Posts tagged Aloe Blacc
[Interview] Aloe Blacc Talks Beginnings, European Tours, and The Differences Between North America and Europe

From his early work in the mid-90s, to his current solo career, soul singer Aloe Blacc has come a long way in the world of hip hop. Starting his career working alongside DJ Exile as the duo EMANON, Blacc continued to expand, working with various artists, including the Jazz Liberatorz and producer and emcee OHNO, who was signed on Stones Throw Records. The result: Blacc was signed to Stones Throw Records, and from there, the singer took his career to a whole new level. His debut solo album, Shine Through, was released in 2006, and was followed by the runaway success of his sophomore album Good Things and its lead single "I Need a Dollar." After that, Blacc's solo career took off, and his name has become well known throughout the music industry, and he has no intention to slow down anytime soon.

I recently caught up with Mr. Blacc to chat about everything from his beginnings in the music industry, the making of both his studio albums, Shine Through and Good Things, touring, the differences between Europe and North America, and what we can expect from him in the future. You can check out our interview after the jump.

Some Kind of Awesome: You began your career in 1995 working alongside producer Exile as hip-hop duo EMANON. Tell me about the early days of your career, from your work with Exile, to your work with the Jazz Liberatorz.

Aloe Blacc: I started out in the music business as an emcee making songs for fun with my friend DJ Exile. It was really just a hobby for me because my main focus was school and getting good grades, which paid off because I ended up receiving a full-tuition academic scholarship to a private university. Exile and I would make mixtapes that eventually made their way around the world, which is similar to how music travels today, but it was a bit slower without the speed of the internet. When I graduated from university, I went on a European tour and met producer/emcee OHNO, who was on Stones Throw Records.  During this tour I also met the Jazz Liberatorz in Paris and recorded "What's Real." After the tour, OHNO and I recorded an album together and the label heard the music.  They liked the songs on which I was singing best and asked me to record as a vocalist, so I delivered Shine Through, which is a mix of genres but mainly songs on which I'm singing.

SKoA: In 2005, you signed with Stones Throw Records and began a solo career, subsequently releasing your first solo LP, Shine Through, the next year. What were your initial feelings upon being signed? And what were your reasons for beginning a solo career?

AB: I felt really lucky and blessed to have the opportunity to be on this label. As a hip hop artist you’re either going to do the major label thing or you’re going to do the indie label thing and if it’s an indie label then you want to be with the best. As a solo artist, I wanted to explore different styles and genres that I didn't feel were available to hip hop or appreciated by my previous audience. I think the genre exploration on Shine Through was a great introduction to my solo career. It was almost like the table of contents to my future; it showcased soul, salsa, dancehall, hip hop, experimental, dance, and other styles. The breadth of experience in many styles has been a nice education in creating the perfect musical puzzle. 

SKoA: Prior to and after the release of Shine Through, you continued to tour and record as part of EMANON, all the while working on your solo career. Are there certain aspects of your solo career that you find to be better or more exhilarating than working with Exile and vice versa?

AB: I just enjoy making music. It's fun with Exile and it's fun as a solo artists as well as working with other musicians who are talented and creative. Now that I have learned more about song writing and performing, there is a lot I can bring back to the work Exile and I do as EMANON to improve our sound and presentation.

SKoA: Your single “I Need a Dollar” served as a major stepping-stone for you in terms of being brought into mainstream attention and focus. How did you react initially to the attention that the single brought?

AB: It feels like poetic justice to be receiving attention for my music after so many years. The success of "I Need a Dollar" clearly indicates how people are hungry for good music if they can have a chance to hear it. Success for me is being able to eat and pay rent and that’s all I need. That’s just life in general. When it comes to making music, success to me is making a really good song that everybody likes. That’s an important thing; I make music for me initially, but after it is released, I want people to like it.

SKoA: Good Things, your second studio album, was released in 2010. Describe the recording process to me? How did it differ from the recording of your first solo album, or even the recording work you’ve done for EMANON?

