Despite gaining nationwide notoriety on the heels of 2 Live Crew’s controversial tactics, it wasn’t until the past few years that Florida could be considered a primary hub for Hip-Hop. Since then, the Sunshine State–primarily the Greater Miami area–boasts the biggest “boss,” the game’s most popular DJ, a slew of hungry trap stars and Hip-Pop sensations of both ghetto and bilingual persuasions. With Atlanta in transition mode and other regions inconsistently flashing in the pan, FLorida has the rest of the south watching their respective thrones.
Regardless of the spotlight being shone on them, some of the more visible acts still haven’t won over everybody–and for good reason. DJ Khaled and his second-in-command, Ace Hood, are on their fifth and third albums respectively, with no real legacy established aside from a handful of hit records, with that distinction going to Khaled more than his rapping counterpart. Keeping in line with his familiar model, the Miami disc jock partners his brand with Cash Money and focuses on rounding up the biggest names with total disregard for chemistry on We The Best Forever. Ace’s Blood, Sweat and Tears marks an improvement for the scrappy youngster, albeit a marginal one.
Khaled’s uncompromising manual to music-making is a simple one: find the hottest artists and let them record at random. Past installments of his projects have included the likes of Chamillionaire, Fat Joe and Jim Jones but since they’re not in the public eye at the moment, they have been replaced with acts such as Waka Flocka, B.o.B and Vado. As usual, Khaled’s biggest selling points are the singles, which sound like motivators for creating the album to begin with. Drake coolly steers through the sea of vibrant echoes for “I’m on One” with a fresh rap & blues mix-up that has radio written all over it. The T-Pain-helmed “Welcome to my Hood” marks very familiar territory but still proves itself to be valuable compared to the other material. After the two aforementioned hits, Khaled opens up his own postal service and accepts mail-in verses by the bundle. Mary J. Blige, Fabolous and Jadakiss lazily breeze through Schoolly D’s time-tested “P.S.K.” sample on “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” adjacent to “A Million Lights,” where nearly all of Cash Money’s second-stringers force battle rhymes over The Runners’ disco beat.
Meanwhile across the hall in Studio B, Blood, Sweat and Tears sheds some light on a personality that’s been basically hidden since its inception. 2008’s Gutta and 2009’s Ruthless were panned commercially and critically, and if Ace’s third symphony has any distinction from the two, it’s that it features his first signature record–one that will forever be associated in his PR account with “Hustle Hard.” Packing the aural force of 1,000 church bells smashing against a loudspeaker, Ace practically marries Lex Luger’s lively bassline, employing a digestible chopped up flow and dropping memorable fodder: “Same old shit/just a different day/out here trying to get it/each and every way.” Trumped only by its remix, powered by Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, it’s the kind of record everyone knew Ace had up his sleeve from the beginning.
The tough talk continues on the car stereo-ready “Errythang” and “King of the Streets” where Ace gets assistance from T-Pain for the hook and makes his opening arguments for a crown, but it stops shortly thereafter. “Body 2 Body” isn’t exactly a chart-topping smash but it’s decent enough to keep the momentum in his favor.
To the album’s detriment, the latter half finds Ace transforming into a DMX Jr., praying and wallowing in sorrow over discordant production, inconsistent with the bigger album cuts. The genuine “Spoke to my Momma” is worth saving but its surrounding mood killers just bring the excitement level down. It still fares better than Khaled’s idea of musicianship, as heard on “Legendary,” where R&B all-stars Chris Brown, Keyshia Cole and Ne-Yo do nothing more but wail their throats hoarse over an electronica heap of bullshit.
It is a direct reflection on the creativity of the WTB camp for standing behind spotty albums every time out. The existence of iTunes allows for projects of such caliber to survive, but that talent would be better served for an EP, with that distinction more so going to Ace Hood. Their albums may be average but at least “Hustle Hard” and “I’m on One” will live on in infamy.
We The Best Forever
Label: We The Best/Terror Squad/Cash Money/Universal Motown | Producers: Lex Luger, Noah “40” Shebib, Danja, The Runners, Boi-1da, T-Minus, The Renegades, The Nasty Beatmakers, The Monarch, Infinity, THE TEAM
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Label: We The Best/Def Jam | Producers: Lex Luger, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, The Runners, Cardiak, Sonny Digital, Young Fyre, Schife, The Lottery, The Monarch, The Renegades, OhZee, White Hot