At times, Ace Hood’s career seemed like a punchline. Back in 2009, his most memorable moment was arguably #uknowuAceHoodwhen—a Twitter hashtag which everyone and their mother used to make fun of his shortcomings as a rapper. As mean-spirited as it was, there was no denying that he had shortcomings. His first two albums, 2008’s Gutta and 2009’s Ruthless, didn’t spawn any major hits and didn’t sell particularly well.
What fans who were quick to crack wise didn’t know was that after his second album, the 23-year-old rapper was struggling financially, professionally, and personally. But as a firm believer in positive thinking, he didn’t let it get him down. He cut himself off from the world and hit the studio. After about a year, he came back with “Hustle Hard”—the biggest song of his career and one of the best songs of this year so far.
With what he promises will be his most personal album to date, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, dropping on August 9, we got on the horn with Ace and had him tell the story of how he made it back and how he’s living proof that closed mouths don't get fed on this boulevard.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
The low point
"The low point of my career was after my second album dropped. My second project wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be. Nothing went wrong [with my situation]. But it was a little rushed and it just kinda happened.
"I was going through a lot of personal issues and financial issues. I was feeling fine, but being in that star light, people don’t like to admit to the struggle. It was definitely a huge struggle for me at that time. It was a struggle not having a record out, not being played on radio, and not doing as many shows as I’d like to.
"My family going through things, dealing with eviction notices. I got an eviction notice at my condo. My girl called me and she was upset telling me what happened. I was trying to work it out with the landlord to get an extension and pay everything off.
"We ended up moving out to a townhouse and stayed there for a while. After I stayed there for a while, we ended up moving to an even bigger condo after "Hustle Hard." I found a way. I don’t make excuses. But these were things I was actually introduced to at a young time in my career.
"I didn’t [feel like I failed], but I felt upset. It was something new for me. I was nervous. I felt like things were maybe going in a downhill aspect. But I never like to claim any failure or any type of downfall. I always practice positive thinking because you don’t want to think negative and speak it into existence.
"On top of that, my mom was in and out of the hospital because she had a blood clot. Thank God she’s through it now. And I lost a great friend of mine who I grew up with. It was an emotional rollercoaster for me. I was going through a lot, It got extremely tough for me. All that aside, I had to stay focused and try to put my best foot forward and say, 'I have to put my pain and what I’m going through into this music.'I got an eviction notice at my condo. My girl called me and she was upset telling me what happened. I was trying to work it out with the landlord to get an extension and pay everything off.
"It was the breaking point for me because I really had to figure out all that stuff like, 'Is this really what I’m going to do? Is this really what’s going to carry me to the next level?' I’ve got a family to feed. I’m the youngest boy in the family, but I’m definitely the breadwinner. And my team is also counting on me too.
"It’s do or die. Like, 'Okay, Ace, you done put out two albums. They did okay. But what’s it going to be this third time around? And if it’s not anything that’s bigger than big, this could be the last album you put out.' I always kept that in the back of my mind."
Taking time away
“I took off time so I could find my sound and my niche. I didn’t want to come back with a third project unless it was nothing less than huge. I took time off, stayed in the lab, and recorded. I didn’t travel anywhere, wasn’t going to any clubs, or anything like that. All I wanted to do was record and get my sound right.
“That was totally me [putting myself in the studio]. The label wasn’t calling me or nothing. I would just wake up every day and be like, ‘I need to do this for myself, I have to find that sound.’ I knew what my circumstances was. I felt like, ‘I’ve gotta get my shit together.’
“I’m not saying I was doing anything wrong but it’s a business and if you’re not producing the right amount numbers...I knew that things for me at that point were on the edge. It wasn’t no secret about that. A lot of people may have counted me out.
DJ Khaled's Role In His Comeback
“Khaled is not only a CEO, we’re brothers. Khaled’s always been there to mentor me. When I was like 17 years old I jumped into this music business so I had to go get all this artist development. Khaled’s been there every step of the way giving me nothing, but the best advice.
“He understood that it was tough times. He was just like, ‘You’ve got to go out there and find that record.’ Any CEO would be like that. The label definitely always believes in me, but Khaled has always been that extra force, always letting them know that, ‘Ace is going to be the future.’
“[But through that period] Khaled would tell me, ‘Yo Ace, this is that time.’ Khaled, being my CEO, he cannot carry me throughout my career. There is always a point in time where you have to be your own artist.[I’m thankful for] Khaled’s help but he always helped me pick beats and find producers. But [being alone] gave me the time to actually mold myself into the artist that I truly want to be.
“Khaled’s always believed and he’s continued to always be there for me. But Khaled was always on the road doing his thing. I was always at home just trying to think about the next best move and what’s really going to get the fans behind me and to really understand my story.
“Every single day, I was solely on my own. I was in the studio working my ass off. I was like, ‘One way or another, I’ve gotta make this shit shake because this is what I feel like I’m destined to do.’
“I would do shows here and there, but I was literally in beast mode. That’s why people nowadays say, ‘Yo Ace, I can hear the aggression in your voice.’ You can hear the hunger and what I’ve been through. I was in that booth damn near growing a beard. I revolted back to my old roots, went back to the beginning of Ace Hood. I treated myself as a new artist. I was like, ‘I have to recreate myself.’
“It made me a bigger man because I jumped in the game premature. [I’m thankful for] Khaled’s help but he always helped me pick beats and find producers. But [being alone] gave me the time to actually mold myself into the artist that I truly want to be.
“I woke up every day and called DJs and reached out to producers to send instrumentals. I would be in the studio writing music over and over again. I had to find that sound for me to reinvent myself.”
The turning point
“The turning point for me was when I started putting out mixtapes. I put out like maybe six mixtapes within like five or six months. My mixtapes started growing on people. The turning point for me was when I put out my official mixtape, The Statement—that’s the one that had ‘Hustle Hard’ on it.
“I shot a video that I did a freestyle to and people responded so well that I dropped the mixtape right after that. As soon as I dropped the mixtape, that had to be the turning point in which I was like, ‘This could be my reinvention of myself. This could be my time to come back into the game.’"