Hood Nation
Hood Nation

According to Ace Hood, patience is a virtue in hip-hop. The Florida rapper kicks off his newest mixtape, Starvation 5, with a surprising amount of optimism on the opening track “Message to the Label.” Normally, a song of that title is filled with disdain and angst, firing off about irritating major label politics but Ace doesn’t seem too unhappy at all. In fact, he seems quite happy with his We the Best Music Group situation as he raps about having “a whole lot of patience” leading to “a whole lot of greatness.” Although the “greatness” part is still up for debate, Ace has definitely been grinding and patiently waiting for another shot at rap’s top tier.

His taste of the top came in the form of 2013’s “Bugatti” but since then, Ace has struggled to find another body of work or even song that carries as much weight as the certified platinum smash hit. A string of mediocre mixtapes whittled down Ace’s stock and his DJ Khaled cosign, which at that point was his saving grace, has seemed to decimate over the past few years. As a result, the former 2009 XXL Freshman seemed to be in a hip-hop limbo of uncertainty.

Luckily, Starvation 5 is Ace’s best work to date. He pulls out a batch of songs that highlight his ability to deliver solid punchlines and flows. Both are ultimately expected but where Ace really goes above and beyond is with the tracks that advance his personal narrative.

“True 2 Self” is perhaps Ace’s most honestly concise track to date. He manages to rap along a linear trajectory of consciousness, turning his rap game qualms into a banger. “Overdose on Auto-Tune, nigga that ain't you/Sell your soul, it's kinda like I said, 'I do'/I won't budge, I can't lie/This shit gets tough/To all my fans, I promise you can call my bluff/I'm never one to break that trust/For real,” he rhymes. The lyrics are important in showing Ace’s accountability to his fans. This type of self-awareness likely comes from his exposure to the mainstream success of “Bugatti” even though Ace hardly sold himself out on that record. Regardless, it’s good to see he’s familiar with the game’s current hurdles and where he fits amongst them.

Ace also gets props for the incredible beat selection. Frank Dukes and The MeKanics get busy on the Rick Ross-assisted “Go Mode.” Riddled with Maybach Music drops, the trunk rattler has a peculiar xylophone-sounding riff in the background that is nothing less than infectious. “Cold Shivers” is also another standout beat straight from The Lottery’s arsenal of boom bap masterpieces.

The best instrumentation, however, is on “4th Quarter.” The MeKanics and Smash David craft a beat from outer space that sounds like a Star Wars backing track was crossbred with the hardest trap drums you’ve heard in your life. If the beat isn’t enough to drop your jaw, Ace raps with such a piercing phonetic accuracy that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything out now that’s comparable. “Your niggas straight outta Broadward/Then we came to fuck up some commas/Niggas will sleep, they in pyjamas/Wake up the beast, we got a problem/Jump in that water, you see them piranhas/He thinking he balling, I pull up beside him” is just one example of Ace’s sharp bars.

There is also some quality political commentary on Starvation 5. “Mr. Black Man” is the most ethically-charged as Ace desolately raps ,“System set so we can lose just depends on what you choose” and “All our actions are not validated, police agitated/Shoot us up then go home and kiss their babies.” These lines hit home even more for Ace as he hails from Florida, a state that has seen a large chunk of the recent social injustices transpiring across the country. The somber vibe sees some faith at the very end when he delivers, “Hey, Mr. Black Man living in America/We will never let these motherfuckers bury us.” Hopefully, this statement will unapologetically resonate with open-minded listeners.

Regrettably, Ace Hood’s stock won’t skyrocket overnight simply because this mixtape is well above average. For Ace, success in hip-hop is more of a steady marathon than a quick sprint. If his past couple years have shown us anything, it’s that one hit doesn't guarantee him lifelong triumph. In order for Ace to really attain the “greatness” he so often mentions, then tightly produced, cohesive mixtapes like this will have to translate over to the mainstream or else he might quickly become known simply as the guy who just made that song about waking up in a Bugatti.

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