An early member of producer Marley Marl’s iconic Juice Crew, the Brooklyn-bred Masta Ace emerged shoulder-to-shoulder in the late-’80s with a host of iconic emcees, including Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Craig G and more. When Ace showed up at the Tiny Desk, he brought with him stripped-down versions of the concrete-shaking classics that built his legacy, backed by the impressive Lee Hogans & Pursuance band.
Watch him move the crowd with his biggest single, “Born To Roll,” from the 1993 album SlaughtaHouse, and introspect on a life lived in the public eye on “Story Of Me.”
In the elevator, minutes after wrapping, one of his bandmates noticed that he’d gotten a little emotional during the performance. Ace relayed that the intimacy of the Tiny Desk set had allowed him to hear anew the personal nature of the lyrics he’d shared about his late mother; a bittersweet nostalgia that’s palpable during his performance of “Son of Yvonne.”
It’s that ability — to realize the moment, and to wield it — that makes Ace resonate so readily, from ’80s Brooklyn to NPR.
“Son of Yvonne”
“Born To Roll/Jeep Ass Nig**”
“Story of Me”
Lee Hogans (trumpet), Anja-Christin Nielsen (trumpet), David Stolarz (keys), Jameison Ledonio (guitar), Rob Collazo (bass), James “Biscuit” Rouse (drums), Pearle Gates (guest vocalist), Masta Ace/Duvall Clear (lead emcee)
Producers: Abby O’Neill, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kara Frame, CJ Riculan, Dani Lyman; Production Assistant: Joshua Bote; Photo: Eslah Attar/NPR.
Watch more episodes of NPR’s Tiny Desk HERE