Disenchanted with his Def Jam debut album sales, Ace Hood was telling interviewers that he contemplated quitting rap. He probably wouldn’t be missed. The South Florida upstart didn’t get much traction in terms of album sales despite having charting hits in “I’m So Hood” and “Hustle Hard.”
The singles didn’t translate into album sales, and there is a reason for that. At times, Ace Hood came across as nothing more than DJ Khaled’s pet project. This misfortune likely inspired the title of Ace Hood’s fourth album Trials & Tribulations but didn’t preclude him from having the boastful “Bugatti” as the album’s first single. A club smash from Mike Will Made It with a signature Future hook, the song even has a remix with T.I., Wiz Khalifa and French Montana. All of them thoroughly outshine Hood, leaving him to all but throw up his hands and say “f**k the critics” in his closing verse.
Trials & Tribulations is an average album despite top-notch production, and worse, it is a victim of unfortunate timing. A rapper’s problems aren’t very salient when the George Zimmerman trial outcome is preoccupying the national conversation (or when there’s a new Jay Z album floating around, for that matter). Ace Hood offers some commentary on the subject of racially charged violence on “Another Statistic,” produced by Cardiak, but for as many points as he gets for being earnest, his lyrics are too generic to elicit any real emotions. The next song in the sequence, “Before the Rollie,” continues in this vein; Hood and Meek Mill bring a frenetic energy to the Sonny Digital club track, yet its standard rags-to-riches subject matter is uninspiring.
“We Outchea” is an upgraded version of “Before the Rollie” with Lil Wayne rotating into the feature spot on the Lee On The Beats instrumental. “We Them Ni**as” is more of the same. At this point in the album, the beats get redundant and the lyrics repetitive. The monotony is broken up only when Anthony Hamilton shows up to add a soulful touch on the relatively unknown producer Arthur McArthur-helmed “The Come Up.” Predictably, the song is about Ace Hood’s rise from nothing to something. We’ve heard it before.
It could very well be that Hood isn’t concerned with stepping up his lyricism. He is a DJ Khaled/Cash Money artist, and his livelihood is in making songs for the club (see “Bugatti,” “We Outchea,” etc.). Trials & Tribulations has enough of those to make up an EP, but when it comes to showing another side, Hood has trouble making his mark. He shows some promise with the uplifting “Mama,” a heartfelt, gospel-tinged track produced by Cardiak, which features singer Betty Wright.
Trials & Tribulations isn’t a breakthrough, but at least it’s not a regression for Ace Hood. As per the “no new friends” policy in the Cash Money camp these days, he gets his turn in the spotlight, seizes it and moves over for the next member of the circle to get their shine. He is a decent cog in the wheel of that Bugatti, but is he a star? Not even close.