Masta Ace and Marco Polo affirm their place in Rap history with their new album, ‘Richmond Hill’.
Following up their acclaimed 2018 album ‘A Bruekelen Story’, the 18-track (including skits) ‘Richmond Hill’ is a cinematic journey that explores how the past echoes through the present.
Welcoming guest appearances from notable names from all eras of rap history, including Inspectah Deck, Coast Contra, Blu, Che Noir, Speech of Arrested Development, Masta Ace’s longtime collaborators Stricklin and Wordsworth, and many more, ‘Richmond Hill’ is available to stream on all digital platforms and to purchase on vinyl via Fat Beats.
Produced in full by Marco Polo, the new album continues where ‘A Bruekelen Story’ left off: while the prequel focused on Marco Polo’s life in the big city and his attempts to get into the rap game, ‘Richmond Hill’ is inspired by Marco’s childhood in the titular neighborhood, a small town in Ontario, just outside of Toronto.
Between interstitials about Marco’s passion for hip-hop and cartoons, his struggle with addiction, and the support of his parents, Marco Polo and Masta Ace tackle the issues of the day head-on with clarity, the rapper using his decades-worth of rapping experience to slice through the producer’s warm soul samples and crisp percussion.
“Ace and I are great partners because we each know our lane, but we’re not afraid to give each other feedback,” says Marco Polo. “I don’t always know which beats Ace is gonna like, but I know he’ll let me do my thing once he lays down his verse–if I need to fix a snare or boost a hi-hat. We’re both tinkerers, constantly remaking the songs over and over again until it gets to a state we’re both happy with.”
A veteran emcee who has been schooling fools since his days in The Juice Crew over three decades ago, Masta Ace’s pen remains as sharp as ever, as he methodically comments on how the rap game has changed.
Ace effortlessly spars with the Coast Contra crew in the invigorating “Certified”, tiptoeing atop Marco’s dissonant jazz attack.
“Hero” assembles an Avengers-like duo of Masta Ace and Inspectah Deck, who trade comic book metaphors over an instrumental that could have been a theme song from one of Marco’s childhood favorite cartoons.
On “Below The Clouds”, Marco Polo nods to Blu’s illustrious history, as Blu and Ace elucidate their dreams over a dreamily familiar sample.
Dueling atop Marco’s noirish flute-driven instrumental, Ace and guest Che Noir tackle the root of all evil, and how it creates an insatiable pit inside that can only be filled by greed.
Ace takes a critical look at the exploitative market for new and retro sneakers on “Jordan Theory”, and delivers some belated holiday cheer on the jaunty “All I Want”.
“I don’t decide on topics ahead of time,” explains Masta Ace. “The music dictates kind of what the song is going to be about. I usually ride with it, listen to it, extensively, and then somewhere in the process of those listens, the topic just appears and I just know ‘Okay, this is what this song is about.’ And then I write it accordingly. Often, I’m writing lyrics on my drives from New Jersey into the City. Most of the time Marco doesn’t know what the song is even about until I go in the booth and actually start recording verses. He’s actually in the dark completely. He’s like ‘Oh okay, let’s see what he’s going to do with this one.’ I think I surprise him most of the time.”
Home to the single, “Life Music” featuring Speech (of Arrested Development), Stricklin, and E Smitty, which dropped late in 2023 and arrived with a music video directed by Parris Stewart, ‘Richmond Hill’ is another essential chapter in the career of the decorated rapper and Juno Award nominated producer.