I've been relatively indifferent to Ace Hood's albums thus far. I honestly had nothing to say about "Gutta" nor did anyone else on staff - maybe we'll go Back to the Lab on it later. "Ruthless" had good production but forgettable lyrics. "Blood Sweat + Tears" had a little less of each. And now we've come to 2013, where the Floridian rapper has switched from Def Jam to Cash Money, but still winds up under the Universal Music Group umbrella either way - so it doesn't feel that different. One big difference though is that "Bugatti" went viral this year in a big way.
"Okay, niggaz be hatin I'm rich as a bitch
100K I spent that on my wrist
200 dollars, I spent that on your bitch
o me a model, put that on my list
Oh there he go in that foreign again
Killin the scene bring the coroner in
Murder she wrote, swallow or choke
Hit her and go home, I won't call her again
Woke up early this morning
Crib as big as a college
Smoke me a pound of the loudest
Whippin some shit with no mileage
Diamonds cost me a fortune
Them horses all in them Porsches
You pussies can't hardly afford it
Forty-two hundred my mortgage
Ballin on niggaz like Kobe
Fuck all you haters you bore me
Only the real get a piece of the plate
Reppin my city I'm runnin my state
Give me a pistol then run with the K's
Niggaz want beef then I visit ya place"
Unintentionally this song had the effect of making me like Ace Hood a whole lot LESS. Mike Will Made-It's production is normally aight, but this feels like one of his more uninspired tracks. It's not helped by Future singing on it - a man who seemingly gets more annoying with every single song that he cameos on. Rick Ross tries to come in and save the day, but it's far too late by that point. This song stayed in constant rotation, and then a remix with everybody from Birdman to T.I. gave it a second life when someone should have pulled the plug long before. "Trials & Tribulations" was low on my list of albums to review, but when a tree fell on my home in late June, this album's release in July got ignored ALTOGETHER. I just couldn't drum up the interest when I had bigger fish to fry.
Enough time has gone by now for me to take a proper look at "Trials & Tribulations," and I have to give Ace Hood his due - the majority of the songs here are NOT like "Bugatti." In fact he at times steers completely away from the lifestyle of big cars, big bar tabs and big booty hoes that his Cash Money compatriots seem exclusively obsessed with. "Another Statistic" shows a surprisingly self-aware and thoughtful Ace reflecting on the negativity of his atmosphere and his peers:
"I just want to live in God's cubicle, far away from Lucifer
Not a slave, gold chains compliment the mula much
Rather see me crucified, police are the crucifiers
Shoot us up and dig a ditch, this ain't nothin new to us
Murders happen every day, kids on they merry way
Dyin 'fore they're 21, bullets never had a name
God bless Trayvon Martin I'm in my hoodie
Another innocent young brother who met a bully
Man this poor world is fucked up; hard times, tough luck
Section 8 and food stamps, Jobs never hired us
I'm just tryin to fulfill my wishlist
Don't wanna be another statistic"
The Lee on the Beats produced "Hope" is another sign that Ace may be maturing as an artist as he ages. "The day I witnessed my daughter born it was the greatest day of my life." Not only was it the greatest day, it may have been his most important day, as it seems to have sparked Ace Hood to put serious thought into his message. Old production partner STREETRUNNER comes back to provide one of the album's best instrumentals on the soulful "My Bible," and Cardiak's work on the closer "Mama" featuring Betty Wright will pull at your heart strings. This is a new, grown, striding into manhood version of Ace Hood unseen before. "I'm 24 and grown" he raps with pride, meaning every word of it.
It's amazing how his peers try to drag him back into adolescence, even those significantly older than him. The no longer Lil Wayne does him no favors on "We Outchea," a song where he devolves to bragging about hustling and making money with lines like "count it up 'til your thumbs hurt." Sigh. Meek Mill is not much better on "Before the Rollie," thanks in part to an insipid beat by Sonny Digital, and in larger part to the fact the song's title is a missed opportunity. Ace could have turned the song into an introspective anthem about surviving hard times, and he tries in the second verse, but it's mostly a declaration that he's the same "real G" he was before he got rich. The further away Ace gets from other rap stars, the better of a rapper he becomes.
"Trials & Tribulations" is a mixed bag, and it leaves me feeling perplexed about Ace's future. I like the newfound attitude he displays most (but not all) of the time, but the beats on the whole leave me feeling underwhelmed. Even the more known names like Boy-1da on "We Them Niggas" don't really seem to click. While none of the songs are straight terrible (except "Bugatti") none leave me feeling like I'd want to leave the CD in my whip on a long trip - it would probably lull me to sleep and I'd crash. If Ace can continue to build on his sharpened focus lyrically with better production musically, I might not be so wary of his next album - he needs to stay away from the expensive cars though. We don't need another song about a Title Max loan on an expensive sports car like the Bugatti.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: October 15th, 2013