Interview: Ace Hood On Leading A 'Black Lives Matter' Protest & Inspiration For ‘Starvation V’
Antoine “Ace Hood” McColister is known for hustling hard and waking up in new Bugattis. But there’s another layer of the Florida native that few give him credit for. Throughout his career -- that spans four studio albums and a handful of mixtapes -- Ace Hood is one of many vocal MCs willing to speak out in America during major tragedies. He has written emotionally charged songs like “Another Statistic” and “F**k Da World,” off his 2013 album Trials & Tribulations, to spread his message.
On Saturday (July 9), Ace participated in a peaceful demonstration for the Black Lives Matter movement in Miami while marching with other protesters to show his support and to motivate his fans to stand up.
Inspired by the police-involved deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, there are several tracks on his latest mixtape Starvation V (which was released this week) that address social injustice -- and the struggles young black men often face in America. There’s “Wishful Thinking,” a track where he hopes that better days are ahead of us, constantly dreaming that his wishes will turn into a reality. And on the tape’s final track, “Keep On Praying,” Ace looks to God for answers while encouraging everyone to keep their faith and to appreciate their blessings in these dire times. Ace says he made Starvation V out of a necessity to get some things off his chest. The songs represent a vulnerable side of him that his fans rarely get to see.
Earlier this week, VIBE spoke with the Miami rapper about his experience at the Black Lives Matter march, his most personal records from the mixtape, and his take on how rappers need to continue the conversation for change as we move forward from recent unjust police shootings. unjustly deaths.
VIBE: You participated in a Black Lives Matter march in Miami last weekend. What motivated you to do that?
Ace Hood: I just wanted to use my platform and show support at the end of the day. I wanted to take a stand. Be out there with the people. I just wanted to be there in the physical form.
How would you describe the overall experience?
When I first got there, I actually led the prayer to it which was incredible. What I believe in is what I stand for. I think equality [is important]. That particular march won’t change anything, but the fact that us unifying as people and me having some type of influence and people seeing that, it would allow people to be inspired in some way to want to move forward. It was real moving for me to be there [and] to be a part of it. I was honored to walk with them and to support the whole Black Lives Matter movement.
The Game and Snoop Dogg led a march to the LAPD in LA. What did you think about that?
I think it’s just important. We can use our platform for anything we choose to use it for. Whether it is selling merchandise, promoting our music, or whatever it may be. I just think for an artist to physically be out there with the people, trying to make a difference, trying to make a change and get people to unify. It is important. So me seeing that, I was inspired. I’m not even from LA and I wanted to be standing next to Snoop during that march. That was incredible, so salute to them.
You’re one of the artists who speak out when a major tragedy affects the world in your music and social media. Why do you believe your 2013 song “Fuck Da World” is still relevant today?
Because things haven’t changed. I think we continue to deal with these issues. A lot more awareness is being brought to these records because I’ve been speaking about these things. It hasn’t changed. Our lives are still being taken. There’s still no inequality. Police fear us. As a black man, it is important to educate ourselves. For me, it is bringing awareness. [It’s] from my understanding that these things are important. Yeah, the lavish life [is good], but there are actually real things going on in the community. Anytime I write or illustrate [something], I like to come from a place of not where I am per say but to what is actually happening in the world and our community and in the world nowadays.
As an artist with a platform, why is it important for you to address social issues?
I want to give the people a voice. I am their voice. That’s what Hood Nation is. It is speaking to every hood and everybody around the world. That’s the place I’m trying to come from and saying, ‘Hey, for this guy that just got harassed by the police or this guy who is going through this [or] a mother who has lost her child due to police violence.’ For me, that’s just awareness for them. That’s given them a voice and God is just putting me in place. He’s just using me for that. That’s my purpose for this Earth is just to speak for the people that can’t really speak and when things get overlooked in certain communities. This is me standing up and saying, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening. This is really what’s going on in the community.’ And me having the platform, I feel like it is important that I need to say that.
Why did you want to put out a fifth installment of your Starvation series?
I just needed to get a few things off my chest. I think the people needed it. I think that the world needed it. I think it was something that needed to be said. I think that’s what Starvation V is. You know, [there’s] a lot of people actually thanking me for the project in this time of need. I just think it was written. It was what God wanted to happen, and it happened. And get people to understand that I understand what you’re going through. I have my own issues, and this is me being more vulnerable than I ever been as an artist, as a man, and coming into more as myself saying ‘hey, I can relate to that.’ I haven’t gotten to the place where I’m just oblivious of what’s happening to my people. We need that. We need soul food.
One song that stood out to me was “Wishful Thinking.” You talk about being a Grammy-nominated artist, and wanting to work with Beyoncé. What made you want to write that song?
[I was] just in a place of daydreaming. When you daydream about the things that you want, that you aspire to one day have. I was just in a place of joy, happiness. Just a vision of me acquiring and having all the things. In the perfect world, ‘OK, cool. In a perfect world, Ace, what would it be for you? What would it be like for you?’ And for me, if I could change the world, I would put smiles on kid’s faces. I would want to do a record with Beyoncé. It would be so dope. We all got wishful thoughts. For me, it was just about explaining to the people that ‘Hey, I still got dreams. I am living mine’s to a certain extent, but I still got dreams.’ I still want to do great things.
