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Ace Hood reveals why he left DJ Khaled’s We The Best label and went independent

“It was just the principal for me,” Ace Hood said. “The fact that I felt like we created this thing together... I contributed, I repped that shit, it’s on my skin. I was out here, people knew that.”

Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.

On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN link up with hometown hero Ace Hood, who talks his rise to fame, the adversity faced along the way, his life and career. Hailing from Florida, the former star athlete made the transition to rapping during his teenage years, eventually catching the attention of DJ Khaled, who tagged him as the flagship artist of his label, We The Best Music. Releasing his debut album, Gutta, in 2008, Ace went on to release three additional albums under the We The Best umbrella, scoring multiple hits including “Hustle Hard,” “Body 2 Body,” and “Bugatti.” Launching his own imprint, Hood Nation, in 2016, he most recently released his fifth studio album, Mr. Hood, and has evolved from a fiery newcomer into a seasoned vet.

To help give fans a recap of the episode, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Ace Hood “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.

1. On His Love For Lyricism

The first word that comes to mind when describing Ace Hood’s music is “aggressive,” however, the Floridian’s sheer lyrical ability is often overlooked, an aspect of his artistry he credits to his desire to shift the misconception about southern rappers. “You know what’s so crazy is the fact that south artists weren’t really known for lyricism or putting together rhymes like that,” he admits. “So I wanted to be a south artist that was able to do so. So, I listened to a lot of, like, up north influence, Canibus, Big L. I listened to a lot of people who were really rapping, people that were doing their thing, so for me, it was always about that. These were people who were saying words [and] using terminology and just language that was just very different. So, to me, I wanted to have a little bit of both ‘cause yeah, we got the bounce, but I wanted to be able to say something in my music. And then, obviously, being with Khaled and that whole situation was like the expectation. You know once the bar gets raised, that’s where we’re at with it.”

2. On Finding His Sound

In spite of his track record of hits, Ace Hood admits to being influenced to water down his sound and lyrical content early in his career, a decision he says was rooted in his inexperience within the industry. “When you’re trying to build a fanbase, you’re listening to the people that’s done it before,” he explains. “So, you gotta experiment, man. So, that’s what it really was like for me, it was like, alright, cool. I know I have to dumb it down in order to create certain records, but I also know that I got so much more in me, you know what I mean? I can tell real stories and stuff like that. You listen to Nas, you listen to people like yourself (N.O.R.E.), you hear stories, I like that. Take me on a journey throughout this. So, that’s more so where I’m at now in my mind.”

3. On His Origins As An Athlete

A native of Deerfield Beach, Florida, the rapper speaks on the area’s rich tradition of producing star athletes including those he played with during his own amateur career on the gridiron. “Coming up, the Deerfield legends, they weren’t musicians, these guys were ball players,” the “Hustle Hard” rapper explains. “I grew up playing football, that was my thing, so a lot of the people that you see in the NFL, these are the people that we just came up looking up towards. Tyrone Moss and these guys. I grew up playing with Patrick Peterson and so many other guys, JPP, just those type of people. I grew up looking to Deion Sanders, I wanted to be like Deion Sanders growing up, like Prime Time, so it was more so of that. And on the music side, [the artists] I looked up to, you had the [Lil] Waynes, the Soulja Slims. I was big on that south type stuff, so that was really where my influence came from when I was young.”

4. On Meeting DJ Khaled

During the latter half of the aughts, the artist caught his big break when he was discovered by Khaled during an impromptu meeting in front of a local radio station. “We gave him the CD ‘cause I wanted to rap for him,” Ace recalls of his encounter with the ubiquitous impresario. “I couldn’t rap for him, he had this radio station [interview], he had to be there 6:15 [or] 6:30, he gotta be doing his thing. I didn’t hear back or hear anything until, like, the following day. He hit my manager back that same night and was having a conversation with him and was like, ‘I like what I heard. I hear the hunger, I wanna work with this guy.’ And from there, two weeks later, the prior meeting to actually signing and figuring out what we wanna do.”

