Name: Ace Henderson
When one thinks about southern rap, high-hats, synthesizers, heavy bass lines, and Juicy J are some things that may come to mind. However, 19-year-old North Carolina transplant and rapper Ace Henderson uses those elements to push southern trap-inspired music toward a #NEWSOUTH. ‘What’s that,’ you ask? Read on as we talk with Ace about digging The Love Below, rich kids that do blow, and his rocky transition from the Big Apple to the Tar Heel state in this week’s Family Swank .
Mass Appeal: Your new mixtape, SUBURBIA, dropped fairly recently. How has it been received so far?
Ace Henderson: The response has been overwhelmingly awesome; it’s really gratifying to see that the people love the music I’ve made. I got very personal on some songs and I’m grateful to have people respect that aspect of my music and me, and hopefully they can relate. My music is exactly how I see the world, so when people tell me that they like it, that makes me feel very accomplished.
MA: What was the inspiration behind the title?
AH: The popular perception of the suburbs is that they are utopian communities. Therefore, suburbs plus utopia equals suburbia.
MA: On certain tracks, you channel André 3000 with your flow, your prose-like syntax, and use of rich language. Is he an influence?
AH: I love 3-Stacks. The Love Below is still in my rotation so to be mentioned with him is cool. However, I actually got most of my prose-like writing inspiration from Frank Ocean and Lupe Fiasco. My dad always told me to tell stories. There’s a story within everything, nothing exists without a purpose, and I like to try to depict as many things as possible so that the listener can connect my actions with my words: synchronicity.
MA: Your latest tape is considered “NEWSOUTH”, while #ALLENEP falls into the “HobbyRap” category. Could you explain the difference?
AH: [Laughs] Hobby rap is my favorite type of rap; it’s fun rap. It’s rapping without the boundaries of a single genre. #ALLENEP was the beginning of me exploring my sonic pallet and seeing what my voice can convey.
“#NEWSOUTH” is the culmination of all of the musical influences in my life combined into one. Being from the south we are privy to that deep-thump, trunk-rattle music. We all start driving around the time we’re 16 to 18-years-old down here in North Carolina, and I just remember bumping whatever had the deepest thump in my car during my senior year of high school. The chop and screwed, 808’s, and hi-hats are Dirty South but that’s died away. “#NEWSOUTH” is that same Dirty South type feel except we’ve cleaned it up, added some new clothes, shoes, and voilà.
MA: Most of your beats are trippy. Did this pose a challenge when writing lyrics and developing a cohesive flow?
AH: Life is mundane without challenges and I try to not pick anything that I can’t handle. I love trippy beats because they represent the part of your brain that people try not to drift into: the unknown region. “M.I.A” was the hardest to write because of the subject matter and then just finding the right rhythm but after fiddling with different cadences and flows I got it down and it’s now one of my favorite songs.
MA: Finish this sentence: SUBURBIA _________.
AH: Is home.
Ace Henderson Home Studio
MA: How and when did you first enter the rap game?
AH: I started writing to beats from Pharrell songs when I was like 12 or 13 with a friend. Around my sophomore year of high school I started to record songs and got discouraged after they didn’t sound good (well, to me at least). I took some time to keep playing sports but I lost passion in that once I saw how the politics outweighed talent in that field.
During my senior year I made a mixtape for some friends and people started to like the tunes so I kept grinding—word to Davone. And now I’m here, two years later with my heart and mind fully invested in becoming the best artist I can be.
MA: Who or what has been the most important factor in your growth as an artist?
AH: My parents are my biggest inspiration. They were professional singers and I’m lucky to have people that care for me unconditionally and actually know about my craft. When I suck, they tell me I suck. When I’m being lazy they tell me to step it up. My parents worked hard to move our family from Brooklyn into a two-bedroom apartment in Raleigh, and then into a two-story house in a nice neighborhood. I was naïve to the reality of the transitions when I was a little guy, but now that I’m 19-years-old and taking my first steps into the real world, I understand the sacrifices that they made and I appreciate them. They forfeited some of their dreams for my sister and I to have a place to sleep at night. I want to succeed and show them that working four jobs to move us out of the so-called “hood” was worth it.
MA: Do you view yourself solely as a rapper?
AH: No; I have hands in a few different pots—I’m hungry as hell at the moment. I love art of all mediums. I consider myself an artist. I can deliver quality product in many areas, but with SUBURBIA, my focus was songwriting and arranging so that my story can be heard and felt.
MA: Music is our life’s soundtrack. What journey do you want your audience to embark upon while listening to yours?
AH: SUBURBIA is what life is like for us kids in the South; we are all linked together by the memories we’ve created with each other. It’s my perspective of finding myself in the niche of the community I was thrust into. I know rich kids that do blow, some of my friends trap to keep their parents’ lights on, and the athletes/big homies throw the parties where people of all races come together and leave their issues at the door; within the walls of the party, nothing matters…until the cops come. SUBURBIA is a scrapbook of all of those moments. I want everyone to close their eyes and listen to SUBURBIA and live vicariously through those songs. It’s fun. It’s my life and I’m proud of who I’ve become from understanding each of those situations for what they’re worth, y’know?
Turn up or die.
MA: Do you think today’s hip hop adds to the narrative that the culture’s forefathers and mothers laid out?
AH: Hell yeah. And I don’t think that people give The Cool Kids enough cred for bringing this hip hop shit back and it makes me upset. They had the ill beats and slick lines that made me want to get into rapping. Hip hop was founded on the principal of expanding upon what was already present but injecting flavors and other styles and I think that current music is definitely following that precedent. Look at A$AP and Flatbush from the East, SaveMoney from the North, and OF from the West. Insert my “NEWSOUTH” comrades and me and you’ll have the full compass rose of music.
SUBURBIA was only the beginning.