Interview: R&B Singer August Alsina Talks The-Dream, His Def Jam Deal & New Orleans Upbringing

Photos by Chelsea Memmolo

It’s not about where you’ve been, it’s about where you’re going — and for August Alsina, that’s pretty far. The New Orleans singer with an in-your-face style is making waves with his new single “I Luv This Shit” featuring Trindad James. The track is catchy, honest, and has a knocking beat that is hard to not fall in love with. The newcomer is gearing up for the release of his second mixtape The Product 2 which will be hosted by DJ Drama as part of his Gangsta Grillz series. He is currently signed to The-Dream’s Radio Killa Records by way of Def Jam where he is gearing up to release his debut album.

August is now just getting his shine, but he’s been putting in work for some time now. He first got a buzz via YouTube several years ago, when he started posting videos of himself singing cover tracks. Fans got to see his talent up close and personal, glimpsing what August is all about. He is categorized as an R&B singer, but he possesses many layers beyond that. He’s raw, versatile, straight to the point, and in his words, “just a real nigga who goes through real life situations and puts that in [his] music.”

What can we expect from The Product 2?

You can expect a lot of original music; everything is original. It’s a couple of flips on there too. Well, actually, there is one, but I’m planning on doing another one though when I get back. The Product 2 is a bunch of original shit about 14 tracks of all original music. The first project had a bunch of flips, and I felt like I needed to do that because I was very fresh and I still am very new right now. I was very fresh at that point, and that was my introduction, so just hopping on others people’s beats to give them my feel and what I would do on a track.

Do you think that working with The-Dream is the best place for you to be?

Dream is a real nigga. That’s my brother, and I fuck with what he do and he fuck with what I do. The situation, I went to Def Jam and I met with Karen first, she heard it and she had them watching me for a while. She saw some of the videos on YouTube from when I was 15. I went through the building and met a couple of A&Rs, and then I came to NY to meet with Dream. Dream is a A&R at Def Jam and he fucked with it, and it was only right to have that kind of person on your team, somebody who has been doing this and is experienced, so of course that’s my nigga.

Why don’t you like the R&B title?

I don’t like that title. This is the thing that I don’t like — that quote-unquote R&B shit — ’cause that ain’t real. Motherfuckers out here living real life, and it’s more to life than just fucking a bitch. I mean there is niggas that are dying everyday so there is more to life than just the regular shit. I’m just an all around real man. I’m just a young nigga and that’s what I’m talking about in my music. What I do is just real nigga music. I do sing, and I take pride in me singing my ass off. R&B, that’s what I do — don’t get me wrong , don’t get it twisted I sing. When I say R&B, it’s for the motherfuckers that’s think the stereotype is you gotta dress this way, or you gotta talk like this, or you gotta wear skinny ass pants, and your hair gotta be like this. That’s what I don’t agree with. I just promote me being a real nigga, a real life nigga.

Your music is very in your face. Are you worried that the content might turn some people off?

No, and to be honest, I’m really not concerned. If you fuck with it, you fuck with it; if you don’t, you don’t. My music is me, so me worried about you not fucking with my music is me worrying about you not fucking with me as an individual, as a man; and me, personally, I honestly do not give a fuck if you fuck with me or not. So I’m not concerned, and at the same time, if you a real human being, you are gonna fuck with me. If you a real person, in touch with yourself, you gotta fuck with it. And I say that in the most humble spirit.

When did you realize that you had the talent to sing?

I’ve been singing for about six years. I guess I was watching Sister Act 2 and I saw Lauryn Hill singing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”. Shit sounded so awesome to me, and I was just like ‘Man, I wanna do that.’ Nobody in my family is musically inclined, nobody sings, nobody raps, so this was always new to me, but I always had a love for music, and I was always into music, but it was never like I wanna sing ’cause I never knew I could sing. After I heard [“His Eye Is on the Sparrow”] I went and told my moms like, ‘Ma, I wanna sing,’ and of course she said, ‘Boy, you out of your mind.’ She had this old hymn book full of hymns, and I forgot what song it was, but I sung it for her, and she said, ‘If this what you wanna do, we gonna stick with it and get you some help.’ So that’s when I realized I could do it, but the real moment when I realized is when I lost my brother, and that was just two years ago now. When that happened, it was just a wake up call for me. Losing my brother, it’s like, you either gonna be doing what you doing, or do this. So we started doing this.

How much of your success do you contribute to YouTube?

A lot. See with YouTube, it’s raw. You got every hater in the world behind the screen, and behind the screen niggas become bosses. They boss up and say whatever is on their mind, so you get the real deal. You post videos and if they don’t like it they gonna tell you ‘I don’t fuck with it.’ And if they like it, they tell you ‘I like it.’ The people at YouTube got a chance to watch me grow. I feel like the connection with a lot of people on YouTube that follow me is something special because they watched me grow from a youngin’ — from 14 with no tats to now tatted up, just growing into a young man. I give YouTube a lot of credit because it helped me grow and helped me find who I am.

How much credit do you give to your city of New Orleans?

All of it, simply because I don’t know if a lot of people know, but I lived my life in some other states. I lived in Texas, I went to high school in Texas, and I actually went to middle school in Texas too. Then I went back to New Orleans and went back to high school in New Orleans. It was some life situations that led me back to New Orleans — me wanting to do my own thing, me wanting to be my own man, and not really wanting to take on another person’s reality, because whatever my momma had gone through and whatever situations she go through that’s still my momma and I still gotta take what comes along with it. But at a certain point you gotta be just like ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna go and get it on my own and do my thing.’ That way I don’t have to worry about what the fuck they got going on.

I lost a lot of niggas in New Orleans, and it raised me. New Orleans is going to forever be a part of what I do. They killed my brother in New Orleans; he was born in New Orleans, he died in New Orleans. It’s going to forever be a part of what I do just ’cause I wouldn’t be doing this — and it’s sad to say — but I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for that. It’s the bad shit that went on that’s making the good shit happen. That turned my life around. So I give credit to New Orleans simply because I am New Orleans and I want to change what goes on in my city. Before Katrina a lot of people never been outside of New Orleans, believe it or not, because we so family oriented, we into our own culture, it’s just our own world. So a lot of people don’t know that it’s a big world out here, and it’s so much money to make and you ain’t gotta rob a nigga. It’s legal money to make. You don’t gotta kill a nigga to take what he got. So I just do this to show motherfuckers that anything is possible, because I know a lot of people done seen me down, broke, homeless, sleeping at a desk in the corner store, so I give a lot of credit to New Orleans for where I’m at right now.

Do you think that people get the wrong impression of you due to the way you look, and carry yourself?

I think a lot of time with artists you see something and that’s only what you see. You see something and you think that’s all it is, and I’m singing certain things and that’s all you know about me, and it’s more pieces to the puzzle. I just think you hear someone say that and you forget. I’m a child of God, whether you motherfuckers think so or not, so don’t get it confused. Ain’t nobody perfect, and people just get it confused and forget that we are regular. I am a child of God, no matter what you see on TV. This is just August. Be yourself and it’s gonna get you far. It’s always cool to be yourself. You can go as far as you want to if you are yourself.

Would you do anything different?

No, I wouldn’t, ’cause its all a learning process and I had to go through everything I went through to learn and to grow.

If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Cool as fuck. . . Real nigga doe!