AB: I went to New York to write and record songs with Truth & Soul and we finished the album in a few weeks. It was a really smooth process. The producers are known for creating an old soul vibe, so I was aware that the songs we would make together would sound like they were from a different time. We had jamming sessions and I wrote songs to the music we created. Some of the songs were ideas I have had for many years. The vision was to make an album that would be timeless and respected by the great soul musicians and artists of the past and all contemporary fans of good music. The process for many of the songs was not much different from how I create with Exile for EMANON because I often just bring lyrics to beats he has already created.  Other times I write new lyrics to beats that inspire me.

SKoA: In the wake of Good Things, a greater number of people knew your name and the album itself was received very positively. How did you feel regarding fan and critical reception of the album? And is there anything you would have done differently, or were you happy with the finished product?

AB: I never expected the album to receive such attention, but I am very pleased with the way things have turned out. I'm very used to working independently, and in the future I prefer to write, record, and produce songs on my own. It would be nice to make a "director's cut" of my album and then offer it to other producers to re-work the songs for an alternative or "editor's cut" and see which one fans like best. With Good Things, the live show is the best way to see how I would have done things differently, but songs always need a chance to grow and the stage is the best place for this.

SKoA: In support of Good Things, you’ve been touring extensively. What are your favourite aspects of touring, or even your least favourite? And, do you have any moments (whether it was a specific show or someone you met) that stand out above the rest?

AB: The best part about touring is seeing many new fans and often seeing the same fans return to shows. I enjoy sharing the music in different ways, and adding new songs to the set to create a different feel and surprises for my audiences. The hardest thing is not having much comfort on the road. Sometimes I would just like to be at home sleeping for a week. The best experiences so far have been playing on television with my band, The Grand Scheme, and also meeting Quincy Jones and Paul McCartney.

SKoA: You’re currently on tour in Europe, and, at the beginning of December, you’ll be taking off to do your UK tour. Is there something that excites you about the UK/European fans more so than your North American fans? And, what aspects of performing Europe do you find to be different, whether good or bad, than performing in North America?

AB: I happen to have many more European fans than back at home right now because the album has had more success in Europe thanks to the help of the major labels who licensed the music. I'm looking forward to re-launching the album in the US and touring at home extensively. The major difference between touring in Europe and the U.S. is the hospitality. Venues in Europe are much better at welcoming artists and taking care of them.

SKoA: Following in the wake of your tour schedule, what are your plans for the future? Will you be returning to the studio to work on a new EP or perhaps even a follow-up to Good Things, or will you continue to tour?

AB: I'm always writing and I making demos so I hope to get into the studio soon. I will try to take a break for one month to just incubate and let new ideas develop before heading back out on the road, but I'm also planning a series of special concerts with a string quintet where I sing selections from Good Things as well as classic hit songs and standards.

SKoA: One last question. Tell me one thing about yourself that you don’t think any of your fans know, whether it’s an embarrassing memory, an odd habit, a favourite type of food, or anything you can think of.

AB: I'm pretty sure my fans don't know that I'm an aspiring actor, and am looking forward to telling stories in front of the camera instead of just on stage as a singer. I'm hoping to land rolls in films about important people in history or important subjects that we should give our attention to today.

[Watch & Download] Kenneth Bager - "The Sound Of Swing" x Andrea Vittorelli Remix

Alright kiddies, it's Friday! Time to get the drugs out for this next video!

As previously mentioned, legendary DJ Kenneth Bager lives in his own wacked out universe. In this video for "The Sound of Swing" you get a pretty good idea what's going on in his head. It's not necessarily something out of your worst nightmare, unless you have something against singing fish, rabbits, flying brains, and an explosion of color.

In case you haven't been able to put your finger on who the voice of the singing fish is yet, that's Stones Throw's very own Aloe Blacc.

Now that you're ready to get your hips moving to this song, grab this remix done by Andrea Vittorelli below:

Kenneth Bager - The Sound of Swing (Andrea Vittorelli Remix) by KennethBager

[Watch] Aloe Blacc - "Tonight, Downtown"

More music you can enjoy with your eyes too now with a video from the man who needs a dollar or two, Aloe Blacc. After having success in the UK and the US to keep the ball rolling he's paired up with Tanqueray and recorded a track especially for them. The video shows a relaxed studio atmosphere and a smoke haze covering the dimly lit room. The song itself is a slow jam with a soulful ride from start to finish whilst showcasing Aloe's vocal tones well. Funky.

