Thanks to the ever boisterous DJ Khaled, you know his name, but do you know the real Ace Hood ? The 21- year-old upstart rode into the game last year on the wave of his hit single “Cash Flow” featuring Rick Ross and T-Pain has been grinding ever since. Ace stood outside a radio station just so that Khaled could hear him spit, which eventually lead him to being the flagship artist on the DJ’s We The Best label. Not satisfied with just making a splash in the industry, Ace is taking full advantage of his opportunity to grab some of the spotlight and is now set to drop a cannonball in the form of his sophomore LP, Ruthless, which hits stores today (06/30). Hell bent on becoming your favorite rapper, the Broward County rep is focused on the task ahead and is putting in “overtime” to make that happen. caught up with young Ace as he talks about almost going the NFL route, being the ‘down South Nas’, why people will know his name and his other lesser known talents.

XXL: What kind of impact did gracing the cover of XXL for the Freshman ‘09 issue have on your career since the magazine dropped?

Ace Hood: Aw man, just for them to even consider me man, a lil boy out [of] a small city in nowhere land, and for me to be in the XXL was huge for me. That was a big look and I just give thanks to the almighty high. That put me on so big. I used to look at the magazine and just an inch on a page is where I used to wish I could be.

XXL: Some people thought that you hadn’t proved yourself enough yet to get a cover. Did you get any backlash personally?

Ace Hood: Um, nah, not me. I mean people from other places may speak of me like "oh well, who is this guy?" and blahzay blah, but at the end of the day I know it was well deserved. I know I go hard and I know what I’m trying to do. So at the end of the day man, it really doesn’t even matter. I just did me, you understand?

XXL: Speaking of doing you, before you were doing rap I heard you were a high school football star…

Ace Hood: Aw yea, I played ball in school. But don’t get it confused, I was that dude. I played free safety and strong safety. I was like a [Troy] Polamalu. I was like Ed Reed. That’s the guy I was. A lot of people say they played this or that but I was really that force to be reckoned with. Growing up, I always had those aspirations from coming up and watching players like Deion Sanders and guys like that so I was thinking, "I’m gonna grow up and be that next guy." But one thing lead to another and I got hurt. But don’t get it twisted, music wasn’t just something I picked up like I’m just gonna go ahead and do this. Music was always a part of my life. I was always a dope writer. Then I just started to paint those pictures and just started growing with it.

XXL: So when your football dreams didn’t pan out did you feel like you had a real future in music?

Ace Hood: It’s funny you say that because it’s the dead honest truth but I always felt like I had a future career in music. Just because what I was hearing wasn’t impressing me. So I was dying to get in the game and just wanted people to hear the music because I knew I was dope. I knew I just needed an opportunity. I always said that if I ever got signed I was gonna ask the label, "what took you so long?" That’s one thing that sets me apart, my hunger and my starvation. You don’t get that now in the game. People who heard my first album was like "man, youngin’ go hard. It sound like you got animosity on every track.’ And it's not that, it’s just the hunger that comes from coming from nothing. That’s enough to make you wake up with chills. This Ruthless album is the same way, except I swagged it out a little more.

XXL: The video for your first single “Overtime” has that sports theme to it. Now we know where that came from…

Ace Hood: Yea man. I just wanted to, with this economy being what it is and being in a recession or what not, I just wanted to give the people a hope record. You gotta put in that overtime nowadays. And [with the video] I just wanted to show people it’s other ways to put in overtime. Not just on the block or getting money or whatever, you can put in that overtime hitting the book, with academics, with sports, whatever. There’s more than one way.

XXL: You mentioned the first album, Gutta, which dropped not even a full year ago. Why come with the second one so soon?

Ace Hood: Just because relevancy is big. I feel like if you wanna stay in the people’s eye you gotta be out and about and being relevant is everything. It’s not even about record sales no more. At the end of the day you have to be relevant to the people. So I just felt like Gutta wasn’t enough. A couple hit records is not enough. It was just mandatory for me to come back. You can’t leave the people’s eye because just like before when you were nobody, you can easily go back to that.

XXL: It sounds like you have something to prove. Do you feel like people really know you as an artist?

Ace Hood: That’s the thing. Like you see a Rick Ross, you see the beard, you know where he’s from, what he’s been through, what he reps, all that. I want people to know that about Ace Hood when they see him. People can’t know all of that just off of one album, in one year. They gotta know that about me. I want them to see me as just like one of them, cause I do it for them. I do it for the young boys. I want them to know me as the down South Nas, the Lebron, the Kobe of the rap game. You feel me?

XXL: I know DJ Khaled was very involved in your first album. Now that he’s president at Def Jam South, is he still as hands on with your career?

Ace Hood: Khaled just wants the people to know Ace Hood. In the beginning he did a lot of co-signing and what not and he still is but now he just wants me to portray more of me. So I mean, at the end of the day he’s still playing his motivational part by getting me to go harder than hard. So he still holds me down in that aspect. He’s still playing his role. Right now, I’m just that center piece. Now I’m just selling myself.

XXL: You said you did your thing on the field, now on the mic. What else is in Ace Hood’s repertoire that people might not know?

Ace Hood: I do my drawing thing. I’m big on that, that’s something else I do. I was actually thinking about going to school for graphic design, getting that college education in that and what not. I always have that thought. –Anthony Roberts