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Masta Ace's 'The Falling Season' | NAS

Hip hop is an oversized music; part of what makes it so great is the exaggeration, the outlandish claims by emcees of supernatural powers, ridiculous braggadocio and the pulp-like caricature of its villains. So it’s rare to find an artist who is skilled at making hip hop smaller, who can turn the arena filled with thousands of people into a room with just the emcee and you. On the 2016 ‘The Falling Season’, Masta Ace does just that through a beautifully crafted concept album that traces the path of a young man switching high schools in the early ‘80s.

The album has the big moments, too, but there’s always a tenderness and the tone of a kid who’s trying on clothes too big for him just yet. One of the most striking moments happens in the song ‘Young Black Intelligent’, where Ace, as the main character, describes an interior life that rarely gets to take the stage in most hip hop:

It should be unremarkable that young black men have this kind of interiority, but American racism in 2017 is a remarkable technology, and one that makes this kind of small hip hop even more important.