August Alsina isn’t your typical R&B cat. In this exclusive interview, the New Orleans native revisits his past, gives us the scoop on his collaboration with label-mate Trinidad Jame$ and walks us through The Product 2, which dropped yesterday. Now that fans had time to witness his growth as an artist, take a moment to get to know the man behind the voice that’s taking the music industry by storm.
-Danitha Jones (@LifeLikeJones)
We’ve finally been gifted with ‘The Product 2’ after it had several different dates.
I wanted to make sure everything was what it is now. I wanted more original music. On the first one, it was just a lot of remixes and me hopping on other people’s beats. And that was moreso because I was a very new artist trying to build my buzz and that’s the way I went about it. On The Product 2, we got original music, mostly from my team The Exclusives. We have DJ Drama hosting it. We got The Dream on the tape, Curren$y, Trinidad Jame$. It’s a good look. It’s a good product.
How did you link with Trinidad Jame$ for “Luv This Shit” off The Product 2?
What’s funny is that collab happened way before Def Jam. We were just hustling and happened to have mutual friends since we get tatted at the same shop. Our friends were trying to connect us for a minute. They played Trinidad’s music and I was like, “Man, who this?” They put me on to him right then. We connected via text. We didn’t meet in person until I attended an A$AP Rocky concert. I ran into him and said, “What’s up, Trin?” Of course his expression was like “What’s up, man?” Then I was like, “I’m August, man.” [Laughs] That’s when it hit him. I had a session with Curren$y the next day. I ended up giving Trinidad a track that day. He did it and I sent it to Def Jam. They wanted to shoot the video immediately.
What initially pushed you towards music?
I’ve been singing for about five or six years. And in that time, I’ve had the chance to hone my craft. What really pushed me to take the music route was the fact that I’d be going something no one else in my family has done and at the same time, when I started, I was trying to escape life situations. As a youngin’ growing up in New Orleans, we just find ourselves in so many messed up situations. At one point, it came down to: Either you’re going to do this or you’re going to do that. After losing my brother, I kind of saw where doing ‘that’ was going to get me. I just started doing music and it led me here. I’m here now.
You’ve come along way since posting those YouTube videos.
When I started with the homemade Youtube videos, I didn’t think I’d be as big as I am now. At the time, it was something cool to do. I didn’t give a f*ck about being successful at it at the time. That’s when Youtube had just got popping after MySpace and all of that. I was going up there to watch the fights. I ended up coming across other videos with people singing. I was young, around fourteen and just started posting my own videos of me singing. The traffic that it brought to my YouTube channel was crazy and people were being real with me. I’m all about that. Like, speak your mind. That’s one place where you’ll figure out whether you got it or not because the people online will tell you. Of course it’s haters that are going to say what they’re going to say but there were people up there with real, respectful opinions. And doing those videos was a way of me escaping the real world. The sh*t created another world for me and I stuck with it.
What was life like in New Orleans growing up?
New Orleans shaped me. We got Wayne, Baby, Juvie and the whole Hot Boys and Cash Money movement. Everybody wanted to be like them coming up. What they spoke about in their music is pretty much our reality. And with New Orleans, we’re our own people. We get so caught up in our own world and our own culture to the point where we don’t realize it’s a whole world out here. It’s something that you have to experience for yourself.
A lot of your songs mirror your experiences. What’s your song writing process?
It’s really just some real life topics. I only talk about what I do. You’ll hear the pain and whatever it is that I’m going through. I’m all about talking about my life experiences. I think that’s what people respect and relate to at the end of the day. When I’m coming up with a song, it’s usually me and my homies, The Exclusives. We do everything together as a team. We kind of just vibe out wherever we are.
How did your deal with Def Jam and Radio Killa come about?
I signed with Def Jam in August, a few days before my birthday. I went to meet with Karen Kwak. She told me she had been watching me since my YouTube days. That meant a lot to me. She had a chance to watch me grow. She understands what I come from and what I’m about. When we met, she took me around the building to meet with a few A&Rs. We chopped it up with them, played some music and everyone was feeling it. I met with The Dream and then I met with the CEO, Barry Weiss. He was like, “Man, we doing it. I totally get it. I totally understand it. Let’s do it.” I couldn’t turn down an opportunity like that. It was a no brainer for me. It’s family over there and they rock with me. They believe in my talent and they understand.
When you say they understand it, what is there to understand?
Sometimes after an artist gets in the building, the label doesn’t know what to do with them because they don’t know who you are, what direction you’re going in, who to connect you with but with me, I didn’t need any of that. I came in with a sh*tload of music. I came in ready to work. I pretty much came with presentation. Either, you rock with or not. They so happened to rock with it, which is a blessing. Def Jam really understands where I come from creatively.
When you say they understand it, what is it to understand?
Sometimes after an artist gets in the building, the label doesn’t know what to do with you because they don’t know who you are, what direction you’re going in, who to connect you with but with me, I didn’t need any of that. I came in with a shitload of music. I came in ready to work. All it was a presentation to them. You rock with or not and they decided to work with it or not. They so happened to rock with it, which is a blessing.
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