Yungeen Ace has built his massive following by standing alone. At 20, the artist born Keyanta Bullard describes his city of Jacksonville as “a jungle.” Originally a Chicagoan, he moved to Duval County, Florida as a child with no friends. Despite 11 brothers, Ace learned fast that if he wanted to survive, he could only rely on himself. “It’s hard out here. Everything we do, we gotta fight for it. We’ve got to go above and beyond just to make it. The surroundings are crazy. It’s a creep city. Nobody is for you out here, so you have to be really for yourself.”
In June of this year, Ace was the lone survivor of a quadruple shooting when a car he was riding in was ambushed in a drive-by on Town Center Parkway, claiming the lives of his two friends and his brother. Ace was shot 8 times and released from the hospital into police custody less than 24 hours after the incident. Later that month, Ace was freed after a bid requiring him to remain on house arrest for a period of six months, but the moment was a painful and chilling reminder of the violence epidemic in his community. It was a dark spot in an otherwise upbeat time. The rapper recently signed with Cinematic Music Group, a label responsible for propelling key new musical voices into the mainstream and had committed to releasing his debut album, Life of Betrayal, which was subsequently pushed from July 13th to August 3rd.
Ace made a splash with a battle-cry, care of 2017’s “Go To War,” made independently with his Yungeen Gang family. Like troops, fans enlisted, as the rapper achieved 800,000 views in less than a month. Incarceration took the teen off of the streets and into a solitary cell. “In prison, all I was thinking about was betrayal. I got over it by starting to think outside the box, even though I was ‘inside the box.’” Ace prefers to not discuss his case or glorify his time. However, he told VladTV that he received no letters while in. That pain morphed into a positive. “When I didn’t get mail from family, I wrote songs, and those songs made up for the lack of letters.”
Fittingly, Yungeen released “Betrayed,” a Worldstar video that has achieved more than 1.3 million plays. Ace’s angsty attitude resonated with the masses. “It’s the way I present myself,” the rapper says of his close following. “Anything I say, people seem to relate. They can feel it.” It is not uncommon for the personable rapper to FaceTime his fans, and show them that he is there for them, too. That was clear in “All In,” which marked his Cinematic arrival. The hit put the supporters and happier moods in the viral visual. The rapper’s melodic delivery and inclusive bars reached new heights, to the tune of nearly 3.5 million views. The self-proclaimed loner is now able to flash his gold-plated smile and celebrate with those who can relate to the message.
After starting his career with a few family members, Ace chose Cinematic based on a connection. “A lot of labels hit me up, but there was a bond. I like Jonny,” he says of Shipes, the label’s founder, highly responsible in the careers of Joey Bada$$, Big K.R.I.T., and others. “We got a real good relationship, and the bond we’ve got is more than music. I can count on him.” In addition to “All In” and “Betrayed,” “Find Myself” marks the third consecutive label-backed Yungeen Ace video single to seven-figure success. Additionally, the rapper is going on tour with NBA Youngboy, with whom who he also recently collaborated. He also dropped “Jungle” with JayDaYoungan, as both booming voices describe avoiding being prey.
Ace’s anticipated Cinematic debut, Life of Betrayal arrives August 3rd and marks new ground in a bubbling-hot career. “My mama taught me to turn nothing into something. I ain’t never really had nothin’, so whatever I wanted, I had to go get it,” he says. That is precisely what this survivor has done.