Bloggers, rappers, industry people and fans all gathered to listen to Ace Hood's new album at the Red Room in the Ganesvoort Hotel in New York on the night of June 18th (which was a significant day for hip-hop, with the album releases of Kanye West, J. Cole and Mac Miller). We arrived at around 7:45 PM, and although Ace, Khaled, and Ross, the night’s main stars, had yet to arrive, the room was already quite full. People were drinking, mingling, and talking, while a DJ played current hits. The open bar was serving quite hilariously-themed Ace Hood and DJ Khaled drinks (“Ace Hood Coco Carribean” & “DJ Khaled Melon Madness”). Shaheem Reid, one of the four hosts that night, went around the room personally greeting guests. Soon enough DJ Khaled and Ace Hood arrived, and when we bumped into Khaled at the bar, I asked him if he had a say in his “Melon Madness” drink. He shook his head, replying, “Bourbon(?),” then asking the bartender to fill up his double styrofoam cup with alcohol.
At around 9:04 PM Rick Ross entered the dark room, with a “RICH” snapback and towel on his head, and his eyes low-- he was in a good mood, and obviously slightly fucked up. That was the cue for the session to begin, and Khaled took the mic, asking the DJ to turn down the music, as he welcomed the listeners. Khaled revealed that they would be playing just eight or nine cuts off the album. Ross took the mic next, getting peoples’ attention by saying his nickname, “Rozaaay,” in his classic Rick-Ross-voice. Rozay spoke on the movement Ace is a part of, and told the guests, “When I look at Ace Hood, I see a young Ricky Rozay.”
Ace spoke on Trials & Tribulations, saying that “the album is full of substance," and that it was some of his best work yet because of the hunger and the struggle that was put into it. The music kicked off with the title track. “Walking testimony, and I mean what I say,” Ace rapped over a hard-hitting beat, “trials & tribulations is my story.”
As the song cut off, Rozay told the crowd a personal story about finding Ace at the studio after one of Ace’s kids had just passed away. “I pulled up to the studio one day and I see a small sports car...” Ross shared. “I see Ace Hood... I could tell my homie been crying.” Ross went on to reveal the reason Ace was crying was because he lost one of his kids. When Ross asked him what he was doing, Ace responded, “I came to the studio. What else could I do.” This served as a segway into the next record off Trials & Tribulations, “Another Statistic,” as Ace says, he doesn’t want to be another number. If there’s one thing the album doesn’t lack, it’s banging beats. “Another Statistic” had more hard-hitting production on it, laced with piano keys and drums.
After another brief intermission by Shaheem Reid who spoke on Khaled’s passion for Ace’s huge single (which is on its way to being platinum) “Bugatti,” we got into another record, “Before the Rollie.” Once again, the theme of Trials & Tribulations is evident-- Ace is documenting is hardships, and life before the fame-- this isn’t the luxury rap of Kanye West and Jay-Z. These are street anthems. “Before the Rollie” has production from Sonny Digital, and appropriately enough a verse from Meek Mill, who also spit about life before the money.
Trials & Tribulations definitely sounds like a cohesive project. The next track played was “The Come Up,” which Ace says is a record that anyone trying to accomplish anything in life can understand. The come up is definitely a theme within Trials & Tribulations, as evidenced by the previous song. The main theme of this album is fully-formed and quite obvious, however with so many songs about one general idea the content could get repetitive-- we’ll have to wait and see.
All the while the records are booming through the speakers, Ace is obviously enjoying himself, with a stryofoam cup in hand, rapping the lyrics along to each cut. His homies Khaled and Ross are equally in the moment. After “The Come Up” DJ Khaled spoke to the crowd about being one of the greats, and Rick Ross (“I remember when I told you about Rick Ross ten years ago...”). The record up next, Khaled said, is a #1-type-of-record. Ace added that it has a “Bonnie & Clyde type feel.” As “Rider” starts, they also announce it’s featuring Chris Brown-- and the single potential is obvious off the bat.
Randomly, Busta Rhymes showed up at one point and took the mic for a minute, speaking on Ace Hood and how he and Ace are similar (citing that they both lost children). “It’s like I’m looking at a reflection of myself,” Bussa Bus said. Ace got back to the music quickly enough, and played the next record, which is made for the clubs. “We Them Niggas” has a beat that is minimal and interspersed with bass, as Ace gives his “middle finger to the ceiling.”
We got a change of pace with the next track Ace played. Ace called it one of the most important records, dedicated to his mother (although he revealed his mom hasn’t heard it), “Momma.” It was definitely the most soulful record we’d heard yet, it offered up some variation within the beat selection on the album.
The next two records Ace Hood played have already been released as singles, so the guests were the most appreciative of them. “We Outchea” with Lil Wayne and “Bugatti,"played one after another, while the guests turned up and the session winded down.
Elliott Wilson, another host for the night, said we’d be getting one last record before they capped the listening session off. Ace Hood revealed the record is titled “My Bible,” as he told the listeners about his spiritual beliefs being very important to him, as well, revealing he keeps a bible with him everywhere he goes. “My Bible” revisits the soulful type beat, proving Ace’s versatility (although he seems to often choose those hard-hitting Cardiak beats).
As the song faded out, Khaled took the mic one last time. He spoke on the “great body of work” Ace put together for Trials & Tribulations, promising records you can ride to, records for the club, basically, records for everywhere. He also got in a plug for his own upcoming album Suffering From Success, and finally, announced that there is a We The Best mixtape project on the way. Stay tuned.