Born and raised in Broward County, Ace Hood knows hard times. But he knows all about winning too.
It's pretty simple. Like he barks on his latest hot hit track: "Same old shit, just a different day/Out her tryin' to get it, each and every way/Momma need a house/Baby need some shoes ... Guess what Imma do/Hustle, hustle, hustle, hard."
Indeed, we're talking work ethic. And Hood's mentor and label boss, DJ Khaled, is the 305's prime expert on taking charge. He's taught Ace all about brand, business, and stacks of cash.
Crossfade: How did you first get into rapping? Were you a kid?
Ace Hood: Yeah, music was always a part of my life when I was younger. My real father was always into music, so I guess it kind of rubbed off on me.
Was your father a musician?
Yeah, he played in a band back then.
Was it soul and R&B? Or something closer to hip-hop?
More like soul and R&B.
You mentioned ball? Were you a high-school football player?
Yeah, I played football for Deerfield Beach High. Free safety and cornerback.
What happened? Did you get hurt?
Yeah, I ended up getting hurt. And once I got hurt, I kind of just gave it up. My love for the game wasn't really there anymore. So I really kind of just switched on it.
Did that injury push you into the rap game?
I actually just decided to take my music full-fledged. I was into the ball situation and that didn't go well due to my injury. So I just went full-fledged with the music. I didn't even have any intention of getting a deal or anything. I just wanted to record and continue making music, doing what I was doing.
Was it hard to get your first shot?
It definitely was. It was very tough for me to get my first shot. I mean, I was going everywhere. And I was like 17 or 18 years old performing in 21-year-old clubs. I should have been studying for the FCAT or studying for different things. But I would be at clubs performing. It was definitely tough.
I went through the whole process of passing out CDs. You know, Memorial Day weekend ... Me on the beach trying to meet artists and just really just trying to get them to listen. All I wanted as an unsigned artist was just to be heard.
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How did you end up meeting DJ Khaled?
I actually went to the radio station. You know Khaled got his annual birthday bash and it's big every single year. I was an unsigned artist at that point in time and I just wanted to be a part of it. He had a little contest going, "Why do you feel like you should perform at my birthday bash?" And I ended up doing that.
I showed up at the station and I saw Khaled and I was like, "Yo, Khaled! What up? I wanna reiterate why I should be the one performing at your birthday bash." And he was like, "Well, you know, I can't do it now. I'm on my way to a meeting." But I ended up pitching him the CD and he actually ended up listening to it. Most artists, they give you the story, "Yeah, I'm going to listen to it." But he actually did listen to it and he called back at 11:30 p.m. that night. And everything was history. He was like, "I'm going to sign you."
Why do you think he took notice of your ability right away?
Just solely because of my hunger, man. He could hear it in my voice. And not only that ... By seeing me, he felt like he could mold me into something great. And starvation has always been in my music. Now everyone be like, "Ace goes hard and I hear his hunger in the music." And that's the same thing Khaled heard.
Would you call Khaled a mentor?
Oh, most definitely, man. Khaled has definitely helped me blossom as an artist. Not only that, he's helped me blossom as a businessman. I appreciate Khaled. He's always believed in me, even when others didn't believe in me. He always gave me the best advice for everything. And I really commend him on that.
What have you learned about making it as a business man and mogul from Khaled?
Stay focused as an artist. Always keep yourself relevant. Continue to stay in the studio. Always conduct good business. And just work hard, man. Really work hard and build your brand. Always make sure you keep your brand safe at the end of the day.
For Best of the Best, are you and Khled doing a set together?
Yes, we are performing at Best of the Best. Of course, I'm gonna do the hit record "Hustle Hard." I'm gonna do my new record "Go & Get It." Khaled's gonna do his new record "I'm on One." We got hits, we gonna do "Cash Flow."
How about Memorial Day weekend? What's the plan?
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I got parties all over the city. I'm bringing the toys out. I've got the Phantoms out here. We've got some Maybachs. We've got some Carreras. We've got everything down here. It was my birthday May 11, so I purposely didn't celebrate it before Memorial Day weekend came. I totally wanted to celebrate it and really enjoy myself. I'm gonna be all over the city, really having fun.
Are you gonna even take a break?
Nah, man. No sleep!