“I’m the best hooper [who raps],” says Yungeen Ace, with no trace of doubt in his tone. “I’m into it with Lil Durk right now. He’s probably the second best. I don’t know too much about the other rappers. Polo G can play, too. We were on tour together and about to play. I was gonna beat him.”
Ace is at the SLAM offices in NYC, eyeing a wall decorated with old covers. He points to an image of Allen Iverson, the player he idolized as a kid, and starts talking about his impact on the culture, noting his patented arm sleeve and headband look.
Growing up in Jacksonville, FL, a city he describes as the “jungle,” Ace developed a love for basketball. Rap was his true calling, however, and he began making music at the age of 13. His career kicked off with the help of a few family members and after signing with Cinematic Music Group, he released his debut album, Life of Betrayal, in August of 2018. He’s built a big following, thanks in part to a YouTube channel he runs with his girlfriend, Chloe, and to his constant interactions with his fans.
“My favorite part about [the YouTube channel] is that it makes [Chloe] smile,” he says. “It’s something she really wanted to do. Every time she uploads it, she be happy. That’s probably my favorite part about it.
“And it’s definitely a good way [to engage with fans]. To be honest, that’s made my fanbase even bigger because people who didn’t know who I was but used to watch my YouTube channel, that makes them like the music. So streams go up from that, too. It’s dope all around.”
On November 8, 2019, a day after our interview, Ace dropped another major project, Step Harder, featuring Lil Durk, Stunna 4 Vegas, NoCap, DeJ Loaf, Boosie Badazz and Blac Youngsta.
“I ain’t gonna lie, I put my soul into that,” Ace explains. “I really took my time with this one.”
When he’s not in the studio, Ace is often at the movies—he and Chloe go at least once a week, and Ace can quickly rattle off his top five all-time (Shottas, Ghetto Stories, Paid in Full, Rush Hour, ATL)—or hooping at LA Fitness in some Jordan XIIIs.
He’s got supporters in the League now, too.
“I got relationships with a few of them,” he explains. “Dejounte Murray from the Spurs. I fuck with him. We be reaching out. We call each other all the time.
“There’s a couple of them, but he’s the one I mess with on the daily, though.”
Because of Murray, Ace now roots for San Antonio. He’s also a fan of LeBron (“The GOAT, for real”), Westbrook (“He’s like a smaller LeBron”) and Curry (“It’s simple but he’s smooth, like you ain’t gonna be able to stop that”).
When Lil Durk linked with SLAM not too long ago, he challenged any rapper to play him one-on-one.
“All the hoopers who say they got skills, you got to show it,” he said. “I’m tired of challenging people. They scared.”
We know one person who isn’t.
“People from Chicago can’t really play ball like that,” Yungeen Ace says with a smile.
Alex Squadron is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @asquad510.
Photos by Sean Edwards.