When the clock read noon today, it was time for hopefully the start of a big breakthrough for Milwaukee rapper Jae Ace.
It was at that time when Ace's fittingly titled new album "NOON" was released on his website for free download. The title, however, isn't merely a cute tie-in to the release date. It's actually a stylized acronym for "Never Odd Or eveN," a palindrome that represents Jae Ace's inspirations and motivations for his latest work.
"It came from a lot of the criticism, not just me but everybody that I deal with," Ace said. "It’s always a response that it’s never just always positive. The negative has to come. People will be like, ‘Oh, he’s good, but he sings too much,’ or ‘He raps too much or too hard.’" But they always say he’s good. I used that to say, no matter how you put it or flip it, you’re still saying the same thing, which is that I have talent. I wanted to put that meaning behind my project."
Ace, born Wilethon Boyce, started rapping when he was in seventh grade using recorded pre-set beats on his keyboard ("It was nothing tight," Ace jokingly admitted. "It was pretty bad."). He kept listening to other rappers and musicians, ranging from members of his own family to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, growing and developing his skills in the process.
Along the way, he met fellow up-and-coming Milwaukee rapper Pizzle, born Sharrod Sloans. Their managers at the time originally wanted the two to battle and become enemies, but Ace and Pizzle saw things very differently.
"They kept bringing us together to cypher or battle, and we ended up being like, ‘Hey, I kinda like how you rap. Let’s just do some music together,’" Pizzle said.
"His personality meshed with mine, and after a while, I was, like, let’s do a song together," Ace said. "Then we did a mixtape ("Murder Mayhem") a week after that, and then to this day, the story is continuing on."
It certainly continues on into "NOON," where Pizzle served as a bit of inspiration for the album.
Earlier in the year, Ace had been with Pizzle in the studio, as well as on a couple of other projects, when Ace felt the need to start working on his sophomore solo effort.
While Ace was putting together ideas, raps and beats in the early stages of "NOON," he sent an in-progress part of a song to Pizzle in the hopes of getting some feedback. That song was the single "Quota."
"He only had the first verse on there when he sent it to me, and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a song I’m about to be on,’" Pizzle said.
Ace ended up giving Pizzle, the album’s lone featured guest rap performer, a verse double the length of his own for the track.
"It was a lot of pressure," Pizzle recalled. "It took me a long time to do that verse. He’d text me, ‘Man, you knock that verse out?’ and I’d be like, ‘I got you, bro!’ (laughs) I had to make sure it was where I want it. I sent it to him, and he sent me a bunch of crying emojis."
Not many rappers would let somebody’s verse take up their entire track, much less the first single of their solo record. But for Ace, that was perfect.
"It was like my alley-oop to Blake Griffin," Ace said. "Just go and slam dunk it. I’ll just take the assist this time. You’re gonna get the highlight. That’s cool. I wanted it to be that way because I didn’t want the track to be a lazy club record that just fades out. I wanted it to be memorable, and the way he delivered, it was perfect."
The rest of "NOON" is very different from that first single. The other 11 tracks on the album are all Jae Ace, both literally in that they are solo rap tracks and figuratively as he attempts to open himself and his feelings up to the world. According to Pizzle and Jae Ace, that’s something that’s changed and evolved since his first solo attempt.
"As a fan, I can tell he’s becoming more comfortable with being open to the public about personal issues and things like that," Pizzle said. "The project is like a moment in time, and when you listen, you can tell this is what’s going on with him right now and what he’s been going through."
"With my first project, I kind of went there, but it wasn’t as in depth as this one," Ace said. "I’m never going to come out with a project and not give you me."
Sometimes, pulling those inner feelings out and putting them into words comes out raw and rough, and can make listeners say, as Pizzle jokingly noted, "Did he just say that sh*t?" Both noted a verse on the album opener "Lord Have Mercy" where Ace raps about a relationship that went sour.
They’re harsh verses, but Ace said they came from his experience, his expression and his emotions at the time.
"I’m going to give you all of me, or I’m not going to give you anything. We pride ourselves in that as artists. I want to be able to sing and rap and yell and hoot and holler and jump up and down, all on one project. Because that’s me."
To hear and download "NOON," visit Jae Ace's website.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.