.
Ace furthered his mainstream appea in 1995, with his radio-friendly Sittin' on Chrome album. This effort was also released with the Masta Ace Incorporated crew, now also known as The I.N.C. The album was Ace's most commercially successful release, breaking into the Top 20 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. Sittin' On Chrome included "Born to Roll", as well as two other Hot 100 hit singles, "The I.N.C. Ride" and "Sittin' on Chrome". Following the album's success, Ace had a falling out with I.N.C. members Lord Digga and Paula Perry, leading to the breakup of the crew. After the split, Ace was largely missing from the hip hop scene over the next five years, save for a number of random vinyl singles. During his vinyl days, he bounced from a number of labels, releasing his "Cars" single on Tape Kingz Records, his "Yeah Yeah Yeah" and "NFL" singles on the Union Label, his "NY Confidential" single on Replay Records, his "Express Delivery" single on Three Sixty Records, his "Spread It Out/Hellbound" single on Yosumi Records, his "Conflict" single on Mona Records, his "Ghetto Like" single on Fat Beats, his "So Now U A MC" single on Bad Magic Records, and his "Brooklyn Blocks" single on Buckshot's Duck Down Records.
Ace's "Ghetto Like" single led to a misunderstanding with an underground emcee named Boogieman, who released a somewhat similar single titled "Ghetto Love" which was released on 420recordings not long before. He thought that Ace was "biting" his track and released a diss song toward Ace titled "Just You Wait". Ace responded to Boogieman on the diss track "Acknowledge", which also dissed The High & Mighty over a misunderstanding. The trading of records led to a rap battle between the two at a Lyricist Lounge event. "Acknowledge" was also included on "Disposable Arts." Masta Ace can also be found performing numerous "Dubtitled" voice overs on the television series titled "Kung Faux" seen in 150+ countries worldwide.
Disposable Arts became one of the most acclaimed underground hip hop releases of 2001, beloved for its pure hip hop style and clever album concept, which served as a fictional story, chronicling Ace's time spent at a satirical rap school named the "Institute of Disposable Arts". JCOR Records folded soon after the release, leaving it out-of-print, until being re-released in 2005 on Ace's self-established M3 label. The album closer, "No Regrets", led many fans to believe that it would be Ace's final album, because of the line "I don't know if it's the end, but yo, it might be". 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 protégé 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 2007, Masta Ace had a track included on the Official Joints mixtape, a compilation of previously unreleased tracks by various NYC rappers.
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.
In 2011 and in 2012 he coaches high school football for the Irvington Blue Knights in NJ.
In 2012, Masta Ace released "MA DOOM: Son Of Yvonne", produced entirely by MF DOOM. He is also set to release a 10th anniversary release of Disposable Arts, featuring new recordings of songs from the album with a live band The same site interviewed Masta Ace and he explained that Son of Yvonne helps him put across the things he didn't get to say to his mother before she died.
He is featured on a song off of album Protuotrov (antidote) by Bosnian rapper Frenkie, the song is called Živili (live on) featuring Masta Ace & Phat Philly and is produced by Edo Maajka.
He appeared on Czech hiphop group Prago Union's album "HDP", where he performed on the track "Beat and I a já und ich" along with German rapper Dendemann.
He also appeared on Polish rap group Familia H.P. album "42" on the track "Born In New York".
In 2003 he appeared on the Swedish rapper Chords' track "Get u awn" with Punchline. The track is on the album "The garden around the mansion".
Masta Ace travelled to Australia in 2008 to record for the Funkoars track "This is How" which came off the album The Hangover. The track sampled parts of the Masta Ace's 2004 track "Good Ol' Love". The Funkoars have made several references to Masta Ace in their lyrics as well as using samples in other works.
He is also featured on the track "Sminke" by the critically acclaimed Norwegian Hip Hop band Karpe Diem. The title of the album is Aldri Solgt En Løgn (Never Sold a Lie). In English the word "Sminke" means makeup, and the song is about artists trading their image for what their record companies wants it to be.
In 2007, he appeared on Admit It, a song by Swiss hip hop group Nefew from their album Off the Cuff.
In 2010, he appeared on "Set You Free" along with Wordsworth, a track by UK hip hop DJ/Producer "Skitz" from his album "The Sticksman".
In 2010, he appeared on "You don't know about it" alongside M-Dot, a track by French hip hop DJ/Producer "DJ JEAN MARON" from his album "RUN MPC". It was the lead single of the album and received heavy radio rotations. (released on 12" and CD)
In 2012, he is featured on the track "Progression" by German DJ/Producer DJ Q-fingaz from his album "Qllection".
Masta Ace is considered to be a highly skilled and influential MC - music journalist Peter Shapiro describes him as "one of the great pure New York MCs", and Allmusic describes him as "truly an underappreciated rap veteran and underground luminary". Commenting on how Masta Ace is sometimes overlooked despite his skill, Rolling Stone says, "even the most avid fan of raw hip-hop lyricism can sometimes neglect to mention Masta Ace alongside hard-bitten champs such as Rakim, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and Kool G. Rap".Eminem mentions Masta Ace as one of his influences in his book 'The Way I Am', saying, "Masta Ace had amazing storytelling skills - his thoughts were so vivid".