You rap, “Eric Garner and many others mistakenly died / All these police killing us and get sweeped to the side / Be the change you want to see, it is up to you to decide.” What do you think it’ll take for someone to take action and make that change?
I think people need to understand that we all play a part. To me, it is all boils down to developing self, and developing self-love. I think we need to understand that we are all a part of the problem and we can also be the solution too. I think that’s what they don’t want. They don’t want us to unify. They don’t want us to come together—even more of a reason why we should come together. That’s just what that line meant. There is a lot going on in the community, but the moment you decide to stand up and say, ‘hey, I want to make a difference not only for myself, not only for my family, and not only for those around me, I think things gonna change.’
“Mr. Black Man” sounds like it was written from a perspective of a black man in America in current times. Were you pulling from your own experiences?
No, I’m pulling from my perspective of how I see things in this day and age now as opposed to the guy who might be going through the struggle of dealing with everyday life. Waking up. Bills are due. You are trying to make ends meet. He might have gotten caught up in the system. He might think about trying to make a quickfast come up or something like that. That’s why I kind of played back and forth, which is why when I switched I said, ‘That is you, and this is me.’
Initially, the guy who I was speaking of was just a guy who wants to make a change. Who wants to make a change, but he doesn’t know how to do it. Some of these younger kids that think about dope, it’s just the way to do it because some of these other people and artists put that type of content in their music, so we feel like it is cool. But for me and my perspective, that isn’t a cool way. They want you to shoot the block up. They want you to do this. They want us to get tricked by the system. But for me, the more I educated myself as a man, as a human being, I understood. ‘Oh, ok, we can’t be victims to the system.’ That isn’t the way to make change. And just be another statistic in our community. That’s what the black man perspective is.
“Cold Shivers” is record where you rap about hearing gunshots ring outside and waking up cold sweats. There’s also a line where you’re afraid it could happen to your mom one day. Do you fear something tragic could happen to you?
It’s not even so much my mom, that verse was worst case scenario. That’s what “Cold Shivers” is. “Cold Shivers” is that phone call I got--you know, R.I.P. to my brother Four Fifth who passed away years ago. When I got the call, waking up in the middle of your sleep and one of your homeboys just got killed. That’s an unsettling feeling for anybody, or a loved one or a loved one that got killed. That’s what “Cold Shivers” is. It is waking up out of that, and hearing something that’s happening. You are hearing gunshots. You hearing, ‘yo, such and such got hit.’ I spoke from that perspective. So many people can relate to getting a call. Nobody wants to get that call over tragedy, or a close friend or a loved one of theirs. That’s what “Cold Shivers” is. It is being paranoid that there’s so much going on in the world. I’m raising children and it is scary. I can’t sleep because there’s so much happening in the world today. We just gotta continue to stay prayed up.
With a statement like that, do you hope this doesn’t become an everyday reality?
It really is reality. It is sad to say. I got word about the Alton Sterling killing, his son found out about before the mother. The son found out on social media. How do you feel seeing your father murdered on social media? The type of nightmares that [it] gives you? And knowing that your child found out first as opposed to your parent? That alone gave me goosebumps. Nobody wants to go through that. My mom’s saying was she would never want to bury her kids; she would want her kids to bury her because she can’t live to see the sight of it.
On Instagram, you shared some thoughts on black men: “If you weren’t so valuable and didn’t have the potential to be so powerful the world would not be so hell bent on exterminating your existence.” We aren’t that far removed from Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas shootings. Do you still stick by your words?
I do. I do believe that our culture is powerful. It’s funny that people want to be black until it is really time to be black. I think there are a lot of people who adopt our culture that want to be like us. That listen to the rap music and adopt the culture, and want to be cool, which is fine. But when it is time to be that, people aren’t really willing to be that all the way. I just think that’s funny. For me, to understand as a black man, how valuable that is. How valuable we are to the culture, to the business, to everything, to sports. We decided to say, ‘hey, we don’t want to do anything else today.’ And we decide that every athlete—whoever—got to say no today, I think a lot will stop. There’s power in being a black man.
Do you feel a certain type of way when people are part of this rap culture and don’t necessarily weigh in when they need to?
I think people are who they are. I think for certain people, you are not really expecting that from certain people. I just chose to speak on it because that’s what I preach: I preach inspiration, I preach health, wellness. That’s me in my music. It’s how we can overcome? That real hustlin’ motivation. So for me, it’s important that I uplift my people, and uplift the world. Uplift the listeners. I don’t think we expect that from every artist, but if people want to speak up, I think they should. If they choose not to, [then that’s OK.] Some people don’t know politics. Some people don’t get it. I am not a politician, I don’t get into it. I just know from right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. Simple and plain.
How should rappers keep the conversation going?
I think activism and rallying people together works. Music is definitely a way. It’s one way, [but] there are many ways artists can use their platforms. I do think physically being there, that’s what is important. It’s cool to talk about it and it sounds good, but for me, physically being there, showing the people that I’m a person too. I’m with you. I’m standing alongside you. I’m here. I’m in the flesh. You can touch me, you can see me. I’m fighting for it too. My fist is in the air, and I believe in this just as much as you believe in it. I think the more of that happening, and we can see more of our hip-hop leaders, from old school to the new school guy, continue to bring enlightenment through the music, through anything. Music is just what’s move the world. It changes your mood, it changes your energy. It changes lives. Music does powerful things. But I believe physically being there could be more powerful than anything.