Music

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
Amazon
iTunes

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.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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