Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Masta Ace - Hits U Did & Didn't Miss

So, if you didn't already know, Master Ace has been selling a line of CD-R compilations for a couple years now called Hits U Missed. Apparently the original dates as far back as 2004; If I remember right, Sandbox had it for a while. Well, there's six volumes now, and at one point you could order them directly from him on his Twitter (not sure if that's still the case). The idea is that they're his rarities that you probably missed. I remember initially checking out the first volume's track listing for anything unreleased, seeing it was all stuff I already had, and passing on it. I'm not knocking 'em, they were fine for younger heads or fans who weren't plugged into the scene enough to cop his indie and vinyl-only stuff back in the day. But the Shelf Life series were much more my speed; plus they were proper vinyl releases, not just some home-made burned CDs.

Fast forward to today. VinylDigital (an online store that also presses some original vinyl releases) is reissuing Hits U Missed and Hits U Missed Vol 2 on vinyl. But if you look closely, they're Hits U Missed Select Cuts. And that's fine. You obviously can't cram as much music on a single LP as you can on a CD-R, and frankly, I wouldn't miss [get it? eh eh?] a couple songs I already owned on vinyl anyway. My only question was: is there anything actually unreleased on there? And the answer turns out to be yes! So it was time to cop the vinyl and break it all down for you guys here because it's a lot to sort through.

Vol. 1 the CD has fifteen tracks; and the LP has twelve. So that's not a lot missing at all for "Select Cuts," right? Just three songs. But it gets more complicated because it's not a straight port of the CD to the LP. If that were the case, there wouldn't be anything unreleased, because remember the whole reason I passed over it in the first place was because Vol. 1 the CD had no unreleased songs. No, the LP has preserved the bulk of the CD, but besides losing three tracks, it's made substitutions. So, to be clear, the LP is missing seven tracks that were on the CD: "Top Ten List," "Last Bref," "Observations," "Outcome," "Maintain," "NY Confidential" and "Ya Hardcore."

I'm one hundred percent A-OK with that, since anybody who's a serious enough Ace fan to be buying a limited import vinyl LP of rarities surely already had all that stuff, which for the most part wasn't, after all, as limited or hard to find as this compilation is. We're not talking about a big, Sony release that people will be stumbling upon in Walmarts and ITunes across the land. And if you have fifteen tracks and take away seven, that means you have to four more to get back to the LP's twelve. And the added stuff is what we're the goodies come in.

So these new, sub-in tracks come from the Hits U Missed Vol. 2 & 3 CD-Rs. There's actually just one song from Vol. 2: We Got It Done." And the three from Vol. 3 are "3Sum," "Ghetto Ghetto" and "NFL." One of them, "3Sum," isn't so unreleased - it's a 12" single he put out with J-Love. But the other three are genuinely, previously unreleased: "Ghetto Ghetto" and "We Got It Done" featuring Joe Buhdha and Strick. "We Got It" has them kicking some sick battle rhymes with a slow, rhythmic delivery over a smooth, boom bap beat, and "Ghetto Ghetto" is more playful freestyle rhymes (i.e. rhyming Barney Miller with Phyllis Diller and Godzilla) over a low-key track. And if you're thinking, Werner, "NFL" isn't unreleased; it's another J-Love 12" single. That's true; I've got it. But this is an unreleased remix by Saukrates. It's a cooler, jazzier mix with a dominant piano loop, that feels especially poignant as he nears the conclusion of the narrative at the end of the song.

Still, are two unreleased songs and a remix kind of slim to buy a whole album for? Well, you're gonna like Select Cuts Vol. 2 a lot better. It's not connected to the Vol. 2 CD. I mean, not a single track from Vol. 2 the CD is on Vol. 2 the LP. It's mostly selections from Vol. 4 and 5 (six from 5 and five from 4, if you're keeping score), with one cut a piece also coming from Vol. 3 and 6. And it's almost ALL unreleased. Now, granted, Vol. 4 was the freestyle collection and 5 was the collection of original mixes of released songs ("Pre-Mixes"). So a bunch of it is remixes and freestyles.

So it's not all his absolute best work... "Brooklyn Masala," for example, was a kinda below average album track from Long Hot Summer; and hearing it here with a slightly different sample is just barely an improvement. But below average Master Ace is still better than most artists' best output, and this album is pretty strong all the way through. And we've heard almost none of it before. The only exception I noticed is "Give It To Me," his duet with Craig G taken from Craig's second album. It was featured on the "Pre-Mixes" CD, but it sounds exactly like what was on Craig's album to me.  Is there a slightly different snare or something low in the mix I'm not noticing or something? Maybe, but I figure it's just the same song, since, after all, the Hits U Missed series is full of songs that have been previously released.

If you're on the fence about getting these, or just one of these (i.e. Vol. 2 but skipping 1), the packaging may push you over the line. Both come in really cool, dark picture covers. Each volume is limited to 500 copies and comes with one half of the "mega poster," which I've pictured at the top of this post. It really is pretty large combined. And the sound quality's great, so it's even kinda neat to have the previously released songs compiled here with the exclusives. Personally, I was on the fence about Vol. 1 until I looked into Vol. 2 and decided: screw it, I'm getting both. And I imagine a lot of other heads will decide the same, so if you want this one, don't wait too long.

1 comment:

  1. Nice, Werner! The Masta Ace discography on your home page is pretty awesome, but I've always wondered why you never touched on the Hits U Missed series. I've never heard of that NFL remix, I'll have to check that out; anything by Ase One is mandatory listening. Thanks, bro.