The US rapper opens up about the joys of becoming an independent artist and returning to the UAE to perform
Ace Hood finds clarity on new mixtape Trust the Process
The perennial hustle for acceptance in the hip-hop industry didn’t apply to Ace Hood. The 28-year-old United States rapper was one of a few artists who bucked the trend by signing to a major label after only a year in the game.
The story has it that Hood, real name Antoine McColister, met the Palestinian-American producer and present hip-hop kingpin DJ Khaled, outside a radio station in 2007 and gave him a demo-tape. Impressed by Hood’s nimble flow, Khaled wasted no time in signing him up as the flagship artist for his fledgling We the Best label. The hits steadily flowed across four albums; bangers such as 2013’s anthemic Bugatti and 2011’s Hustle Hard not only became nightclub staples but collectively amassed up to 300 million views on YouTube.
Hence the shock news that rippled through the hip-hop industry last year when the artists decided to split ways. Without major label support, Hood spent a year crafting his new release Trust the Process.
Speaking before his upcoming weekend club shows at Mad on Yas Island and White Dubai, Hood explains the new mixtape (a free collection of songs as opposed to a for-profit album) traces his journey from rancour at his label boss, Khaled, to his decision to forge his own artistic path as an independent artist.
Indeed, the project’s highlight is the evocative To Whom it May Concern, where Hood details some of the thinking process that enabled him to reach a peaceful mental state.
“It took me a while to find out what was happening and figuring things, and get to a place where I can move forward with positive energy,” he says. “I also had to get to a place where I can realise what was done for me and the great music I made with We the Best. With that gratefulness came the respect that I have for Khaled.”
While Hood wouldn’t elaborate on the details of his disagreements with Khaled, he explains that a lot of frustration stemmed from working within the bureaucratic confines of major labels.
With digital streaming overtaking physical album sales, in addition to the power of social media, Hood says it is an ideal period to be an independent artist. The online world has created a more level playing field where smaller artists can thrive without major support.
“It is a great time for these artists,” he says.
“Because a lot of things have changed now and there is more effect now when it comes to streaming. Ultimately, what it all proves is that at the end of the day it is the fans who decide your fate as opposed to labels controlling certain aspects of what you do. It is a different ball game now; you can literally wake up tomorrow morning and become an artist, providing you have the drive and passion.”
The people have well and truly responded to Hood’s career gamble; in the space of just one month, Trust the Process clocked up more than eight million streams across all the major music platforms. UAE fans can access the songs for free from Anghami, Apple Music UAE and SoundCloud.
Hailing the album as “creative reset”, Hood says he is back in the studio working on his official fifth album. With the introspective Trust the Process allowing him to get a few things off his chest, Hood says the new work will see him return to his signature up-tempo party sounds.
“The next one is for the people,” he says. “It will be high-energy and full of spirit. It will have that gritty, champion-like sound to it. That’s the next phase that I am stepping into right now.”
UAE fans will get the chance to sample some of those vibes when Hood returns to Mad on Yas Island on Friday and White Dubai on Saturday.
A regular visitor to the Emirates over the years, Hood says the country has now firmly cemented itself on the global hip-hop map.
“Over the years I have been coming, you see it in the fans, that the music over there has really grown,” he says. “Particularly in Dubai; that city has become a place where you can say that hip-hop really lives there.”
Ace Hood performs at Mad on Yas Island on Friday, October 6. For details call 055 834 6262. Hood will also appear at White Dubai on Saturday, for bookings email firstname.lastname@example.org