Despite the hardships, August doesn’t sing woe-is-me. Although his come-up is never absent from his music, he manages to balance his accomplishments with his mistakes. “You play the cards you’re dealt,” he says with a sigh. Smoke curls from his nostrils like a dragon’s and joins the fog hovering over his living room. “I don't feel like my life is no worse than another black man—we’re all just trying to fucking survive...It’s about finding your way out.”
Not only did the young heartthrob escape, but with the number one R&B album in the country, he’s managed to swerve into his own lane. He may roam in the same vocal range as his peers, but August doesn’t ooze Trey’s sex appeal or Chris Brown’s athleticism. His brand of soul is more brazen; his content is intensely intimate, without being romantic. His delivery more pained, almost pleading. The difference is, he’s begging for understanding, not pussy. Crooning about struggle and suicide makes his music explicit and extremely raw. Misfortune is his muse.
Being that Testimony is more trap tales (“Make It Home,” “Grind & Pray”) than panty-droppers, (“Kissin On My Tattoos”), music critics, desperate to categorize him, have started giving his niche whack nicknames like “Hard & B.” August’s dimples deepen. He thinks the hybrid handles are ridiculous. He tries to stifle a laugh mid-exhale, but starts to cough instead. “To me hip-hop is your background, your lifestyle, your come-up, your struggle. All of that over a boom bop,” he says extinguishing a roach in the marble ashtray atop his coffee table. “I talk about the same shit, if not more, in my music than half these motherfuckin’ rappers.”
Conversing with Mr. Alsina alone in his own space, it becomes apparent that he isn’t the anti-press dude he appeared to be at BET. He understands the role journalists play in his ascendance; he just refuses to get caught up in the critique. August isn’t unfazed by attention and accolades. He’s just cautious. “Of course I hear what motherfuckers are saying,” he admits. “You can either get caught in the hype and the love of your fans, or caught down in the negativity and be depressed. It’s just best for me to stay away from a lot of shit and I think that’s probably why my vibe may come off as I don’t give a fuck. But at the end of the day, I found a way to actually take care of my family legally and there’s people who love me, so I’m not going to get caught up in motherfuckers who don’t.”
August's veracity can be harsh, like a filter-free Newport, but his candor comes from a place of honesty, not disrespect. He strikes the perfect balance of hard and soft—a badass who strips naked to bare his secrets. He may have sex appeal, but the real allure is his vulnerability. August is a gifted ghetto griot. His heart is too big to sling rock, but it’s perfect for singing the blues.
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