SOTBMusic: A Throwback Thursday Discussion About August Alsina

Let’s take a second and play a guessing game. And honestly, I don’t know if it’s fair to call our answer a throwback. But it’s Thursday, so…I don’t make the rules.

Not too long ago, a young man with the confidence of a king took the R&B game by storm. He ruffled numerous feathers with his boisterous attitude, even going as far as insulting some of his forefathers and contemporaries on a national platform. This demeanor, combined with his voice, fast-tracked him on the road to becoming the king of a new type of R&B. He meshed smooth vocals with aggressive lyrics about street life, sex, and love–both his need for and his desire to give it. While doing this, he took what artists like Jaheim, Lyfe Jennings, and Lloyd (and artists like Bobby Womack and even Marvin Gaye before that) crafted and made it his own.

I wouldn’t be (that) mad at you if you thought “Speed’s talking about Jacquees.” The musical parallels between the man in question and Jacquees are scary. It’s even wilder considering that Jacquees and this man arrived on the scene at the same time and are around the same age. In fact, had this man not run into a series of unfortunate events, it’s possible we’d be hearing him on “Your Peace” versus Jacquees.

The man I’m talking about, August Alsina deserves his flowers just off the strength of surviving where some may have lost their will. 

From an early age, the New Orleans native saw his fair share of turmoil. From the death of his brother to his hustling days to his fathers’ drug abuse, Alsina dealt with more than most men do in a lifetime by the time he hit adulthood. He put that pain to melodies. Those melodies soared in an era where sparse Weeknd and PND vibes ruled the headspace of many. He confronted his demons and the struggles of his youth and made beautiful, albeit tragic, music. While a few of Alsina’s biggest singles revolved around escaping the stresses of life through partying and having sex with beautiful women (“I Luv This Shit” comes to mind), the man had storytelling abilities usually reserved for rap. 

I first came in contact with Alsina on 2013’s ‘The Product 2.’ I loved the smoothness in his voice, and appreciated his bluntness. He lacked a filter in his music. What we got was–and is–purely him. Some would suggest he’d tone it down for sales, but then he would not be true to himself. Alsina did something with R&B you didn’t see as much of during his rise, something you see a lot more of now. By blending rap storytelling and hustler’s ambitions with lush melodies and vocals, Alsina crafted songs and projects that spoke on the struggle while still preaching the beauties in life. His music was literally his testimony, album titles aside. He made music from his soul and said “this is me, I don’t give a damn what you think.” That approach, for me, is always appreciated.

All of this led to accolades such as appearing as one of the few singers to appear on XXL’s Freshman list. 

Whether you loved him or were indifferent, there was no denying his talent. The music was perfect for the time it dropped. Gritty, but soulful. Dark, but still wrapped in a light. Today, you can hear some of his influence in artists dropping now. The next time you hear an R&B singer getting down and dirty about their lives, thank folks like Alsina for paving the way to make that something fans accepted and singers wanted in their music.

And then, as cliched as it sounds, life had other plans.

Over the years, the 26-year-old has battled an autoimmune disease, lost part of his vision, confronted and won against his addictions, and became a father to his sister’s children after her fight with cancer. He’s fought the Devil and won out time and time again. Even in the face of being temporarily paralyzed because of his illnesses, he still kept positive and pushed forward. However, these situations caused Alsina to step back from the limelight at times. While I would always appreciate more music from him, he took the time to take care of himself and his family. Instead of just cranking out music in altered states, he reevaluated his position and grew as a human.

That is even more beautiful and impressive than his songs

Alsina’s tale is one that is both cautionary and inspiring. He represents what could’ve gone wrong and what will go right with the right mindset and state of existence. His path is inspiring, not because he sold millions of records, but because he did not let his past or his situations craft him into something that could’ve taken him under. His will to live and fight is amazing.

Simply put, I luv that shit.
Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on

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