What a difference 6 months can make. Regardless of whether the stars were aligned or back room deals took place, Ace Hood was poised for the short track to success. Backed by DJ Khaled, Rick Ross & the Def Jam machine, his inclusion in XXL’s ‘08 Top Ten Freshman Class, coincided with the release of his debut album Gutta. Looking to build upon the tepid response to it, he’s already back with his sophomore effort Ruthless. After the expeditious completion of his freshman year, it’s time for him to declare a major and stop the exploratory nature of being undecided.
Ace’s biggest problem is his lack of identity. One minute he’s the ultimate hustler controlling the corner, the next minute he’s the ladies man and in between he’s deadest on convincing he came up so destitute that you’d be a fool not to root for his success. The perfect analogy for this is in the movie American Gangster when Mrs. Lucas is trying to convince her son Frank from attempting to kill a cop. In trying to reason with him she dropped this jewel: “If you’d have been a preacher, your brothers would be preachers. If you’d been a soldier, they’d be soldiers… But even they know you don‘t shoot cops.”
Rick Ross knew he had to hold onto his visage to the point that he actually became that persona, Fabolous realized that if you have the ladies in tow a token song or two for the fellas will suffice and Kanye won the world over with his underdog shtick. Songs like “Money” & “Overtime” strive for the sense of decadence present in Officer Ricky’s. The latter, thanks to appearances by both Akon & T-Pain (who should never be on the same hook) feels too forced and wastes a decent track by The Runners. Replace Jazmine Sullivan on the hook and “Champion” suffers the same fate. Although Ace isn’t the one to blame — as he actually shows flashes of his self as he ruminates of his humble upbringing, Rick Ross crashes the party on the last verse and ruins the redemptive vibe with 16 bars of arrogant fluff.
Oddly enough, it’s when Ace teams up with Ludacris is when he sounds halfway at home on the track. “Born An O.G.” allows him to unleash his rapid fire flow and concentrate solely on punch lines. While he pales lyrically in comparison to Luda, this is one of the few times he actually seems to enjoy what he’s doing. “Love Somebody” is the closest he gets to Fabolous’ realm, thanks to strong hook sung by newcomer Jeremih and a menagerie of rolling 808’s and horns courtesy of DJ Nasty & LVM. Ditto on The-Dream fueled “Mine.” Both of these tracks could gain traction with the ladies, but they’ll never be Ace Hood songs to them.
Thanks to his ties with Khaled & Def Jam, the production throughout the album remains nod/club worthy as long as little attention is paid to Ace’s lyrics. Money, clothes and hoes is the extent of this rappers repertoire and he lacks the creativity to make these topics seem fresh for 13 tracks. His continual switching of personas gives the album of Ace Hood “the hustler” vs. Ace Hood “the lover.” He still shows flashes of potential, but unfortunately you never get a second chance to make a first impression and Ruthless only reinforces the initial one.