Maryland Artist Al Hostile Manifested His Positive Outlook On Life Into His Latest Project, ‘Smile Always’
For Al Hostile, 'Smile Always' is not only the name of his most recent album, but the theme to his life
Positivity. Happiness. Family. Unity. These are the constant variables in the music of 22-year-old Virgil Newport, otherwise known as Al Hostile. He has an old soul to him that’s only further showcased throughout his art, and his willingness to strive for those core values. Alongside the turmoils and battles in his personal life, there’s a resilient quest for happiness and inner peace that fans have the chance to follow along with on his recent album, Smile Always.
At 10 songs and just more than 30 minutes, Hostile’s latest project is a soundtrack to that perseverance to, as one of the songs suggest, turn “lemons into lemonade.” From its moniker to the cover, with Hostile grinning from cheek to cheek, the album is a constant reminder that life does get better. Before the release of Smile Always on May 25 last month, we caught up with the Maryland native to discuss the inspiration behind the album, his family, his 8HUNDRED group making strides in the DMV, and more.
Justice Gray: The title of the project is Smile Always. This theme of positivity and happiness seems to be a recurring theme in your music.
Al Hostile: I’m tryna push positivity and happiness. That’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Everybody has those times when they’re upset, or they don’t feel like being bothered with what life hands you. I just went through a lot this past year. This year alone, it’s been a lot thats going on. A lot of ups, a lot of downs. But all the ups definitely outweigh the downs. I just try to find the good, flip that, and put it into my music.
Justice: Where does your positive outlook on life stem from?
Al Hostile: All the bad that’s happened. I been damn near evicted from my last apartment seven times and it never happened. I was without a job, paid for an apartment I couldn’t afford, no money, my laptop broke and I couldn’t record. But, right now, I got a beautiful apartment with a nice ass view. I got a nice job. I got a nice haircut. I don’t have no stress, I’m drinking water, washing my face, brushing my teeth. I just know that it doesn’t stay bad forever. I know that life is what you make it. If you want a thousand dollars, get a thousand dollars. If you wanna be famous, work. If you want your song played by tens of thousands of people, then push the fuck out of that song for people to hear it. There’s an answer to everything. There’s a right way to do stuff and a wrong way to do stuff. I’m not a perfect person – I try to do things one step at a time. I know my role, and I play it well. I don’t try to do too much. I found myself doing too much and had a lot of “ummumm” moments. So now, here I am, not dead, not broke, not stressing about where my next meal is coming from, not doing dumb shit, and all with a smile on my face. I am happy. Shoutout to Joe Budden -laughs-. There’s nothing that anybody could tell me that would take the smile off of my face. Even when I’m down, I’m not about to sit in my shit and my tears. Imma get the fuck up, get the negativity off my back, and keep it moving.
Justice: Family is also a recurring theme in your music as well. What was your upbringing like in Maryland?
Al Hostile: My parents are Guyanese, so I have a different upbringing from everybody. Having parents that are immigrants from South America from Guyana, a lot of the stuff that a lot of people grew up on, I couldn’t. My upbringing in Maryland was calm though. I definitely find a lot of musical inspiration through my family. I can’t even begin to talk about all the music my mom has put me onto, and even to this day. She’ll turn on the radio, or play a new CD she bought, and I’ll be like “woah, what the hell is this? Ma, get me hip.” A lot of people say that Maryland is boring, I don’t think so.
Justice: Was your mom your inspiration to start making music?
Al Hostile: It’s a little bit of yes, a little bit of no. The bigger answer is my family. I come from a family of singers. My aunts and uncles have beautiful voices themselves. A lot of my cousins DJ and rap. My cousins in my age group started a rap group when we were 14, 15 [years old]. I come from a family with a good ear, and a good tune for music. So the inspiration was always there. I’ve been rapping myself since I was 7 years old. I’ve been singing since I was 10, 11 [years old]. I would say my inspiration for making music is my family, but my mom definitely had a big hand in that.
Justice: You mentioned the voices in your family. While you haven’t been releasing so much music yourself (prior to Smile Always), you do have four singing features on Kasey Jones’ project Get Well Soon. You even have a couple moments last year like “Vet” on MikeyTha$avage’s New Year New Money. Which do you enjoy more though – singing or rapping?
