Photo credit: Artemus Jenkins (@artemusjenkins)
It was the summer of 2007, at age 14, when New Orleans-bred R&B crooner August Alsina posted his first video on YouTube, a cover of Lyfe Jennings' platinum debut, "Hypothetically". His covers became popular, generating millions of views, and things seemed to be going well.
After problems at home and disagreements with his mom, Alsina vanished from YouTube and took to the streets. In 2010, Alsina's older brother was murdered in his hometown of New Orleans. Not one to be discouraged, he began seeing his trials as motivation to seriously pursue a career in music.
In 2011, 19-year-old Alsina relocated to Atlanta, partnered with management company, Noontime Unlimited, and hasn't looked back since. Now, he's prepping his upcoming mixtape, The Product, which boasts the Notorious B.I.G-inspired single "Party & Bullshi*"" featuring G.O.O.D. Music's CyHi the Prynce.
AllHipHop.com had the chance to talk to Alsina about new music, influences, comparisons to Trey Songz, and being called "R&B's new thug".
AllHipHop.com: I was reading your story, but where do you say you’re from?
August Alsina: I’m from New Orleans.
AllHipHop.com: Is that where you get the bulk of your experience from?
August Alsina: Definitely. It’s the way I was brought up. New Orleans is a different place. It’s unlike anything else that I know, growing up there.
AllHipHop.com: Is that what’s mostly gearing towards what you’re doing in your music?
August Alsina Definitely, because, most of my stories were created there. I lost my brother last year to a bullet in New Orleans. All of those experiences just create my music.
AllHipHop.com: Is this something that you’ve been wanting to do since you were a kid?
August Alsina: Not at all. It was never like a childhood prodigy thing where, you know, everybody say “Man, yeah I been singing before I could talk!”? Naw, it was never that. Nobody in my family sings. Nobody in my family can do music, at all. [laughter] I’ve been singing for five years now. Five years strong, and I tell people all the time, I believe that GOD gave me this gift to save my life. There are only two other things I know how to do, and that’s sell drugs and tote guns. And I’m sure the world don’t want to see that side of me. So, they ought want to let me in with this music sh*t. I really just look at this music sh*t like a lifesaver, because if not, I believe I’d be dead just because of the choices that I was making before I really started focusing on this.
AllHipHop.com: I was looking at a video back in 2007. You’re like the original YouTube king, man.
August Alsina [laughter] Believe that. At a point, my mom had brought a camera and made me start doing videos. That explains the huge tall tees that I had on in the videos. The hats backwards. I never had on cool clothes. It just was about singing to me. I had just started, and I just really wanted to see what I could make out of it. Now, I’m here.
AllHipHop.com: Is that when you realized, “Maybe I can really do this!”, like “Maybe I could really pursue this!”, with the way people were responding to your voice?
August Alsina: Not even - because I had stopped after that. Sometimes I think that situations like living circumstances can really distract you from trying to achieve a set goal. With me, I just had a lot going on from dealing with problems at home, my step daddy being addicted to drugs, all of that took a toll on my life. After a while, I stopped and got into some other sh*t in the streets and quit school. Then later on down the line it was like “Man, I don’t know how to do sh*t else.” I only know how to do two other things, so, the only way that I could make something out of this is if I really focus on it. There’s nothing else I can do. I don’t have a high school diploma. I do this sh*t because I have to. I do this sh*t because I have three little nieces that my brother left here for me to take care of. I don’t have a choice. This is all I know how to do. I have nothing else for me to fall back on. I have to make it with this sh*t.
AllHipHop.com: And I saw you sung Lyfe Jennings. Are you at all inspired by his story, because his story is kind of similar to yours?
August Alsina: Oh yeah, definitely. Lyfe is that n*gga to me. He’s that dude.
AllHipHop.com I didn’t know you were 19, until somebody pointed it out to me. I’m like, "Yo, this dude cursing and stuff."
August Alsina [laughter] How old did you think I was?
AllHipHop.com: I thought maybe you were in your 20s, like 25. But yeah, now I got into your back story and everything, and I understand the purpose with the music. Growing up, were you listening to No Limit and Master P?
August Alsina: Dawg, you know what, definitely! I just hollered at Juve (Juvenile). Juve called me the other day, and I’m on a song with Juvenile and Mannie Fresh, that sh*t is crazy to me. Them n*ggas are legends and for me to be on a song, like, Juve, Mannie, and August Alsina on one song, that’s history. That’s New Orleans history. That’s big for my city. And I’m all about putting on for my city. That’s huge, I’m still taking that in.
AllHipHop.com: It hasn’t come out yet, has it?
August Alsina: Nah, not yet.
AllHipHop.com: Cool, so I’m guessing you were inspired by that whole movement.
August Alsina: Definitely. I wanted to rap. [laughter]. I wanted to rap like everybody else did, but when GOD was giving out the gift of rap, he skipped over me, for sure. Because I don’t have that talent.
AllHipHop.com: So, I guess you had that phase?
