Masta Ace is a master of cohesion. His last two solo projects, both critically acclaimed, featured a cohesive theme throughout and it has become his calling card of sorts. His latest offering, Ma DOOM: Son of Yvonne, is yet another example of how Ace can take a premise and create an album that carries a unified theme. The question is if this album could live up to the revered releases before it.
When Ace spoke with HipHopDX’s Paul W. Arnold in June, he explained the premise behind this album. “It’s dedicated to the person who as a single mom figured it out on her own,” he shared. “When I really looked back at what she pulled off it was pretty amazing.” In turn, Ace has pulled off his own work with Son of Yvonne, an ode to his mother that captures the vibe of the '70s and '80s clearly. The theme is kept through carefully worded skits (so as not to use modern vernacular) and beats that carry the Soul traditionally associated with the era of focus.
MF DOOM shares responsibility for some of this cohesion, as he is the sole producer on the album. Die-hard DOOM fans will be unimpressed at the lack of brand new beats, as Ace picked out DOOM instrumentals that some have previously been heard. Still, “Nineteen Seventy Something” is a standout, one that also features a Notorious B.I.G. vocal sample (hence the title). The Jazz-filled “Son of Yvonne” is perfect for Ace’s message about his mother. Later, “Fresh Fest” instantly seems to play DeLorean to the '80s with Ace’s lines about the storied Madison Square Garden concert. “I’m gonna be on that stage,” declares a young Ace.
Of course, the album is mainly predicated on Ace’s lyricism, which takes center stage. “Nineteen Seventy Something” tells an intriguing and often familiar tale of a young boy looking through his mother’s records before getting in trouble for his hijinks. Ace conveys this vividly, taking the listener into his apartment. “Son of Yvonne” also shares the bond he has with his mother with a touching dedication. Later, “Fresh Fest” is yet another glimpse into the mind of a young Ace. Sadly, this pretty much ends the theme lyrically, leaving the listener hoping for more tales of his mother’s influence and his childhood. Even so, his lyrics are mostly still solid, including rich storytelling on “Me & My Gang” and “Slow Down.” The album loses some steam on “Home Sweet Home” with a rather generic shout out to places he’s visited around the globe and the somewhat monotonous “I Did It.” Even with these minor setbacks, Ace’s lyrics and well-constructed thematic skits are enough to the keep the listener in tune throughout.
Overall, Son of Yvonne is an intriguing addition to Ace’s discography. Naysayers may gripe that the DOOM beats have been heard before. Other critics will complain about the concept of the album not being fully explored. Those are legitimate qualms, but the album does succeed in various other ways. Ace’s rhymes, his structures and his storytelling are all still sharp. Also, by matching his rhymes and skits with DOOM’s beats, he continues to show that he can create a cohesive piece of work with ease. Even if this one doesn’t quite measure up to the cohesion he has masterfully displayed in the past, it’s still one of the most solid releases of the year thus far.