Al Hostile: -laughs- I also did most of the singing on Chase Smith’s project Waltz – if you ever get the chance to check that out. I like singing though. I love rapping, of course, but singing is tough as shit – it’s fucking amazing. A lot of people don’t know, I have a deep voice myself, so I try to hit that falsetto note and that be tight when I get it properly. I like harmonizing my voice and testing out new shit. I remember I saw this video of Beyoncé with the notes she hitting [in “Me, Myself & I] and I watched it for a good 30 to 40 minutes. I got in the house and went to see if I could do it. Of course, I’m not going to sound like Beyoncé, but I had my own thing going on and that was tight. I like singing more than rapping.
Justice: Those themes of family and unity also carry over into your group, 8HUNDRED. How did the group start?
Al Hostile: I can’t answer how 8HUNDRED started. I know that it’s been around since like 2013. Shoutout Ande, shoutout Mingo. They started it back when they were in high school. I met Kasey in 2013, 2014. I saw him first perform at a show with Public Theory. Some way, he and I linked up. I had a song, and Kasey didn’t like one of the verses, so he sent his own verse -laughs-. Ever since then, we’ve had a bond. He’s tight as shit, cool ass person, we have similar tastes in music.
I was in a group called 3rdiiiuth with some of my homeboys from high school. We drifted apart as a group. Other people wanted one thing, I wanted other things. I felt like I had to distance myself to get what I wanted to get. It’s like LeBron wanting that ring. I liked what was going on in 8HUNDRED. Me leaving the [3rdiiiuth] was something I had planned. I was doing Al Hostile. I was in 3rdiiiuth, but not really in 3rdiiiuth. People would ask me if it was still a thing – of course it was still a thing. But it was dead. The members knew it was dead, we knew it was dead. We were dragging it on, and I had to accept that the group was dead. I made that decision to leave.
I met the members of 8HUNDRED. Them niggas was cool ass niggas. We had like minds. We wanted to do the same things and do them the same way – and we did it. Kasey [Jones] hit me up one night and was like “join 8HUNDRED.” I was like “c’mon man, you know I can’t do that – that looks weird. You know what people gonna say. I can’t do that.” Then, 20 minutes after that, Trill  hit me up. I don’t know if he and Kasey were in the same room – they probably were. He hit me up like “yea bro, you gotta join. We all fuck with you over here.” I was like “man, relax” -laughs-.
Of course I wanted to join, but it was “oh, what it everybody going to say” and they gonna look at me this way and this way. At the end of the day, it was fuck what everybody gonna say. Imma make great music. My brothers are still my brothers. All of them niggas in the [3rdiiiuth] are all still my brothers. I love them like it’s nothing. It was no love lost in that situation, they my brothers. I been with 8HUNDRED since August 2016. We been making music, we been working.
Justice: How have you seen yourself grow since 8HUNDRED as an artist?
Al Hostile: I wasn’t doing the stuff I was doing last year. I wasn’t doing the stuff I was doing on Good Great Wonderful. This is a completely different sound now from Good Great Wonderful. I’m doing what I wanna do with this music and making the music that I wanna make. I’ve always been making music I wanna make. I just feel like, right now, I’m at a point where I feel like me and my music now mesh together in my head. Me and my music are doing a beautiful tango right now, and I love it. It’s a beautiful feeling to sit down, listen to my music, and be like “this shit sounds really good.” I’m making the music that 10th grade would listen to – I’m making my music. I’m happy about it, and I’m happy to say it. I’m not trying to keep up with what’s on the Internet. I’m not trying to be cool. I’m making my music.
Ain’t no “yes men” in 8HUNDRED. If you make a wack song, you make a wack song, and they gonna let you know. Your feelings might might be hurt, but they gonna let you know. It’s all hands on. It’s no weak link. My music has grown for the better. It took a while to get into this bag that I’m in.
Justice: A couple months ago, I saw a tweet saying “I apologize for Good Great Wonderful.” Was there a dissatisfaction with the project?
Al Hostile: -laughs- I was forcing myself to make a certain type of music. I’m not going to say the songs on there are bad, I’m not going to say Good Great Wonderful is a bad project. When I say “I apologize,” I don’t like [the project]. Imma keep it 100 percent, I don’t like the project. It didn’t sit well with me after I listened to it a week later. “Did I just put this out? Did I put it out for the wrong reasons? Was I trying to keep up with the masses?” It’s songs on there like “Cupwinner #12” and “Watch Me.” The songs are good, but I wish I didn’t package them the way that I did. I tried to force myself to make music that I don’t like. I wouldn’t listen to that project.
