Ace Hood: Trials & Tribulations

Ace Hood has been one of the most disappointing rappers of his generation. Trials & Tribulations changes the whole narrative.

Ace Hood

Trials & Tribulations

Label: Maybach Music
US Release Date: 2013-07-16
UK Release Date: Import
Label website
Artist website

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. As Ace Hood's come to face an increasing number of hardships culminating in the death of his infant daughter in 2011, his lyrics have opened to reveal there's much more to the man born Antoine McCollister than first meets the eye.

For example, from the opening track Hood's verses are riddled with biblical language and allusions. He wears his religion on his chest in the way more overtly Christian rappers such as LeCrae do, which immediately feels like one of the more brave moves a nominally "gangsta" rapper has pulled in a while. His deep appreciation for his mother - and calcified hate for an absentee father - is also constantly present, including most of his guests' mothers. Ace Hood here creates a picture that twists around the myth of, say, Pusha T in interesting ways, as his love of family and religion appears to stem not from cold-hearted survivalism but a more romantic, sensational need to find the light somewhere. And the world of Trials & Tribulations is certainly quite dark, with the only real light shining through courtesy of mid-section slog combo "The Come Up" and "Rider"; these two distractions bring to mind Rick Ross' "Maybach Music Pt. 2" all too strongly and turn "Ambitionz as a Ridah" into a sexual come on, respectively. They're both mistakes and ought be quickly dismissed.

The amazing thing is, that's it, unless Betty Wright going all Southern Baptist about a mother's love on album-closer "Mama" is just a little too aggressive for you. Everything else about Trials & Tribulations makes this the album Meek Mill's Dreams & Nightmares was supposed to be, a shred look behind the façade of pop-gangsterism to the core of what drives a human being to be okay with playing that cartoon. At one point he even pens a verse to what I can't help but imagine is a younger self, dropping lines in the third verse of "Hope" like "Who's to say I can't be an Obama? / A Tiger Words worth 'bout a billion dollars? / Everybody wanna sell a little coke / 'Cause it's cool to them niggas you know / Nobody wanna be another judge / Young niggas only looking for the plug". Couched in typical drug rap language are subtle metaphors for the way communities are too afraid to correct their own actions out of fear of economics, politics or what have you, and the stopgap measures taken to short-term stem the problems of poverty, miseducation and so on.

The quick, astute ways Ace Hood addresses larger problems without the sort of overbearing, parenting attitude of more "conscious" style rappers makes his forays into honesty -- the death of his grandmother, his mother's drug addictions, "looked my daughter in her eyes right before she died" - heartbreaking if not for the breathless way Ace Hood powers through them in search of some symbol of masculinity -- a gun, a ho, a vehicle -- before his admission of tears becomes what we remember him for. The guy's always had a gift with delivery, and now that it's married to the Maybach thunder train and some highly affecting, dramatic subject matter he's putting that to good use with well-crafted verses that bring to mind the sleek professionalism that made T.I.'s King such an infectious gangsta-pop record. There's no "My Love" here, but that's not what Ace Hood's for. Ace Hood's for "Bugatti".

It's fair to decry "Bugatti" as a Future and Rick Ross song that just so happens to be an Ace Hood vehicle, but why throw shade at anyone involved with the track? "Bugatti" is the kind of shit those monoliths in Kanye West's "Power" video listen to when they're not on set. This is the song Walter White was listening to whenever he was driving to that Denny's with the assault rifle in his trunk. That and it's remix are within 15 minutes of each other on the Deluxe edition isn't a mistake, it's a blessing in 808 form. Taken in the context of the album, it's much less of a celebration too, more of a middle finger. Sandwiching the "How I'm Raised" / "My Bible" / "Mama" trio just makes it feel like even more of an emotional discharge; "Bugatti" is the rare flaunting of Jay-Z-like wealth that feels earnest.

Ask me anything about Ace Hood prior to Trials & Tribulations, I'd tell you he's a rare talent who'll probably never be worth listening to for an hour. Now? I'm not sure there's anything worth listening to more, from the mainstream lane, released so far in 2013. I'm not sure anything better is on the horizon. Ace Hood came out of nowhere to deliver the most well rounded, engaging gangsta rap album on a major label in some time; it'll be a shame if most folks manage to shrug it off.





90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.


Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.