Ace Hood has been in the game for a while; at just twenty-five years old, he put out his fourth studio album, Trials and Tribulations, today (July 16) on Cash Money records. Some rappers are just like athletes in terms of career progression—it's usually their third or fourth year when they hit their prime, or when they peak musically. Trials and Tribulations is where we get to see an in-depth look into Ace's life and story so far. He can definitely make hit club songs—any argument against that was erased feverishly by the summer banger "Bugatti"—but what still seemed necessary was progression from his debut projects through the years. The road for Ace hasn’t been easy ever since he met DJ Khaled outside the offices of WEDR 99 Jamz, a South Florida radio station, in 2007, but after more than a half-decade in the game, he seems to be finally finding his feet and his place in the hip-hop community. Ace Hood hopped on the phone with XXL to talk about the significance of Trials and Tribulations, his definition of a true MC, and the differences between him as an artist now and in the past.—Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)

XXL: What is the message you want to portray with this album?
Ace Hood: I want my fans to understand the story more. The most important thing I think I’m focused on with creating this project is the connection. I just want more of a connection with my fans and for them to really understand more of what I represent and what I have to offer to the hip-hop community. And just for them to understand that I am a true MC, and truly great at what I do. This album is very inspirational. I’m hoping that it inspires and motivates whoever the listener may be. There’s just a lot of real, of course, substance on there and I’m just hoping to gain that connection, and I feel like I’ve been in this music industry for a while now and in a sense the connection is there, but I want it to come full circle when this Trials and Tribulations album drops. So that’s what I’m looking forward to.