I tried using flows that I didn’t like. It wasn’t authentic. It wasn’t an Al Hostile project. From The Finer Things to Dugla, it was a good step. Then Dugla to Good Great Wonderful was a “damn nigga, what you doing?” When I put out Dugla, my cousin was like “damn nigga, this is tight as fuck. I’m so glad you put this out.” [This time] he was like “yea, that shit was cool.” My cousin not gonna tell me no bullshit. To spare my feelings, he told me it was cool. It wasn’t authentic. It was a weird Al. I just came back from LA, I had some money in my pockets, I’m tryna flex on niggas. I’m not an in-your-face braggadocios ass nigga. I’m just Al, and I try to make Al music – that wasn’t Al music.
Justice: What did everybody else think of Good Great Wonderful?
Al Hostile: People said they liked that project the most. I got good responses from it. I was like “wow.” I recently took it down off SoundCloud, I don’t know if anybody noticed. Nobody said anything. If it comes on shuffle, I might play it. That’s how I take it. I don’t listen to it.
Justice: There was supposed to be a part 2 for the “Blueroad” video, so I’m assuming this is why that never happened – the dissatisfaction with the project.
Al Hostile: I felt like it was no point. I could have did it and continued this Good Great Wonderful-ness I was trying to push, but I was like nope. I’m not trying to bring awareness to this project. I don’t want anybody, if they search my name, to click Good Great Wonderful. I don’t want that to be the top of my resume. I’m better than that.
Justice: Who are all of the members of 8HUNDRED?
Al Hostile: YT [Trill800], Mylon Moore, Kasey Jones, High Class Filth/half-empty, Tashan Spencer (the creator of Hell Bound Club), Domingo (Mingo by Domingo), Matt (super genius of the 8), Richard Guzman (videographer), and Steez800 (creator of BadNews)
Justice: What’s your relationship like with the rest of the DMV music scene?
Al Hostile: If I haven’t worked with everybody, I’ve dapped everybody up. I fuck with everybody. The trap niggas are cool as shit. I fuck with Baby Ahk. I fuck with Big Flock. I fuck with Lil Dude, Shabazz. They’re tight. They’re some of the most clever niggas in the world, they be saying the coolest shit -laughs-.
I like the whole GramFam, the whole After F. They always release quality music. Mike of Doom, he’s making real good music right now. Michael was inspiration for me. Of course gang, 8HUNDRED. I fuck with ChoGod, that’s my nigga. We use to be in 3rdiiiuth together, so just to see his growth and his bravado is amazing. Chase Smith makes real good music. Alex Vaughn has a dope ass voice. I been tryna work with her, but I’m not that cool yet -laughs-. I love singers. Mūdī be singing, I fuck withMūdī; we have some shit bubbling in the works right now.
Justice: What do you hope to accomplish with Smile Always?
Al Hostile: I got some shit on there. I got some stuff I’ve always wanted to do. If you ask anybody, I say my ideas aloud and hope that one day they’ll manifest themselves. I hope to build a new audience. I want people to understand that I’m not 18, 19, 20 [years old] making music anymore. This isn’t just “let’s get high raps” or “I got a couple thousands dollars, got 400 on my dresser” raps. This is not that. This is “I just put my suit on, I just went to the Met Gala.” I’m keeping it 100 percent on this project. I’m keeping it me. I’m rapping as Virgil Newport and Al Hostile. I’m not coming with bullshit, I’m tryna come with substance. From the features, to the producers, to the lyrics, to my hooks. I’m trying to push this positivity as a grown man and not look corny about it.
Justice: What is your end goal as an artist?
Al Hostile: I want my mom and my dad, my whole family, sitting around a table and we’re toasting to the good life. As corny as it sounds, I just want to make the world smile. I want longevity and health, happiness, and peace. I want to be eating good without getting fat. I don’t want too much, but I want a lot. I want the simple things times 10.
I promised my grandma a house when I was 6 years old. She’s about to be 90 something. So I don’t know how long I got with that, but I got to get my grandma a house. A big ass house, put my grandma in it, and say “have fun.” I wanna do too much for my family.
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