By Jordan Meiland
The artwork for "HOPE THIS WALK CLEARS MY HEAD." Courtesy of Antoine Hood.
At some point in our lives, we have problems. Whether they’re brought on by ourselves, others, or the world, when they appear and we seek to deal with them.
Last year, Antoine Hood, better known as Hood the Shogun, found himself living on his own in the midst of the pandemic. Hood, a senior studio production major, found the experience to be beneficial for driving forward the theme of his latest project, titled “HOPE THIS WALK CLEARS MY HEAD.”
Released April 1, the seven-track project is the result of more than a year of hard work. Work on the project started in late 2019 and continued into early 2020. During this time, the first half of the project was recorded. Unfortunately, the project went on pause soon after, due to what he described as “a creative hiatus.” But in September, the project was back in action and the remaining half of the project was recorded.
“It [the project] definitely represents me as an artist a lot clearer,” Hood says. “This is the direction that I’ve been wanting to go towards with my music for a while now.”
Every track on “HOPE THIS WALK CLEARS MY HEAD” has a common theme: they’re all based on the ways Hood deals with similar problems he thinks about. And as suggested by the project’s title, walks played a big role in this project.
“In those times of isolation, I usually took a lot of walks to clear my mind of a lot of things that were going on in my life that were troubling me,” he explains. “On those walks, I would spend some time writing.”
The project opens with “Inhale,” Hood’s favorite track. This track, according to Hood, is based on the idea of trying to calm down before losing your cool. Since he was young, he’s been practicing yoga and always found the mantras taught in his classes to be both calming and beneficial. And so, on “Inhale,” he created a beat that embodies “a meditation vibe.” The overall tone of the track is dark, which creates an interesting juxtaposition with the yoga mantras he was taught growing up.
On the next track, titled “CAN YOU HELP,” we start to see the theme of the project emerge. According to Hood, the track was written “with the idea of wanting to help with problems, but not receiving it, since these are conversations I only express internally.” The track itself is interesting. It starts off with a myriad of distorted audio samples before Hood starts his verses, which flow well into the second half of the track which consists of the repetition of a few specific lines and the phrase “can you help me” over and over.
“Rest for What" follows. Just seconds into the song, Hood begins rapping and doesn’t let up for over a minute, which is nothing short of impressive. According to Hood, this track represents the times during his walks where he’d brush his problems off his shoulders and “just talk his s**t.” This track also features ioe, an artist Hood saw perform at The Stood in 2019 before deciding he wanted him to be featured.
“I saw him perform with JVH [another artist] and thought his skill with the pen was too ill,” Hood explains. “I chose that track in particular because based on the work that I heard from his Soundcloud, I felt like he would body that beat. And I was right.”
“Rest for What” flows right into the next track, “Dragon Tales.” On this track, Hood’s a bit more optimistic about his worries and you can hear it. This track contains copious amounts of Hood’s free-flowing lyrics, as well as bright, backing beats accented by a piano melody and a looping backup vocal part. The track’s title, according to Hood, was named because it gave him a nostalgic feel for shows he watched as a child, which reminds him of a simpler time.
On “Sing of the Mood Again ft. Pharoah Key,” the project takes a sharp turn away from the feel of the last track. The tone on this track is considerably darker, as it was written to represent Hood’s grim views of his thoughts at times. According to Hood, this track is considered his low point in the project as it contrasts with the tones heard on “Dragon Tales.” This track is the other one to feature another artist, Pharoah Key. Hood and Key have been friends for a decade and have spent eight of those years working together.
“I put him on the track not only because of my respect for his skill with the pen, but also because of the tone of the track,” Hood explains. “When it comes to sounds, I noticed that we have two very different styles that I find work nice together.”
“Breath Out” is next. On it, Hood raps in two distinct voices: a fast, mid-range one and a low, somewhat hazy, one. On their own, the two voices prove themselves as they drive the song forward. When they come together later in the song, it creates a special atmosphere that somehow manages to embody both voices equally. This track, according to Hood, represents him embodying a warrior’s mindset as he pushes through his issues.
The last track, “Beyond Words,” acts as a sort of summary track. According to Hood, it’s a mix of feelings that Hood’s expressed throughout the rest of the project, but on the calmer side. Keeping with the stylistic trends of the project, his rapping comes in steady streams and flows with the simple, yet bright, backing beats. It’s a mellow listen that ends the project on a strong note.
“This is where I’m looking at my problems not from a place of scattered thoughts, but from a more focused, controlled frame of mind,” he explains. “In the end, the issues are still there, it’s just my way of thinking about it that changed.”
Even the artwork for “HOPE THIS WALK CLEARS MY HEAD” reinforces the themes of the project. Shot during a snowstorm in late February, it shows Hood traversing a snowy forest. Around him, several lighter versions of him with glowing eyes peek out from behind trees, watching the main Hood from afar. Although Hood’s name or the project’s name don’t appear in the artwork, it’s undeniably him and does great to complement the music.
“People can expect cold fire while listening to the project,” he says. “I guarantee it.”
Cold fire indeed. This 19-minute project is a fascinating listen full of experly-written verses, catchy beats, and hooks that’ll have you putting it on repeat over and over. Inspired by artists such as MF DOOM, Sean Price and Earl Sweatshirt (to name a few), Hood’s artistry is on full display throughout these seven tracks.
In the future, Hood’s got more work with Pharoah Key, Mr. Massacre, and his collective coming up, in addition to graduating.
“I feel amped that this project is out, only because that means I can focus on planning my future ones,” he says. “I be having mad ideas for projects, but sometimes it becomes too overwhelming to actually hone in on one specific thing, so the more projects I get done and actually drop, the more time I have to put more creativity into the next one.”