Words by Aimstar

From our Nov. 2008 issue, a story about an artists sharing his gifts with our service people.

It’s been a minute since Avant’s last album, Director, hit the shelves in the spring of 2006.

Although relatively understated, the album went gold and did bear a few memorable hits, like the seductive countdown “Four Minutes,and the arrogant bedroom call of “Grown Ass Man” and the sultry duet “Lie About Us,”which featured Pussycat Dolls alum Nicole Scherzinger. He has amassed a steady following of loyal fans over the years, but Avant is not afraid to admit his last four albums to date haven’t warranted the kind of mainstream attention that he deserves . Through it all, he remains somewhat of a soulful street legend, one who has bobbed and weaved through the industry hoopla.  From his early days on Magic Johnson’s eponymous label to a four-year stint on Geffen Records, it took some time before he could find a label home that he believes considers him a priority.

“It was time for a new beginning, a new look,” Avant remembers, referring to his decision to jump onto Capitol Records. “And I really like the company right here because they are trying to take me places as far as my talent that I have never been.” It’s obvious when the charismatic 30 year-old speaks of where he’s been, that he finally knows where he’s going.

Just a few months ago, Avant and company traveled across the Atlantic to visit troops deployed to Iraq, where he spent most of his time in safe quarters or spending the night at one of the former palaces of Saddam Hussein. “I was there for 10 days. We were just basically going around to different spots, like the mess halls where everyone eats, to the hospital, off base to a spot that was really still hot with war….I wanted to be there. I wanted to take in the whole experience.” While there the Ohio native also visited a number of US military bases, where he went beyond the call of duty by granting special performances for soldiers who were on deck. And in support of their efforts, he even invited a few on stage. “When I performed in Kuwait, i met a few artist and let them on stage to sing “Don’t Say No, Just Say Yes.” There were some people that really had talent. It’s just that they just chose a different route.”

The trip afforded Avant memorable moments with the troops, although he didn’t get experience the shooting range as he would have liked. But there were some somber times as well. “The next morning we went to Baghdad. It was like 115 degrees during the day. But [when] I did the show, you could see it in their eyes that they were thinking about the things that were going on in their lives. It was really deep when you think about the nature of war. [And] I’m just ready for the troops to come home honestly.”

A calm Avant has since returned from the war zone. Wearing jeans, a white tee and a red leather motorcycle jacket, today the humble singer is standing at the edge of the stage atop the Capitol Records building in Manhattan’s trendy Chelsea neighborhood. And as industry heads gather around for the special chocolate themed summer evening performance, and he belts out a few songs from his forthcoming fifth album, Avant, they clamor to get closer to him. Avant has fought hard to get here in many ways. But it’s not the fighter that we see on stage, or the director or the songwriter he has become over the years. Instead we find a new man in Avant, who is ready to take on the challenges of the world and who now understands why he’s had to work so hard to get this far.

His reality has never been so sweet.