This featured artist profile on Hoosh follows his first full-length project, ‘everything’s going to be alright.’ Find him on Instagram and stream the album on the platform of your choice.
There’s no limit to how an album can pull the curtains back on the imagination, and yet everything’s going to be alright sets the stage with a single spotlight for 26-year-old Sudanese artist, Hoosh. Clinging to that beam of light, the swirling shadows of his stormy mind trap the intimacy of the performance. Sparsely populated with gentle acoustics that wraps even the saddest sentiments in a comforting glow, the album is a melancholy retrospective on the nomadic vocalist and songwriter’s changing conceptualization of home. It’s a tale of aspirations and opportunity costs that ends in a seismic shifting of person.
Produced by Mido Selim and co-produced by Paperwater, the 24-minute project is in no hurry, though it comes and goes like the gentle rain that leads it off. As Hoosh croons about isolation, regret, loss, and moving forward, his reflections propel the mind into quiet pockets of contemplation driven by the patient instrumental spaces between songs.
Hoosh’s honest and emotionally charged songwriting invites the chronic daydreamer to fill the listing pockets with troubles both similar and entirely unique. As he sings of ever distant dreams and lonely rooms in cities far from family, I can’t help but hang on each word like a prophetic warning and promise.
I’ll be leaving home myself in a matter of days — moving across the country for graduate school. The album taps into my present anxieties of loneliness and failure, but such thoughts are compartmentalized partly by their combatibility. It’s romantic to plunge into the unknown with the determination to fight self-doubt, but there’s a steep cost in time and energy, and the world moves fast. Loss is unavoidable. As the last string and croon of everything’s going to be alright fade to silence, I’m struck by how the act of chasing a dream forever alters the dreamer.
“To this day, I don’t really know where home is,” Hoosh tells me on an April video call that carries more like anecdote-laced advice exchanged between friends than a Q&A. Born in Alabama to Sudanese immigrants, he has floated between the States, Sudan and the Middle East. His childhood was spent between Alabama and Saudi Arabia. He attended middle school in Cleveland, OH, his first year of high school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the last three years in Doha, Qatar, and now resides in Miami, FL, where he attended university — though his extended family remains in Sudan.
“I used to be super resentful about it when I was younger,” he says just a few minutes into the conversation — foreshadowing a relationship between regret, remorse and resentment that runs through the album. “You feel like you’re behind. People already had all these experiences together that you weren’t a part of, and I was going back and forth from different cultures, so that kind of fucked my head up a little bit. Those adjustments that you end up making… I hit a point where I kind of just didn’t know who I was.”
The social pandemic of “fitting in” is most virulent in youth. Across oceans and seas, Hoosh carried with him a passion for making music, though he didn’t always show it. After moving to Ohio and putting out a song with a middle school friend, Hoosh recalls the reaction of his peers that caused him to initially withdraw that part of himself.
“Man, I was happy my younger self really put pen to paper like that,” he says of the early verse. “But I remember coming to school — and, I guess, because of lack of diversity, it wasn’t like people were hyped on hip hop, right? So they kind of viewed it as like, ‘oh, you think you’re a gangster? Oh, you think you’re this?’ My lyrics had nothing to do with that… When I moved back to Saudi Arabia, I was like, ‘I’m not telling a fucking soul.”
Hoosh feels the most robust sense of belonging in Sudan, where he traces his heritage. “When I’d go to Sudan, it was a boost of morale and my confidence,” he tells me. “Because I was around my people, it’s a place that’s technically my home. I may come there and people can spot that I’ve lived outside of Sudan my whole life, but it doesn’t change.” Yet, even in Sudan, among his relatives and people, he felt like he couldn’t realize his musical aspirations. “The stress was always on education,” he says. “I never really talked to them a lot about my music because I didn’t see the point in talking about it unless it really popped off.” The accessibility of the industry and a tumultuous political climate kept those career goals out of reach from within Sudan.
From 1989 to 2019, under former President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, Sudan was gripped by a military dictatorship that kept a suppressive hold on arts and expression. “They basically just made it so tight that you couldn’t freely express yourself,” Hoosh says. “I always felt growing up, if I ever wanted to take [music] seriously that I had to leave.” This is where everything’s going to be alright, his first full-length project, picks up. It’s delivered like a weight off the chest, the first full breath after an asthma attack.
