The first signee to DJ Khaled’s We The Best imprint (distributed by Def Jam), 21-year-old Miami rapper Ace Hood spoke to HipHopDX last week regarding his sophomore effort, Ruthless (due in stores today, June 30th). The fiery rhymer also explained to DX why he is standing by fellow M-I-A native, and frequent collaborator, Rick Ross and the “Bawse’s” battle with critics of his prior work history. But “Young Gutta” also suggested that he might not be joining forces with Ross to retaliate against Trick Daddy in the two Floridian Rap stars current war of words [click to listen].  

With the premiere of his “Champion” video this week, Ace is approaching what may become the biggest success of his short career so far. The follow-up to “Overtime,” the buzz clip for Ruthless featuring T-Pain and Akon, “Champion” is a thumping, emotionally-charged anthem for anyone facing barriers to their professional progress.  

Aww man, she’s phenomenal – the new Lauryn Hill,” gushed Ace of his “Champion” co-star, the scene-stealing Jazmine Sullivan

Also making a quick cameo on “Champion” [click to listen] is Rick Ross, who Ace slyly shows his support for on the song’s second verse when he spits, “I had a job too nigga, so what? You niggas make me laugh how you hate him so much.

I used to work a 12-hour job, Ace revealed when asked abut the position referenced in “Champion.” “And I … did it for maybe like four months. It was working in like this warehouse joint. I mean, your typical job for guys my age. Like that, work in the warehouse and whatnot, just grindin’ 12 hours a day packaging plastic.” 

While freely divulging his work history, Ace is not so quick to reveal any critique of Rick Ross’ refusal to do the same for the several months he stubbornly refused to confirm reports of his controversial pre-rap gig as a correctional officer.

Ross, at the end of the day he just portraying that he had to do what he had to do in order to provide,” said Ace of the “Bawse’s” story. “So I mean, I understand where he coming from, as far as like he had to grind and do what he had to do in order to put food in his kids’ mouth. Like, that’s what he was portraying. That’s what his whole situation was portraying.” 

As Ross continues to deal with detractors incurred with that portrayal, Ace is earning his own skeptics now that he’s dropping his second Def Jam-backed album just seven months after his first, Gutta [click to read], was released. Many Hood haters believe the rookie is only getting this re-up because his guarantor, DJ Khaled, now holds a presidential position at Def Jam

Regardless of what Khaled did [with] the whole Def Jam situation, they believe in me as an artist,” said Ace of his recording home. “So I mean to the haters it’s like, keep hatin’. I may go buy another house. I may go buy another car. I may buy another bracelet. [The hate] just inspire me to do more.

But what about Ruthless makes it worthy of its prominent, major-label release after the relatively disappointing sales of Gutta?

Regardless of what, I make good music,” replied Ace. “So, that’s enough of a legitimate reason anyway to go and be like, ‘You know what … he had ‘Cash Flow,’ was on ‘Out Here Grindin’,’ had ‘Ride,’ and now he came back with ‘Champion’ [and]  has ‘Overtime’ out.’ Like regardless of what, [these are] hit records that I put out on the market. That’s a legitimate reason to be like, ‘You know what, this is why I should go get his album.’ Or, ‘This is why they gave him a second album.’ That is why I got a second album, ‘cause I have hit records.

Individual song successes aside, the commercial and critical reception to Ace’s first full-length was far from stellar. Reviews of Gutta noted Hood’s penchant for churning out what can at times seem like redundant street-oriented content. Other critiques of Ace’s debut observed that the young spitter is not a Lupe-style lyricist. But Ace does rhyme with an intensity most of his peers don’t deliver their verses with. So what’s more important to him, lyrics or feeling?

I got both,Ace replied. “I just don’t portray it in all of my music. But if they ever wanna go toe-to-toe, like we ready any day. I could take it there easy. See that’s the whole thing about being an artist than just being a rapper. I got both. That’s what sets me apart … They wanna take it to lyricism, we can easily take it there, no problem. … And however type of flow they wanna get it, like that’s what we do. … But, I don’t feel like it’s always needed in order to get your point across. You don’t need punch lines in order to always get a point across.”

They may feel the lyricism up north maybe more,” he continued, “but I mean you gotta think about other parts around the world. Like, they looking for … something they can relate to. Niggas can’t go too off the board with people, ‘cause they wanna be able to understand where you coming from. So at the end of the day, the type of music we make is needed. … It’s motivational music. It’s needed in the streets right now. That’s why I put out records like ‘Overtime’ and ‘Champion.’ You need that hope.

While Ace certainly keeps the streets well fed, he also manages to cook up plenty of dishes for the ladies, an approach to album construction that may alienate some male listeners but is proof that the young gun is already a shrewd strategist. 
Of course,” replied the savvy Hood when asked if his R&B-tinged joints are merely Marketing 101. “Most of the time anyway women are the people who purchase your records regardless of what. Women purchase a lot of records, so I feel like … The streets is big to me. My surroundings is in the streets, so those are the people I take care of. So I feel like I take care of the streets, and I take care of the broads. And at the end of the day you can’t lose.”  

Gutta guest stars T-Pain, Akon and Lloyd return for Ruthless, along with the aforementioned Jazmine Sullivan and additional songbirds The-Dream and Jeremih. As for the emcees who accompany Ace on his sophomore full-length, Ludacris and Birdman hold the young’n down on the mic. Rick Ross also follows up his two appearances on Gutta with two more appearances on Ruthless. But one spitter who won’t be making a return appearance to an Ace album, at least for now, is Trick Daddy, who appeared on the title-track for Gutta.

Nah, nah, nah,Ace answered dismissively when asked if he’s trying to step away from Trick in the wake of his beef with Ross. “Trick is my brother, man. That’s my guy. We just ain’t have that type of record [for him to get on], ‘cause I was going for a different feel this time around. … But nah, Trick is my brother, man. It’s always been love between me and Trick. And he always welcomed me. From [the] first day I stepped into the game, he welcomed me with open arms like, ‘Yo Hood, I got you.’ So that’s definitely my guy.

Regardless of who appears alongside him on his latest effort, the former high school football phenom knows that only he can quarterback his career to its intended success, as he noted, “I’m living proof of somebody who been doubted his whole life, and said I was a fool for quitting football and stopping my whole [sports] situation in order to turn headfirst into music. So, when they do all that hatin’ and say I couldn’t do it and say I couldn’t do this, that’s just the sound of a champion.” 

Ruthless is due in stores June 30t from We The Best/Def Jam Records.