REVIEW: Ace Hood – Trials & Tribulations

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Artist: Ace Hood
Album: Trials & Tribulations
Genre: Hip Hop

Three albums in, Ace Hood seems as determined as ever to prove himself with the release of Trials & Tribulations. His first studio release since 2011’s Blood, Sweat, & Tears, Hood has spent the past two years skyrocketing through the hip hop ranks on the back of monstrous singles and star-studded remixes. Now, with more eyes on his career than ever before, Hood delivers fourteen tracks that play like an autobiography, and the results leave a bit to be desired.

Starting off with a introductory skit that as far as I can tell doesn’t involve Ace Hood at all, Trials & Tribulations leans on Hood’s religious influence early. The title track continues this theme, offering line after line with talk of the hurdles that Ace has faced in recent years, and completely forgoes the use of a hook. In fact, it isn’t until “Another Statistic,” the album’s third track, that anything that could be used on radio or other marketing avenue surfaces. Even then, the song’s talk of Hood’s determination to not become another negative black male statistic is a far cry from anything on conventional radio right now. That’s not to say it’s not a message worth sharing, as it certainly is, but for an artist whose biggest claim to fame thus far is waking up in a new “Bugatti,” diving into his biggest album with complete disregard for catchiness is a gamble to say the least. Pop radio fans want a hook, not sentiment, and it’s not until the meat of the album that those desires are addressed.

Trials & Tribulations begins to hit its stride during “Before The Rollie,” which features a killer guest spot from Meek Mill. The album then settles into a smooth flow of radio-ready tracks with the Lil Wayne assisted hit “We Outchea.” There is zero substance on “We Them Niggas,” but with the right guest spot a remix could find its way onto Ignorant Anthems 3. “The Come Up” is the complete opposite, offering an inspirational hook from Anthony Hamilton, but it plays to similarly to Meek Mill’s “Maybach Curtains” cut to stand out as a lasting gem.

Things take a turn for the strange once the Chris Brown assisted ballad “Rider” rolls around. To my knowledge, it’s the first song to describe how a girl’s beauty makes someone want to turn her into a mother within lines of asking for the same girl’s ambitions as a rider. It’s a smooth track that will likely win over several new female fans, but it completely disrupts the flow of the album and stands out in a negative way against an album built on overcoming struggle. “Hope” works to recover from this misstep, but it’s too mediocre to bring the focus back to Hood’s story.

As Trials & Tribulations moves into its final leg it quickly becomes clear Hood has not saved the best for last. “Pray For Me” starts strong, but quickly reverts to lyrical territory already well covered by previous songs on the album. “Bugatti” does a bit to switch things up, but considering that it’s been out since January the high-gloss banger is also beginning to feel tired. “How I’m Raised” follows with hopes of being a single buried in line after line of paper chasing street life, but the vocoder on the hook may drive away more listeners than it welcomes.

Fortunately, just as hope for the album ending on a high not seems lost, Ace delivers a one-two punch with “My Bible” and “Mama” that ensure fans leave Trials & Tribulations with positivity on the mind. The first offers up a fantastic soul sample and talk of overcoming the temptations of the world, while the closer serves as Hood’s equivalent to Tupac’s legendary “Dear Mama.” Neither will ever make radio, but both offer complex lyrical themes and a level of honesty rarely heard in this music scene.

Like many albums, Trials & Tribulations starts off strong, but struggles to maintain its pace long before reaching the final track. There is no denying that the stories shared are worth being told, but Hood chooses to cover the same four beats of his story (grandma died, daughter died, friend died, came from the bottom to the top) so often on Trials & Tribulations that their impact begins to lessen as the album nears its close. I have no doubt there will be singles off this album that are still celebrated when 2013 comes to a close, but overall Ace Hood has delivered a mixed bag with Trials & Tribulations that will mostly be forgotten as soon as the next rising star releasing a new album.

Score: 7/10
Review written by: James Shotwell (Twitter)

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • utgjames

    I should mention that there are 3 bonus tracks available, including the “Bugatti” remix. All three are worth your time.

  • Dontae Thornton

    Hope go hard as hell