“Man I swear to God that I done sacrificed my whole life for the come up,” Hoosh’s voice cuts through on “the come up part 2.” The first verse of the project follows a distorted hook with a deep tone alien to the vocalist’s typically raw approach. The hook compels, “say if you don’t give a fuck and you up cause you’re tryna make a killing,” and “why don’t you throw a couple bands at the dancers we finally hit a million.” It sounds like a celebration but feels more like the devil on your shoulder.
This is the voice in your head that bemoans, “how am I still not happy,” while holding the fruits of your labor. What did Hoosh sacrifice for this moment?
“I feel like I kind of put everything on pause,” he reflects. “I wasn’t in any serious relationships. I didn’t have the mental capacity for that shit. I felt like I couldn’t.” When it comes to opportunity costs, the pursuit of an arts career is beautifully irrational. Swimming upstream isn’t just exhausting — it’s lonely. “The second I would think that it was going to take away from music I was just not about it,” he continues. “I was just on the mentality of like, you got to work every second. There’s no reason to take a break. There’s no reason to go out. There’s no reason to do any of that shit. If someone would call me, I wouldn’t even answer. I’d be like, ‘nah, I’m working on this shit.’ I’d forget to call them back.” He sings on “jorja”: “’Cause lately the weekends / they seem like the weekdays.”
The track bears many qualities in common with a lullaby. The solitary strings strum along as Hoosh’s patient croon incepts the need for rest. It’s a sad song that’s somehow comforting. He reflects on hitting the road because no one is around to hold him down, but finds the loneliness he left behind follows him. “Ash on the dresser, cash on the carpet / Look where my priorities gone,” he sings. The assumption that a lack of success is equatable with failure has gotten the best of him through his isolation.
At first, the song suggests his regret seems born of a failed relationship, but the breaking of dreams is much less shear and thus easier to cling to. As he closes the track with a whispered, “I guess I’m just better off thinking that I was the one,” he casts his head down at the career he sacrificed for. A firmer set of strings then gently flush out the remaining instrumental like an echo of companionship to a moment of defeat. These quiet spaces between songs are vehicles for reflection. I wonder if we are better off believing we could have accomplished everything and more.
“I’m the one that’s going to make shit different for myself, and I’m also the one that’s going to be the reason for faults,” Hoosh tells me. “I’m better off thinking that I was the one instead of trying to think of exterior [factors]. I have to make shit happen for myself.”
It’s a lot of pressure. It’s no coincidence that the same place you need to be to chase a dream is the worst place to be when you stumble. As Hoosh questions on track three, “why did I choose to work on my vices in vice city?” Despair is a solicitous salesman pushing temporary relief in brown paper sacks and crumpled Ziploc bags. “My room is unsafe when it’s dark,” he sings to himself on “vice city.”
Navigating depression can feel like you’re slowly making your way barefoot through a scarcely lit room scattered with shattered glass — dealing only with what’s immediately in front of you and trying to manage the damage until you find your escape. But outside the room, life continues to speed on uninterrupted. Amid his balancing act with work, music, relationships and vices, Hoosh misses a call from his mother. The voicemail comes at the end of “vice city,” “please call me as soon as you can….”
“It was two days before my birthday,” Hoosh remembers. “I called her back, and she informed me that my grandfather had passed. [It] hit me heavy, because I felt like I wasn’t in contact with him as much as possible. My dad kept telling me, ‘yo, you should really go back to Sudan and see your grandfather and your grandma.’ I just always felt like I didn’t have time.”
“Sure is nice / When the crowd is hype / Till it crowds your mind,” he sings on “adele’s interlude,” following the voicemail and news of his grandfather’s passing. “I feel like I’m in a headspace now where I don’t want to sacrifice family for my music,” he says. “When shit starts to pick up, it’s going to be too late… With ‘adele’s interlude,’ it’s a lot about regret.” The song sees him reassessing his priorities as the regret feeds his remorse, and that internal voice of self-doubt festers into resentment.
