Ace Hood is a grinder. He has climbed the hustle narrative thread quickly, and he may finally be reaching the heights he so obviously aspires to on Blood, Sweat & Tears. “Ok it’s blood, sweat and tears/It be the realest shit I ever wrote,” he raps in the opener, and one would be inclined to agree. While a card carrying member of the DJ Khaled Club and prominent on the Southern scene, Ace has always been on the second string. A move away from the glossy, bombastic tracks he has so often frequented helps to raise his profile on his third studio album. Read more for the album review.
A step into poppy R & B, while unexpected, ends up being a highlight. “Body 2 Body” is fun, high end bedroom fluff. Chris Brown provides a strong hook and verse, a perfect partner. Ace’s aggressive flow tones down nicely, his sex rap voice working much better than expected over the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League’s voluptuous production.
The best songs on the album combine the fresh backgrounds with material that is close to Ace’s heart. Traditional themes of True Art like love, mortality and family fuel the best rhymes. The jazzy horns of “Memory Lane” juxtapose with Ace’s tragic tales of lost friends. The pain is palpable as he recounts their passing, emotion flooding the microphone. A truly moving song like this is hard to find among the cotton candy trap rap crowd. Unfortunately, Kevin Cossum’s weak, reedy warble hinders a sing along hook that could have pushed the cut to classic heights. Despite the misstep, “Memory Lane” is a song that will most surely draw tears at any party among those whom death has touched. “Letter To My Exs” is an engaging song about lost love, part anger and part lament. Any good will left in the verses is devastated in one swift execution at the end. “I’m feeling like fuck love,” Ace declares, before launching into a vicious 23 second tell off for the ages.
Hood’s mother too plays an important role in his best songs, his compassion and love evident in most every mention. He pleads for a better life for her and himself on “Lord Knows” and reveals her as the engine behind his grind on “Spoke to My Momma.” He unleashes a screed against the elements of the struggle so often romanticized in hip-hop on “Bitter World.” The lush, dark production is buttressed by a strong beat and carries the message well.
Where Hood runs into trouble is the bread and butter Southern bangers one expects from him. “King of the Streets” is the best of that lot, with classic soaring synths and the ubiquitous T-Pain. “Go N’ Get It” is typical Lex Luger. Lacking the gravitas of similar songs with other rappers, however, it is forgettable compared to other cuts. “Errythang” follows, smartly getting the two worst songs on the album out of the way before Ace gets busy. “Hustle Hard” has that same Luger sound, the monstrous driving bass backed better on the remix, however, thanks to the additions of Rick Ross and Lil Wayne.
While still just out of the starting rotation, Ace Hood is closing hard. With some of his best work yet and a move away from the sounds dominated so thoroughly by the likes of Ross and Wayne, his hustle mentality is beginning to pay off in spades.
Prime Cuts: “Body 2 Body”, “Memory Lane”, “Letter to My Exs”
Blood, Sweat & Tears receives a PARL