5. On His Split With DJ Khaled

After nearly a decade as the flagship artist on We The Best Music, Ace abruptly cut ties with Khaled and the label, opting to go independent in light of his displeasure with the direction of his career. When asked about the backstory behind the split, he gives additional context to the differences that led to his departure from the label. “It was just the principal for me,” he says of his gripes with Khaled. “The fact that I felt like we created this thing together, not like we should make all the decisions [together], but this was a decision I felt we were brothers enough that you would come to me about this decision type of thing — in some way. And maybe he don’t feel the same way that I could even be in a position to say that, but I felt like we built this [together]. I contributed, I repped that shit, it’s on my skin, I was out here, people knew that. So, for me, the decision to take it from one thing to another was an issue for me because then I started to understand that it’s not about my decision. So, once he made the decision and it was final with Sony Red and it was happening, that’s when the conversation actually happened with us and I felt blown away because I felt like I was unprepared for it. There’s ideas and there’s things that I wanted to do that I felt I needed a major backing to do so.”

6. On His Spirituality

In recent years, Ace has become a social media sensation due to his engaging personality and holistic lifestyle, the latter of which he credits to his spirituality. “I grew up in the church,” the “Body 2 Body” rapper notes. “My momma brought me up in the church, so Christianity and all of that. I’m always a man of faith, so I’ve always leaned on my faith. Anytime things get uncertain for me, that has always brought me clarity, so I trust in that. And from that, in terms of Christianity, that spiraled into, like, my spirituality and that ties in also to my wife and my lifestyle. And just, like, my fitness, my health shit, too. Just exploring all of that is what really took me there.”

7. On Other Artists Biting His Flow

Following the release of Ace’s monstrous 2011 hit “Hustle Hard,” several rappers were accused of jacking the flow he used on the song including Meek Mill. However, while Ace makes it clear that he has no ill will or bad blood toward the Philly rapper or any of the other artists in that conversation, he does take credit for influencing the next wave of rappers that have followed in his footsteps. “That’s the honest truth, bro,” he says. “It’s flattering, to be honest, but I think I was so in my zone at that time that I didn’t always fully realize. But, people from the outside would also come up to me [like], ‘Yo bro, this person sounds like you. Yo, why they doing that? That jump flow and that, like, that’s your flow.’ But, if we’re being honest, bro, first of all, there’s nothing new around the sun. Nothing new on this earth. We’re all inspired by somebody, so I never took ownership of a flow. It just didn’t make sense to me. But, did I inspire a generation? For sure, for sure.”

8. On The Making of “Bugatti”

In 2013, Ace teamed up with Future for their smash collaboration, “Bugatti,” which spawned a star-studded remix and was one of the biggest anthems of the year. During his sit down with N.O.R.E. and EFN, he paints a picture of the environment in the studio when the record was created. “[I] walk in the studio,” he begins. “Future in there, boom, we chop it up. Me and Khaled there, we chop it up. So, he in there, he don’t even play the music yet and then he give me the speech of all speeches. Like, ‘Yo, this gonna be the biggest record ever. This shit gonna be No. 1.’ It don’t got no lyrics on it, no lyrics. I think that shit is powerful in terms of manifestation. That shit’s real bro, that shit can give you goosebumps, you feel me? And to know it, like, ‘I know it. Nothing’s happened yet, I know it,’ you feel me? So, in my mind, I’m just like, ‘Alright.’ Play the beat, that shit come on, I’m just like, ‘Oh, this shit... this that [shit].’ I already knew what I was gonna do, I know I’mma come on there and I’mma deliver. He gives me the talk like, ‘Yo, you gotta write that, you gotta talk that. Ayo Future, I need that. I need nothing but that legendary. I need that anthem, I need that big, I need that movie, I need that No. 1.”

9. On The Impact Going Indie Had On His Connections Within The Industry

As someone who’s experienced being on a major label and an independent label himself, N.O.R.E. asks Ace about his own transition to being an indie artist and how that impacted his relationships within the industry. The rapper admits to being mentally prepared for those changes and describes the experience as more of an expectation than a disappointment. “I felt like it was expected,” Ace says of his interactions post-We The Best. But, for sure, I think relationships with people that I had, they weren’t the same. A lot of the relationships were recommendations to me, so I had to get rid of lawyers and all type of shit because it was recommended. It was in-house type shit. I had an identity, so it’s like I had to create a whole ‘nother identity outside of that, that was the different thing about me. Coming outside of We The Best, it was like, ‘OK, y’all know me for that, but I’m a new being outside of this thing. I gotta create a new me.”

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