After releasing his solid debut album, Take A Look Around in 1990 on Cold Chillin’, Master Ace would regroup. Literally. He would leave Cold Chillin’ to sign with Delicious Vinyl, drop the “er” at the end of Master, replacing it with an “a” and bring together a few of his friends (Lord Digga, Paula Perry and Leschea), reemerging in ’93 as Masta Ace Incorporated and releasing their first project together, Slaughtahouse (you can read my thoughts on that album here). On Slaughtahouse, Ace would come with a harder sound than the soft puppet holding persona he was given, thanks to the video for “Me And The Biz”. Ace decided to remix the lead single from SlaughtaHouse, “Jeep Ass Niguh”, replacing the dusty boom-bap on the original mix with a shiny west coast influenced instrumental and renaming it “Born To Roll”. The remix would catch on and spread like wild fire, becoming Ace’s biggest hit and the inspiration for the next Masta Incorporated album, Sittin’ On Chrome.
Ace would produce most of Sittin’ On Chrome (under his producer pseudonym, Ase One) with some assistance from Uneek, the Bluez Bruthas and Louie Vega. The album would become Masta Ace’s most commercially successful album, but critics and fans were torn, as some hardcore east coast heads felt Ace was dumbing down his style and using a west coast production sound just to gain commercial success.
Through the years, Ace himself as often called Sittin’ On Chrome his “compromise” album, as he was trying to give the label what they wanted and still stay somewhat true to himself. Twenty-five years later, let’s see how he did balancing the two.
Intro – Sittin’ On Chrome opens with Masta Ace setting up the storyline that will playout through the album: His cousin Jerome (aka J-Dog) flies to New York from South Central L.A. to spend the summer with him. Ace acknowledges the differences in their styles and mentalities, but also recognizes how they can learn from one another, bettering each other in the process. The storyline is a larger metaphor for Masta Ace Incorporated’s East coast swag over heavily West Coast flavored production that you’ll hear throughout this album. The Bluez Bruthas vibrating bass line placed underneath the perfect sprinklage of milky keys makes for a dope instrumental for the opening scene of Ace’s latest movie.
The I.N.C. Ride – This was the first single from Sittin’ On Chrome (I know “Born To Roll” came out first, but I’m not counting that as a Sittin’ On Chrome single). Louie Vega (whose name has come across TimeIsIllmatic several times on past posts) concocts a smooth crispy clean instrumental built around an interpolation of the Isley Brothers’ classic “Living For The Love Of You”. Ace uses the smoothness to show he can still rhyme (“Chumps be all up on it, like a Charlotte Hornet, but they full of Chicago Bull shit, cause they don’t want…ooh, don’t let me sing, I’m peaking, freaking, get in that ass like a G-string”) and gets the listener ready to go on this musical ride with The I.N.C. This is a dope record that sounds even better when played while cruising on a beautiful summer day.
Eastbound – Ace lays down an ill instrumental built around a muddy and moody bass line and adds perfectly placed splashes of melodic chords (sounds like bells or a xylophone?) to it. Lord Digga spits his first verse of the evening in between Ace’s, while Leschea drops in to add a few adlibs. Solid rhymes and a bangin’ instrumental: that’s how I like my hip-hop.
What’s Going On! – This song starts with the first interlude of the night that has Ace trying to set up a double date for him and Jerome. Then the Bluez Bruthas drops a clean breezy west coastish instrumental (with a co-production credit going to Ace) that Ace blesses with his unique rhyming style.
The B-Side – Ironically, this was on the b-side of the “Born To Roll” single. Ace (who proudly proclaims “nobody’s got a flow that’s dumber than mine”) invites the whole INC to jump on this one, as they represent for Brooklyn over his ruggedly smooth backdrop.
