If the first Starvation mixtape proved to be a metaphor for Ace Hood’s unmitigated hunger for the level of super stardom usually reserved for rappers like his friend, Lil Wayne, then Starvation 3 makes Ace Hood sound as hungry as ever, except this time around, the production values are a lot better. Of course Ace Hood is a lot closer to his goal than he was when the first Starvation installment rolled around. “Bugatti” was the sort of radio hit that he never was afforded before, but Trials and Tribulations was sort of universally acknowledged as an album that just fell a little flat.

And it is a little too bad, because Starvation 3 is much better than Trials and Tribulations in many respects, and we wonder, to some extent, if Ace is aware of this. “Fear,” his opener to this mix, starts with a handful of boasts so audacious they rarely seem annoying. When he asks for “Jay-Z to go on a vacation,” it’s hard not to smile. Ace Hood has always been self-assured but last year he was so close to achieving the level of success he wanted to, he seems even surer of himself and more laser-focused.

This is a good thing. Starvation 3 starts off thunderous and relentless, with bangers like the catchy “Everyday” and the urgent “Jamaica,” where he says things like, “I swear to god I woke up on the Gully side / and all they know is motherfuckin’ homicide.” And just when these tracks would get hopelessly tedious, Ace Hood does a clever thing, and switches up the pace just as things were starting to get a bit too monotonous.

Of course, since this is a mixtape, the appearances seem rather limited, so while Lil Wayne might be nowhere to be seen, it offers an indicator on how well Ace Hood can carry an entire record mostly on his own. He does an admirable job although it seems wise to limit the project to 14 tracks.

Somewhere after the interlude, Ace Hood drops the slow, introspective, “Save Us,” which showcases moving lyricism outside of the solipsist self-aggrandizement that we never knew he was capable of.  He tackles the less glamorous side of life on the streets like murder, drugs, paranoid news coverage, and twerking, all over a soulful sample. The miracle of the track is that it doesn’t sound too cheesy. Okay, it sounds a little cheesy, but it is thankfully earnest therefore we can forgive him.

It is followed by one of the better songs on the album, “Tears,” which finds Ace Hood being briefly vulnerable about his life, no longer plagued by absent boasts, and he even references himself as a father (a topic usually ignored by rappers of this kind).

It is hard not to think that if Ace Hood had this sound back in 2008 he would already be a household name. But that is the year Ace Hood became incredibly active, so we can forgive him if the mixtape sounds a little dated. Starvation 3 plays like an affirmation for all those who loved him and for those who thought that while Trials and Tribulations might have been a step in the right direction, it wasn’t a step far enough to differentiate himself from the herd of other street-oriented rappers.

However, Starvation 3 will do little to convert those who were not already fans. Not like that is the end of the world; it’s a mixtape, it’s for the fans. But if this record marks the end of the Starvation trilogy, you can rest assured that the trilogy has ended on a high note.