“I [was] more resentful of myself, in the sense that I just feel like I’m capable of doing so much that I let my thoughts get the best of me at so many stages. That’s why you’ll constantly hear that in my music,” Hoosh tells me. At one point, “doing more” may have meant more music, more hours, more time spent with the isolation he’s also grown to resent — but the loss of his grandfather extended his priorities to more contact, more time spent with family, more love for himself.
“you know me” is a confrontation with self-growth driven by the need for proximity to the people who know us best. “I love you, but I run to my hate when it sparks / I hate when it’s dark, I’m tearing apart,” Hoosh spins the admission over hollow acoustics — proving again that disguising his broader turmoil as a jilted lover’s serenade makes for resonant songwriting both on the surface and within the depths of his heart. “It’s a song about giving heat to these people and praising them for sticking by me through my faults. They know who I am. They know who I am at a firm foundation,” he says. “They know that this was just a momentary weakness. They look past it, and stick by me regardless.” It’s an admission that he may not be as alone as he feels, but it’s laced with the guilt of believing he’s pushed those people away. He sings: “And you’re right, I’ma do better / You already expect it, and you keep it real.”
The regret that drives much of the pen on everything’s going to be alright is expelled on “the kids,” a melancholy tune with such a powerful sense of reflection, it seems as if it’s decades older than the Hoosh who sang “the come up part 2.” The distorted voice that began the album compelling Hoosh to hustle for a million dollars and throw money at dancers has transformed. He sings: “Man my momma’s getting older / Give me a year and I’m a buy her the world,” and later, “Man my pops is getting older / Let’s pour a drink up for you giving me the world.” The dream hasn’t changed, but the vision is entirely revitalized.
“I feel like I literally walk different,” he says. “Everything about me is different in the sense that every year I feel like I get closer to who I actually am. Where people might be like, ‘oh, you changed’ — no, I was never myself before because I was so worried about everything around me.” There’s a touch of sadness to his tone as he sings, “It’s a lot / Shit has changed a lot.” It’s a mature sadness born of his younger self’s conflicts with reality and confrontation with the ills of the world, both external and internal. It’s a sobering case of the ways in which setting out from home inevitably alters the person who summoned the courage to do so. And he’s right; shit has changed a lot, but sometimes for the better.
In December of 2019, Hoosh returned to a different Sudan. After a prolonged period of protest and violent response, al-Bashir’s military dictatorship had been toppled, and the young artist found himself part of a cultural and artistic revival among the people who had given him so much energy throughout his nomadic youth. He even played a show at a former government building where he opened for Dreamville’s own Sudanese emcee, Bas.
“I got to see a completely different side of Sudan that I had never seen before,” he beams. “I felt like I was living in two worlds, and I got to bring them together.” Hoosh combines his unfaltering determination with newfound openness as moonlight gives way to sunsets and late-night studio sessions form an invigorating adhesive. “[My family is] waking up drinking tea and I’d sit down, drink tea with them, tell them about the studio and stuff. I was just like, mind blown. I can’t believe I’m having these conversations with them.”
The last words that Hoosh leaves on the album, “aren’t you sad that we got older now / I think it’s over now / I think it’s over now,” mark the transition between places and perspectives. But Hoosh is changing the way he views beginnings and endings. “I [used to] get somewhere and then start thinking about all the shit I didn’t do somewhere else. While I’m in this new stage of my life, I’m thinking about the old stage,” he reflects. “Then next thing I know, this new stage is done. I’m on to the next stage, and I’m thinking about the old stage again. [Now] I’ll always try to recenter myself.” Hoosh’s last whispered lyric is played off by a gentle saxophone that closes out the project in that quiet, contemplative way.
As I think about leaving home in a capacity I never have before, I wonder if I’ll find isolation in a vice city of my own. I wonder if five years from now I’ll reflect in that same melancholy tone on the person who wrote this story. I wonder if the time I’ve spent with friends and family here has been enough. As Hoosh learned to do though, I’ll keep moving forward — unafraid of changing tides, but with the wisdom to treasure each moment before it’s swept away. The resilience and passion of the album echo in my head — a message in a bottle cast from an island of his isolation, bound for dreamers and their stormy minds:
Everything is going to be alright.