Ace Hood :: Ruthless :: Def Jam
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Ace Hood's career has been on the rise ever since first being tapped for a guest appearance on DJ Khaled's "Out Here Grindin'." Just two months after Khaled released "We Global" including the song, Hood was tasting solo sales on the We the Best imprint, going from the "Gutta" to the penthouse with Khaled's help. At this point he's still leasing month to month though, because in a year's time the album hasn't gone gold, although it did spawn hit singles like "Cash Flow" featuring Rick Ross & T-Pain and "Ride" featuring Trey Songz. Khaled's enthusiasm for the Deerfield Beach rapper has not waned though, and if anything the push for his sophomore album "Ruthless" has been far stronger. If leaked singles like The Runners produced "Champion" are any indication, rent's about to turn to own.

"Keep runnin to The Runners when it's time to make a {UHH}
I'm gunnin at you suckers who ain't tryin to feel the shit
My ambitions as a rider blastin out a nigga swift
Throwin up a peace sign to all the hustlers on the strip
Top down in the Chevy, yeah you know I keep it pimpin
And my pistol heavy - niggaz know that ain't slippin
No doubt I'm on the grind, niggaz know that ain't slippin
My face is on the line so you know I ain't slippin"

Vocals by Jazmin Sullivan and a cameo verse by fellow Floridian rapper Rick Ross complete the trifecta, but it's The Runners pounding gunfire beat, synthetic horns and grandoise choral backdrop on the hooks that deserve the prize winnings. Ace is nothing if not passionate though, vowing to "put my life on every song I kill." That same passion can be heard on one of the album's other singles "Loco Wit the Cake," with a flow where Ace seems to be screaming at the beat as opposed to simply rapping over it.

"Put the Range Rover on them 24's I stay good
Crafty with the paper - ice, all over my Ace Hood
Chain fuckin dummy I need hoes to educate me
GOOD BRAIN, take the package up to Temple
Come back home and GET PAID
Seven days up out the week a nigga gotta GET PAID
Quit your hatin get on your job and hoe you can GET PAID
Like Ace, like who? Like me nigga!"

The Schife beat for the track strips down to a minimalistic beat that I previously described as "The Runners meets crunk," and I'll stick with that for the full length album, a description that also fits his work on "This Nigga Here" featuring Birdman. Most of the album's best songs have The Runners themselves handling the work. "Overtime" featuring Akon and T-Pain walks the fine line between being a hit single for Ace Hood and a parody of every other Runners track that Akon seems to be on but manages to pull it off successfully while keeping Pain's trademark Autotune gimmick from becoming too obnoxious. Other Runners tracks that get the job done include "Love Somebody" featuring new R&B flavor of the minute Jeremih and "Wifey Material" featuring old R&B flavor of the minute Lloyd.

It's possible to be overwhelmed by the flashy production and big name cameos on "Ruthless" ranging from The-Dream to Ludacris, but if one inspects Ace Hood too closely the raps start to feel like empty calories - all taste, no substance. Like many Southern rappers who have come and gone before him, he has his trademark catchphrases, including adding about 10 extra letters to every pronunciation of "Accccccccccce," plus he vows at all times to "keep gettin money on these hatin-ass niggaz." It's hard to imagine anybody hates Ace that much given he's relatively new on the scene, backed by a high profile team, and thus far is uncontroversial. His tendency to rap the same rhyme for 4 straight bars is easy to miss on his singles but gets pretty obvious when spread out over 13 songs, no matter how well produced they are.

There's nothing ridiculously bad about "Ruthless," no cringeworthy songs, no single beat so bad or rap so vapid to crash this album like a Titanic sized iceberg... yet the observant listener can't help but feel in the end that Ace Hood's two favorite subjects are himself and his wealth. In 2009 that really doesn't distinguish him much from a dozen other rappers from Florida, let alone a few hundred in the South, let alone a few thousand around the world. Ace could probably turn down the volume on his delivery a little and spend some more time in the lab writing rhymes before coming back with a third album in under two years - not everybody can or should try to be Plies. Ace has ability and musical backing which could in time make him something special but as it stands right now he's merely slightly above average.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10

Originally posted: July 7, 2009