August Alsina isn’t the stereotypical contemporary R&B star. The New Orleans native doesn’t just sing about romantic love and loss, he sings story songs about his hardscrabble upbringing and the street lifestyle he’s seen in his city. The 21-year old Def Jam artist is happy to do something that sets him apart from the pack of current R&B mainstays.
“You name me the R&B n—as, [and] of course it’s time for something new because those n—as been doing what they do for a while,” Alsina says. “It’s time for something new because people want to hear something new and not what other people are doing. We don’t need two Chris Browns. We don’t need two Miguels. We don’t need two Frank Oceans. I don’t know if they necessarily want to hear something from a ‘street perspective’—they want something they can relate to.”
Alsina’s buzz has been building for two years now. His EP Downtown: Life Under the Gun showcased his autobiographical approach to R&B, and his debut full-length album Testimony is set to drop in April. He wants to make sure his debut is an honest depiction of who he is and where he is from.
“It represents the hood; it’s my story,” Alsina explains. “I come from the hood and I understand the struggle. It’s the whole hood’s story — everybody that’s stuck in the struggle. I’m one of the ones who made it out.”
“A lot of times we get on and gain a little success and people just automatically expect us to forget where we come from,” he continues. “Which is the craziest s— in the world. This album ain’t just for me, it’s for the people. When somebody gives their testimony, it usually inspires and motivates the next person and that’s what I hope this album will do for a lot of people.”
Alsina is very passionate about the people. The singer doesn’t just want to represent his hood out of love; he views it as his responsibility.
“If I don’t, who will?” he says. “You see these n—as get rich and gain success and now you got to move over here? They want to take you away from everything that you knew. They want you to forget about the hood and those people and you’ve got to come over here now. Why? Because ain’t nobody addressing or putting on for the hood. Everybody is just walking away. I’m totally aware of the fact that you can’t take everybody with you, but you can shine a light on it. Ain’t nobody out here representing for the people.”