“Bugatti,” the smash first single from Ace Hood’s Cash Money debut and fourth studio set Trials and Tribulations is the epitome of swaggering hip-hop materialism.
Producer Mike Will’s wheezing synths and skittering trap drums blare underneath guest Future’s mindless auto-tuned boast of a hook, “I woke up in a new Bugatti”. Rhymes that gleefully celebrate “chains spent with [your] salary spent”, “fuckin’ bitches of different races”, “fresh gear” and “money, paper, moola” further boost the song’s hood-rich decadence.
Thus, it comes as a surprise that the glistening and now-commonplace consumerism of “Bugatti” isn’t quite characteristic of the majority of Trials and Tribulations.
In fact, despite his pursuit of financial riches, Ace Hood—born Antoine McColister—on the 17-track set, actually reveals himself to be an everyman. Call him the Leopold Bloom of the modern trap-happy Southern hip hop mainstream.
Determination and persistence not only colors Ace’s strident Florida’s twang, it also colors the theme of most of the tracks throughout, making the album’s title quite fitting.
The title track speaks candidly of “all the pain he been through …and “tears that he cried”—even after his late 2000s ascendance under the wing of DJ Khaled—in a manner that elicits both empathy and a sense of relation in the listener. It’s a far cry from the 1 percenter glorification of “Bugatti”.
Ace’s worry of becoming “Another Statistic”—in a state (and nation) that was home to Trayvon Martin and thousands-if not millions-of underemployed and undereducated black males—on the track of the same name is similarly compelling.
Heartfelt real-life concerns and musings about the women in his life who molded and supported him throughout (his companion and child to his mother on the plush and possible future single “Rider” and “Mama”, respectively), the ups and mostly downs of fame (“Before the Rollie” and “The Come Up”, featuring the cornbread, fish and collard greens-soaked vocals of Anthony Hamilton), faith (the thunderous “My Bible”) and of course, “Hope” provide for an appealingly well-rounded listen, thematically.
Musically, it’s a different story. The same trap sound—all thumping bass, slowly skipping 808s and synthetic horns—that dominate urban radio at the moment provide the backdrops. While it’s obvious that the sound is clearly Ace’s bread and butter, it becomes redundant throughout Trials’ hour-long duration. So much so that the thunderous drums, maniacal piano loop and sampled female church wails of the aforementioned “My Bible” come as a relief, of sorts.
Like most other major label hip hop releases, Trails is overstuffed with strategic big-name camoes—including the now-predictable roll call of new label honcos Birdman and Lil Wayne; Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Future, Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz—distract from Ace’s hard-won storytelling.
Despite the now-commonplace elements—same-y radio-friendly production and a surplus of guest celebrity voices—Trials and Tribulations turns out to be a step in the right direction for a still-young buck who is not quite a rookie anymore.