August Alsina: Yeah, I definitely had that phase where I wanted to be a rapper. I never even made a fool of myself by trying, because I knew it was something that I couldn’t do.
AllHipHop.com: I was listening to the songs, and I’m like, you hear a lot of music, and it’s a lot of R&B that we listen to, but behind it there’s a lot of auto-tune. And I was trying to listen, and I was like I don’t hear no auto-tune. This dude can really sing!
August Alsina: [laughter] I do this singing sh*t for real, man. I do it. I take pride in it. Like I told you, this is all I know how to do, so, I focus on this sh*t. This is my life. I don’t have a social life. I don’t have a regular 19-year-old's life. I do music all day, every day. I perfect my craft, all day, every day.
AllHipHop.com: Are you at all surprised about comparisons to Trey Songz?
August Alsina: Nah, because, I mean, they have to compare you to somebody. I done get compared to Trey Songz, Chris Brown, the Weeknd, and I look at it like, that’s cool, because you’re comparing me to somebody great. These guys are successful. I’m not tripping as long as you’re comparing me to somebody great, because you’re telling me where I can go. But now that you’ve compared me to them - now, listen to my sh*t. Don’t f*ck with me just because of the hype, or because of what somebody else said or because somebody else is f*cking with me; f*ck with me just because of my music. Because you think my sh*t is dope. Listen to me for me after you’ve made your comparisons and see why August Alsina is August Alsina.
AllHipHop.com: Do you write your own stuff?
August Alsina: Yes, and I have a writing team as well. That “Drank in my Cup”, you keep mentioning, that was a true story. N*ggas are upset about that song. I lived it. I got threat comments about that. I lived that. When I said, "dedicate this to my ex," that was real life.
AllHipHop.com: I think that makes for the best music, though. That always comes from New Orleans, in my opinion, as far as like just the real, music. Everybody from New Orleans is that way.
August Alsina: That’s the thing. N*ggas was f*cking with the Hot Boys. They didn’t have somebody to style them up. They didn’t have to be manicured. N*ggas was f*cking with them just because they were N.O n*ggas, like, they were true New Orleans n*ggas. Being from New Orleans, we just have a totally different swag, a different demeanor, a different approach.
AllHipHop.com: So, now you made the switch from New Orleans, you were in Houston for a second, and now you’re in Atlanta. How are you liking the Atlanta music scene with what you’re doing?
August Alsina: Well, being in Atlanta probably is the best thing for me, to be honest. Anywhere else I wouldn’t be focused. Here is just music, all day. I have no friends here. It’s just studio, artist development. Just rehearsal all the time. Being in Atlanta is probably the best thing for me, because I know if I was in New Orleans, I’d definitely be in the streets. I would. And Houston, I’m just not a big fan of living there. In order to be focused, I shouldn’t be there.
AllHipHop.com: What are you working on right now?
August Alsina Right now, I just knocked out a feature with Juvenile and Mannie Fresh. I’m working on The Product, my mixtape, that’s coming out in April, and we’re just pushing that right now. Still shooting videos, figuring out the next sh*t we’re going to drop. We got Trae Tha Truth on the mixtape. We getting all the features together. It’s coming along.
AllHipHop.com: Are you ever looking to do a huge major, maybe even become a part of Young Money, or something like that?
August Alsina:[laughter] I mean, I don’t know. I would like to find that out, too. That’s funny that you ask that.
AllHipHop.com: I mean, I gotta see if you’ve joined like YMCMB or something like that. You never know!
August Alsina: [laughter] Well, no, I’m not signed to YMCMB. Who knows what will happen, though.
AllHipHop.com: Well, we definitely know you’ve got a future in this business. Also, as far as the Adele "Someone Like You" video, I was like this man, this man is a thug, and he did a cover of "Someone Like You" - and it was good!
August Alsina Well, this is my thing with the thug word. I don’t claim to be a thug, and I don’t see myself as a thug. I just live my life the way that I live. I just do me. And, I don’t know if that’s considered a thug, the way that I live. I just do what the f*ck I want to do, because it’s my life and I don’t know if that makes a person a thug. I just think you live for yourself. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a thug, not at all. It depends on what your definition of a thug is. Now if you’re definition of a thug is somebody that’s been through a struggle, somebody that’s a hustler - then cool, I’ll take being a thug. I have no problem with that title, if that’s what it is. That’s what Tupac's definition of a thug is. That’s why he had "Thug Life" across his stomach, because he’d been through something.
AllHipHop.com: Anything you want to add?
August Alsina: Be anticipating the mixtape in April. Don’t have a set tape to release yet, but, it will be classic, I promise you that.
AllHipHop.com: That’s what’s up. I just want to encourage you to keep doing the music, man. You’re touching folks. I put it on Twitter the other day and folks were really loving it.
August Alsina: Yeah, I’m going to definitely keep doing it. I just appreciate y’all f*cking with me over at AllHipHop. That’s love.
Follow August Alsina on Twitter (@AugustAlsina).