Release Date: Jul 16, 2013
Record label: Republic
Genre(s): Rap, Southern Rap, Hardcore Rap
Few rappers with a steady stream of albums, mixtapes and hot singles have been as consistently disappointing as Ace Hood. Since he first appeared on the national scene as “the guy before Lil’ Wayne” for DJ Khaled’s “Out Here Grindin’” epic, Ace Hood has delivered strikeouts at a much higher rate than most guys with his instant mic charisma allow themselves, and as recently as the “Bugatti” premier it was easy to look at Ace as a man who would be forever bound to anchoring posse cuts as a means to an end. But the mixtape series leading up to his third album, We the Best/Young Money/Maybach Music “all hands on deck” project Trials & Tribulations, has actually been pretty fascinating to watch.
After living up to his name with the stern 2011 Def Jam release Blood Sweat & Tears, rapper Ace Hood travels to the land of Cash Money Records for this 2013 effort, but his executive producer, Khaled Khaled aka DJ Khaled, is still along for the ride. As such, the diverse, dirty, and quite determined Trials & Tribulations is an effective amalgamation of all these hip-hop names, with quirky, cool Cash Money moments (R&B great Betty Wright showing up on the moving closer, "Mama") rubbing shoulders with slick, star-studded singles that are more Khaled-driven ("Rider" with Chris Brown is so smooth and extra plush). Hood's ever increasing skills are what holds this rangy effort together, as he convincingly offers pathos on the Cardiak-produced "Another Statistic" and doles out the believable pain on the banging, Renegades-helmed title track.
On his hit "Bugatti," Florida rapper Ace Hood brags about a crib as big as a college and the horses in his Porsches, even itemizing his expenses – "$4,200, my mortgage." Hood is not a dazzling lyricist, but he brings earnest intensity and thematic range, pivoting from post-Trayvon angst to emo sweetness ("Mama," featuring Seventies soul great Betty Wright) to the urgent empathy of "Hope," where he big-ups every girl who never had a daddy and all the homeys who can't pay their bills. Crisp Florida bass beats from producers like DJ Khaled and Boi 1da and sharp guest spots from Lil Wayne and Future keep things rolling, but his big heart keeps it real. .
Charting Ace Hood’s significance within the Rap game is a tall order, which is quite perplexing given his resolute foray into making music for the streets. Take for instance his lead single, “Bugatti.” It’s relentless and catchy, marking his biggest hit since 2011’s “Hustle Hard.” However, calling it an achievement solely on his part would be an inaccurate claim. One could even go as far as to say he’s the record’s weakest link, with Future’s syrupy hook and Mike WiLL Made It’s vicious backdrop setting the tone for its success.
Sara Bareilles sings “Manhattan” with heavy exhaustion, like a woman beaten down by the marathon she’s just finished. “You can have Manhattan, I know it’s for the best,” she exhales, over a dark, slow-moving piano, redolent of the early, elegantly pugnacious Billy Joel. “I’ll gather up the avenues and leave them on your doorstep/And I’ll tiptoe away so you won’t have to say you heard me leave.” She’s not snide or colorfully melodramatic — just spent.
Ace Hood is still trying to figure it out. After releasing three albums and a bevy of mixtapes, the Florida rapper has yet to find a winning formula for success, both in terms of the quality of his music and in album sales. Certain projects, like last year’s reflective Starvation mixtape, have shown glimmers of promise, while others, including his latest mixtape, Starvation II, have been a step backward.