Sittin’ On Chrome – Ace was definitely trying to recapture the magic from “Born To Roll” with this one, which becomes blatantly obvious as soon as you hear the buzzing bass line that sounds very similar to the one he used for his biggest hit. Ace definitely doesn’t spit his most profound lyrics on this one, but he rides the beat well and the instrumental is kind of a banger.
People In My Hood – Masta Ace takes us on a trip through his hood, introducing us to some of the colorful personalities and the drama that lives there. Ace’s longtime homie, Uneek hooks up a solid mid-tempo bop for him to drop his meatiest rhymes of the evening. This one sounds better today than it did back in ’95. The song ends with another Ace/Jerome skit that finds them on their double date with two ladies who are complaining about the music Ace is playing in his system. This sets up the next song…
Turn It Up – Leschea gets a solo joint to display her very average singing ability over Ace’s enjoyable instrumental (the Bluez Bruthas get a co-credit for the track). They kind of use a cheat code by sampling Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”, but its still dope. The song ends with a hi-larious cousin Jerome interlude that sets up the next song…
U Can’t Find Me – Ace builds this instrumental around an ill Kool & The Gang loop and turns it into a banger for himself and Lord Digga to exchange verses over. Ace’s instrumental is scrumptiously addictive. I’m serious, it’s that good.
Ain’t No Game – The whole crew is back for this one, with Ace, Digga and Paula spittn’ verses and Leschea singing on the hook. The rhymes were cool, but Ace’s boring instrumental almost made me hit the skip button.
Freestyle – This one starts out with a pretty funny Ace/Jerome interlude, then the Bluez Bruthas drop a thick bass line and a jazzy horn loop (complemented by a well-planted Queen Latifah vocal sample) for Ace to kick “freestyle” rhymes over. Our host doesn’t disappoint, as he displays clever wordplay and drops witty punchlines, rapping laps around the Bluez Bruthas decent backdrop.
Terror – This is probably my favorite song on Sittin’ On Chrome. Ace samples Hall & Oates “Sara Smile” for the backdrop and turns it into a soothing groove that he uses to talk his shit and flex his dope unorthodox style on: “It’s something of a phenomenon, like white lines, me and mines run thick like Heinz, ketchup, you can’t catch up, so play the rear, over there, it’s B-bass in your ear, and your eyes, so realize and recognize, a nigga dies, when we terrorize”. Terrorism never sounded so good.
Da Answer -Pleasantly melodic filler material.
4 Da Mind – Ace and Digga are joined by the Cella Dwellas (UG and Phantasm) on this cipher joint. Ace lays downs down a quality instrumental and actually gets out rapped by the Dwellas and Digga. Murdered on your own shit. It happens to the best of them from time to time.
Born To Roll – The song that fueled the existence of Sittin’ On Chrome. Like I mentioned in the opening of this post, this is a remix of “Jeep Ass Niguh” from SlaughtaHouse that Ace released as a standalone single in 1994. Ace uses the same rhymes, but changes the hook and replaces the dusty boom bap from the O.G mix with Miami inspired drums, a jazzy east coast horn sample, bells from Heaven and a killer buzzing west coast bass line. This is easily Ace’s biggest hit and it still sounds great after all these years.
The Phat Kat Ride – This is the remix to “The I.N.C. Ride”. Masta Ace cooks up a creamy smooth laid back instrumental, giving the lead single a completely different feel. I like the O.G. mix, but this remix feels way better.
Content wise, Sittin’ On Chrome lives up to the album cover: Ace and the INC celebrating fly rides and the boomin’ systems inside them. Musically, Ace and company put together a batch of west coast inspired instrumentals rooted in east coast boom bap (that Ace often referred to as Brooklyn bass music), which I feel makes up Ace’s best produced album to date (and that says a lot, considering his quality catalog). There are a few mediocre moments and the Jerome storyline ends kind of abruptly, but Sittin’ On Chrome is a great listen that has actually aged well. And it made me realize how much I miss Ace’s mid-nineties “dumb” flow.