Singer/Songwriter/Musician/Producer/Actor/Businessman ALOE BLACC was born EGBERT NATHANIEL DAWKINS III in ORANGE COUNTY, CA, to parents from PANAMA, is married to MEXICAN-AUSTRALIAN Rapper/Songwriter MAYA JUPITER, and managed to find time for PLAYBOY Journalist ADAM POPESCU to complete a PLAYBOY INTERVIEW: ALOE BLACC!!!
Here are some interview highlights:
How different of an artist are you now versus the Emanon days?
I got signed by an indie label as a singer rather than a rapper. I had the opportunity to explore different kinds of song writing. And I started studying a lot of different types of songwriting. The content is the same. I think as an MC I was doing a lot of socially conscious and introspective work. As a singer it’s still socially conscious. I’ve sort of found a voice as a champion of the underdog, singing songs of triumph over adversity.
What about the difference between life on an indie versus major label?
Indie you don’t have the access to radio and television and press the way major labels do. But you have street cred and artistic freedoms that you might not have at a major. I still have a lot of artistic freedom. I was lucky that I developed my profile as an indie artist and then a major bought into that mystique, and I get to continue that.
Did working with Avicii push you over the top, to make you a recognizable face?
I wouldn’t say that I’m a very recognizable face. I wouldn’t want that for myself, actually. Part of the reason why I’m at PTTOW! is to engage in other business ventures that can definitely be an exit strategy from the music game as an artist. I’m going to continue to make music, but I don’t necessarily care to be famous. I want to continue to make great songs that will stand the test of time without playing the industry game of chasing the popularity and celebrity. I’d rather develop a killer app, be home to raise my child instead of on the road.
I think the song that put me into more of a visible space in the U.S. was “The Man,” and in Europe was “Wake Me Up.” (https://youtu.be/M_o6axAseak) Europeans were familiar with “I Need A Dollar,” and when “Wake Me Up” came out with Avicii as the artist, they were sure to put my name next to his. In the U.S. it wasn’t necessarily the same. They put Avicii the artist without putting my name next to it. Which is just because he was the artist of record. In the U.S., “The Man” is the song that made me more visible because it was proper Aloe Blacc released, and a massive television commercial with the song.
What does your name mean?
When I was in high school I was a hip-hop artist. I wanted to describe myself as being smooth like lotion so I chose aloe. Something really simple and juvenile. Stuck with me into my singing career.
Is it more challenging for an artist to break through than it used to be, or is it easier with Soundcloud and YouTube to develop an audience?
I think it’s easier for artists to break through and find his or her own audience using social media and other platforms that are online. And as long as they create content that is accessible but also attractive to whatever particular audience they believe they’re delivering to, they’ll have a fanbase that can sustain their livelihood.
Success is measured in many different ways. For me, I measure success as writing a great song. And that’s ultimately why I want to get into other forms of income-earning activity, because writing a great song doesn’t necessarily translate into getting on the radio and making money. Especially in this climate where digital sales are dwindling due to streaming, and the streaming economy doesn’t pay the same as the old physical economy or digital download. I’m going to jump ship. Exit the artist world in a way that doesn’t require playing the game of writing a song that can be massively popular. I just want to write songs that my heroes would look at and say that’s great. That my peers would choose me to be part of something like the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. And you don’t get that by writing hits, you get that by writing great songs. I’d be remiss to try to chase Number Ones. Because that could be my demise.
What’s your biggest challenge as an artist?
Time, I think. Finding the time to balance between family and creativity. Usually there’s a cycle to an album, but the music industry’s so in flux that the cycles are changing. Generally you release an album, you tour on that album. The cycle can be two years plus. It’s much faster now. People are able to consume quicker. And they want to be able to consume on-demand. Part of me thinks, and I’ve suggested to the record label, “I have 40 songs, why don’t I just release all of them? Let people binge if that’s how they consume these days. People are binging on television, why not let someone go deep with my catalogue?” Record labels are notoriously antiquated. They don’t embrace the change in technology as fast as the technology is changing their industry. And they don’t embrace crafty ideas to get ahead of the curve, either. What it requires ultimately is a road artist. I think if I was in a position that I didn’t establish who I was, and have a nest egg, then I would be fearful and have to operate by their means. But I can see a different path and I think it requires some initiative.
Baltimore, Ferguson, all this craziness — a lot of artists are quiet about it. What’s your take?
My take is don’t scream unless you have something to say. If we’re going to organize and march we have to have a reason for it. What are we organizing and marching for? Selma came out at a perfect time for us to recognize that if you’re going to march you have to have a directive. What is the goal? The goal can be manifold. I believe it is a call to jobs. Father Greg Boyle in Boyle Heights says nothing stops a bullet like a job. That’s the truest thing. I want to create jobs. How do you create jobs? One way is create the farms in peoples’ front yards and backyards. It gives people purpose and something to do. How else? Well, there’s an underserved population that hasn’t learned about computers and technology. So I’ve been supporting hackathons and I’m going to get involved with the folks bringing hackathons to the high schools in the inner city.
Why ship the jobs off to India? We can do them right here. I’ll figure out how to use either celebrity influence, or money or whatever else, to get people involved in this new space. It absolutely builds confidence, it keeps them off the streets. If they can create something, there’s nothing better than the feeling of creating something others are using. It’s addictive and it’s going to make you want to do it again and again. It becomes the new Jordans. Instead of going out and showing off a new pair of Jordans, you’re showing off that you built this new app everyone is using. And that’s going to change who’s the big man on campus.