A wounded man slumps against a white wall on a city street. It’s late at night, and there’s nobody on the road, and no one within earshot to help him as he bleeds. With an infernal cackle, another man (or perhaps it only seems to be a man) descends to the sidewalk from the skies. As the wounded man begins to lose consciousness, the second man approaches him and whispers something malicious. The first man in this nightmare scene is Jacksonville rapper and singer Yungeen Ace. The second man could be the Grim Reaper, or a representative of a malevolent, semi-human race, or just a figment of the star’s imagination – a projection made amid his delirium and pain.
If you think this scene from “So Long,” the latest video from Jacksonville, Florida’s Yungeen Ace, is just a metaphor, then you don’t know anything about the rapper’s life, or what he’s gone through. No, he hasn’t gone toe to toe with a physical manifestation of Death, but he’s taken the punches and beaten the odds, and he’s lived to sing and rap about it. Less than a year ago, the vocalist took eight bullets while shielding his friends from an assailant. That night, Yungeen Ace watched three members of his crew die in front of him. He’s lost family members, faced incarceration, and felt the sting of poverty and hunger – in short, he’s gone through more hardship in his 21 years than most people do in a lifetime.
Now that he’s through it, he’s channeling all of his pain, his rage, his hope, and his survivor’s exuberance into uncompromising songs that make his struggles – and his victories – manifest for his listeners. Life I’m Livin, his 2018 mixtape, firmly established him as one of the most talented young rappers in the crowded Florida rap game: a vocalist with a distinctive approach and an even more remarkable story to tell. “So Long” is both the sweetest and the meanest record he’s ever cut – it’s a hip-hop beat with roots deep in Southern blues and gospel, and it’s graced by a Yungeen Ace performance that’s mesmerizing in its intensity.
Christian Breslauer’s clip for “So Long” captures all the brutality and all the beauty of Yungeen Ace’s music. We get plenty of footage of the rapper and singer in the boxing ring, trading blows with a beast of a man egged on by the demonic figure we meet in the video’s first minutes. Yungeen Ace takes a beating and hits the canvas – but he doesn’t stay down. In the end, it’s his own flurry of blows that carries the day. But for how long?