August Alsina testifies about life on the streets, signing to Def Jam, and playing by his own rules

August Alsina Cover (Final3)_web

Story by A.R. Shaw

Images by DeWayne Rogers

Life appears to be good for August Alsina. While being photographed in a dilapidated area on the west side of Atlanta, Alsina cracks a boyish grin that’s indicative of a young man enjoying the best days of his youth.

In this moment, his smile suggests that he’s free of any care in the world. But when taking a deeper look, Alsina’s eyes tell a different story. He sees everything around him, but never stares too long. At times he can seem guarded, but it’s not due to a lack of being personable.

He’s 21 and has experienced things of a man twice his age.

Before the hit songs, the sold-out concerts, media tours and the Def Jam contract, Alsina was a troubled teen searching for any way out of New Orleans. Raised in a poverty-stricken environment, he believed drug dealing would allow him to earn enough money to escape. But he soon found himself more confined to the drug trap and the real-life effects of selling narcotics.

“I remember giving this girl a crack rock,” Alsina said during our interview. “She wanted to try it before she bought more. I gave her a piece of rock and she smoked it in the pipe right in front of me. To see her smoke crack in front of me messed me up. Because it was the same drug that messed up my life and my family’s life. My stepdad was on crack. My real father was addicted and he died. That day, I realized my heart was too big to continue selling drugs. I didn’t want to be a part in the destruction of someone else’s family.”

A.R. Shaw
A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.

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