Among all of rap's glitz and glamour, Ace Hood exhibits a blue-collar ethic. Sure, he wears gold chains and a diamond-encrusted watch, which has made headlines itself, even if for all the wrong reasons. There is even his "new Bugatti." But when you strip away the decoration, Ace Hood may be the hardest-working rapper out, and his latest, Trials & Tribulations, stands as his testament.
"It's a groundbreaking year for Ace Hood and I think this album, now that it's out, everybody understands who Ace Hood is now," Ace's mentor and We the Best CEO DJ Khaled told MTV News. "It might've took four or five [albums] to give him his respect, but now you respect him and now he's a problem. He's gonna be one of the best in the game, and I won't take no talk back about."
Trials is Ace's fourth LP and his first under the all-powerful YMCMB umbrella. His 2008 debut Gutta was unassuming and came and went, while most rap fans barely batted an eye. There have been standout singles like "Cash Flow," the Chris Brown-assisted "Body 2 Body" and, of course, "Hustle Hard," but on T&T, Ace brings his biggest hit ("Bugatti") and his most complete work.
The title track sets the tone as the South Florida rapper lays out all of his hardships. From the deaths of his grandmother and his baby daughter to his mother, who is "dodging heart attacks," Hood doesn't hold back. "I'm a walking testimony and I mean just what I say/ Looked my daughter in her eyes right before she passed away," he raps with a heavy heart.
He also lets fans know that he is well aware of the criticisms that he faced on his previous three albums. "They was laughing at me then/ Ain't no laughing at me now," he rhymes triumphantly.
"A lot of people count you out, you still continue to walk through those barriers and keep your head high and keep moving in life," Ace told MTV News in the weeks leading up to his album.
"The Come Up" with Anthony Hamilton chronicles Ace's rise to rap stardom, and on "Rider" with Chris Brown, he toasts the lady in his life, who has been through it all with him. It isn't all negative though: On "Hope," the 25-year-old MC looks on the bright side and then uses "My Bible" to show his spiritual side.
"A lot of fans were wondering more who Ace Hood was and what he represents. Once 'Hustle Hard' came out, I felt like that was my story, that what God put me on Earth here to do," he said, marking his 2011 single as a turning point for his art. "To put this message across and put this story across."
Of course there are hits as well — no Cash Money record is complete without at least one — but even while "Bugatti" is rich and infectious, it's aspirational at the same time. The Lil Wayne tag-team "We Outchea" has Billboard potential, and anything with Chris Brown is usually a go, so chances are fans will be hearing "Rider" a lot more.
It's all enough to get Khaled excited — not that it takes much to get Khaled excited. "He got a following, he got fans, he's making hits," he said of Ace Hood. "And he got a classic under his belt."