It’s an interesting time in hip hop. What was once a scrum of regional sounds all quietly competing to be the standard of the genre has transitioned into a kaleidoscope of sub-genres used to categorize MCs and producers, and in a landscape like this, Ace Cosgrove decided the best way to fit in was to be different.
On his latest album Baby Need Food, which he did entirely with Robbie Anthem, the DMV bred spitter might even surprise his own fans with a sound that can best be described as “new classic.” It’s a direction he says came from his first conversation with Robbie, who he connected with via djbooth.com.
“Robbie’s whole thing was, he was like ‘I’m not trying to use none of that electro, new wave bulls**t you be on,” Ace told BET.com. “He wanted everything to sound good live. That was our whole thing for everything to sound funky and good live. What I plan to do is play all my shows with a live band. I’m doing Landmark festival Sept. 27 and I’m definitely planning to do this whole project live,” he added.
On his 2014 album, Simple Criticism, the 24-year-old rhymer found the reaction from fans to be unusually polarizing, with some people criticizing the disjointedness of his mellow flows with the electro-pop infused production. Ace calls it one more step in his own personal growing process.
“I got way better at [tailoring the flow to the beats] but it was definitely a lot easier this time around since everything was more funky and like jazz based,” Ace noted. “We got more jazz instrumentation, saxophone, we did a remake of the Joe with G-Unit song ‘I Wanna Get to Know You’— it’s just more organized and cohesive. I still like the new age s**t that’s going on, electro wave that’s going on, but I wanna take a break. I didn’t want people to categorize me as just doing that sound,” he added.
With the existence of social media, artists are no longer dependent on radio for survival which has benefited Ace in multiple ways. He has built a strong following in his home region that has slowly worked it’s way across the country and he refuses to compromise his product for spins.
“I don’t give a s**t about making a hit single,” said Ace. “Obviously I would like to be on the radio, but I never sit down like, ‘I need to make a song for the radio. I gotta make this a radio hit. I gotta get a singer.’ I think when you pay attention to that your music gets watered down, your music strays from what you came into the game to do. You’re really just focusing on money at that point.”
Kendrick Lamar shook up the industry earlier this year with his melodic opus To Pimp a Butterfly, an album infused with jazz stylings, classic soul and grooves reminiscent of P-Funk. Ace, who was already in the process of making Baby Need Food, said the project helped him realize that his sound was definitely going in the right direction.
Once I heard [TPAB] I was definitely thinking, ‘It’s time to really get to work,’” exclaimed Ace. “Robbie and I did the album’s first single, “Baby Need Clothes” a little bit before Kendrick’s album came out but it definitely gave me a sense of encouragement, like we’re doing the right thing. I’d say the biggest influence to me personally was Andre 3000. And please print this: That Andre 3000 “Prototype” [from Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below] changed my life. When I first heard that I was like that’s how music is supposed to sound. Lovely!”
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