COMBINED FORCE: "We're two leaders who have had a lot of success on our own," says Edo G, "and here we're putting everything we've learned into one project that speaks volumes."
Del the Funky Homosapien and Tame One. Canibus and Keith Murray. AG and OC. Buckshot and KRS. Masta Ace and Edo G. These aren’t comments on a Facebook thread asking cats to wish together hip-hop dream duos. They’re real pairs of united legends who are giving disenchanted heads rousing and unprecedented reasons to put aside the throwbacks and, for a change, enjoy music recorded this millennium.
“It’s unreal that all of these projects are coming to fruition at the same time,” says Edo, whose spread with New York Juice Crew luminary Masta Ace, Arts & Entertainment, drops November 3, and who’ll be at Good Life with Ace next Thursday. “We’re all on the cusp of something big right now — and we all still have it. There are plenty of people who are anywhere from 25 to 50 who still like hip-hop but who don’t like bubblegum. They want to hear music they can relate to, and we’re servicing that need.”
Edo, of course, is Boston’s longest-running, best-known rapper (and its most commercially successful, too, unless you count Marky Mark). Like Ace — who forcibly resurged in 2001 with the concept opus Disposable Arts — Edo, as a solo artist and with larger outfits, has had stretches of acclaim and invisibility. Immediately prior to combining as the crew unofficially known as A&E (they were served a cease-and-desist letter by the cable station), each had successful group runs — Ace alongside Wordsworth, Punchline, and Stricklin as EMC, Edo next to Slaine and Jaysaun as Special Teamz.
“We love those groups to death, but this is different,” says Edo. “We’re two leaders who have had a lot of success on our own, and here we’re putting everything we’ve learned into one project that speaks volumes. Even though Ace is about 18 years older than me [he’s joking about that], we have a lot of the same values and vision because we’re from the same era. We’re also both married, we both have families, and we both have homes to pay for — so we have a lot in common.”
The Rhode Island–spawned, Los Angeles–based trio Time Machine were responsible for helping Ace and Edo see their future. Around 2000, Providence producer Mekalek tapped the pair to cut the track “Make Some Noise.” Their comparably enlightened approaches clicked, and in time the twosome conspired on the underground classics “Wishin,’ ” off Edo’s My Own Worst Enemy album with Pete Rock, and “Boulevard Connection” with Common. Plans for an official collaboration were hatched during a 40-show European Ace and Edo tour in 2004 (the two even took up snowboarding together in Vienna), and they bore fruit over the next half-decade with assistance from producers including Supreme One, Large Professor, and DJ Spinna.
If there’s one defining track in the efforts of Ace and Edo — and for the mature-tag-team movement as a whole — it’s “Little Young,” the first video and single off Arts & Entertainment. Edo’s verse addresses the absurd number of MCs with “Lil” in their name; Ace identifies culprits in the over-saturated “Young” market. Together, they arrive at the mighty metaphor beneath it all: if you don’t understand where they’re coming from, then you might just be a “little young.”