One of the best things an artist can do is allow their music to grow as they do, while finding a way for that music to not lose the essence of its initial draw. Ace Hood is currently braids deep in that musical maturation. Just as hustling provided the bulk of the setting for the Florida native’s songs when it was the most recent activity that informed his daily life, newer experiences—including the recent death of his infant daughter—now mark fresh moments in his catalog. He pieces each of those elements together on his latest mixtape, Starvation.

Even with new topics to tackle, Ace Hood hasn’t lost his ear for vibrant production, as he lets the varied but consistently contagious creations of The Renegades and The Monarch navigate the majority of the tape. The opening “A Hustler’s Prayer” finds Mr. Hood hovering over looming keys as he gets personal on the project’s first lines: “Man I’m tired of this bullshit/And I lost my dawg and I felt like this the worst that it could get/Till I lost my daughter, felt like emptyin’ out that full clip,” he laments. Next, the We The Best Music Group rhymer displays his ability to weave together a story, as “Reminiscing” uses a single three-minute verse to take the listener from Ace’s days on the street to signing with DJ Khaled half a decade ago up to today. The piano-driven “Promises,” featuring Kevin Cossom, again finds the rapper turning the mirror on himself; he mourns his daughter in the first verse, questions the absence of his own father in the second and addresses an ex in the third.

It’s not all a diary for Ace Hood here, though. “We On” borders on the potential of some of the former XXL Freshman’s past club bangers, while “I’m F%#k’d Up” and “Nothing to Something” concern precisely what their titles suggest.

Starvation shows the sort of versatility that many have been hesitant to believe Ace Hood possesses. He’s not reinventing his sound, nor is he breaking down musical barriers, but he has found a way to employ the elements of his life—family, doubts, anxieties—that fill him out as a figure beyond a rapper who’s able to “Hustle Hard.” —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)