ReviewsSheyAloe Blacc
[Watch] Aloe Blacc - Live At Glastonbury 2011

One of my favorite performances from this years Glasto festival comes from the amazing soulful singer Aloe Blacc bring the funk along with his band The Grand Scheme. Check out highlights from Aloe's set which features hits from his latest album Good Things above.

ReviewsRockoAloe Blacc
[Listen] Beck and Seu Jorge "Tropicália (Mario C 2011 Remix)"

Just in time for summer, a celebration of the 1960's genre Tropicalia in the form of a compliation that helps battle in the fight against AIDS, courtesy of the non-profit organization Red Hot. The compliation, Red Hot + Rio 2 features tropicalia treats from the likes of Brazil's legendary musicians paired with indie artists known internationally, including: John Legend, Os Mutantes, Devendra Banhart, Caetano Veloso, Dirty Projectors, Seu Jorge, Beck, Bebel Gilberto, José Gonzalez, Beirut, Tom Zé, Of Montreal, Marisa Monte Gogol Bordello, DJ Dolores, Aloe Blacc, Angelique Kidjo, Rita Lee, Madlib, Money Mark, Céu, Apollo Nove, Mayra Andrade, Trio Mocotó, Tha Boogie, Alice Smith, Carlinhos Brown, Los Van Van, Brazilian Girls, Marcos Valle, St. Vincent, Neon Indian, Forró In The Dark, Mia Doi Todd, Javelin, and many more.

Yes, in addition to the ten thousand other things Beck is up to, the love of my musical life is also trying to help raise money for a non-profit who is dedicated to fight AIDS through pop culture. I guess all is forgiven.... this time.

Below is a rework of his 1998 classic, appropriately titled "Tropicalia" from Mutations, complete with verses sung by Brazillian songwriter/musician and actor Seu Jorge with a little added production here and there by Brazillian producer Mario C.

You can check out a full tracklisting of the two-disc compliation here.

[Listen] Aloe Blacc - "99 Problems" (Jay-Z x Kanye West x James Brown Medley)

SKoA's favorite soulful singer/rapper Aloe Blacc performed in the Live Lounge earlier this week during BBC Radio 1xtra's takeover. AB performed his hit single "I Need A Dollar" and newest single "Loving You Is Killing Me" and an amazing cover of Jay-Z's "99 Problems" which contained elements of Kanye's "Can't Tell Me Nothin" and the classic James Brown hit "The Big Payback." Peep the this sweet little medley below. Shouts to Coxhead for the heads up on this one.

Aloe Blacc - "99 Problems" (Jay-Z x Kanye West x James Brown Medley) by Some Kind of Awesome

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[Watch] Aloe Blacc - "Loving You Is Killing Me"

Above, you can watch the official music video for Aloe Blacc's "Loving You Is Killing Me," which appeared on his sophomore album Good Things. The video shows Blacc pulling out his slickest dance moves as he sings of his female woes, not to mention a little kid with an afro who might just be a better dancer than Blacc. And, if you're planning on heading to this years Sasquatch! Music Festival in May, Aloe Blacc will be bringing his soulful, funky tunes to the stage at the Gorge Amphitheatre.

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[Download] Aloe Blacc & The Grand Scheme - "The Dark End Of the Street"

In collaboration with Stones Throw Records and its sister labels Now-Again and Soul Cal, Carhartt compiled a CD titled The Dark End of The Street which is loaded with tracks composed and performed by artists such as Aloe Blacc, Mayer Hawthorne, DâM-FunK and more. Carhartt have let loose the first exclusive track, “The Dark End of the Street,” by Aloe Blacc & The Grand Scheme which is a brand new rendition of the classic "The Dark End of The Street" previously performed by such artists as James Carr, Bruce Springsteen, Eva Cassidy and Cat Power. Take a listen to Aloe's soulful cover below and make sure you grab this album which is exclusively available at all Carhartt Stores and Carhartt retailers.

Aloe Blacc & The Grand Scheme - "The Dark End Of the Street" by Some Kind of Awesome

ReviewsRockoAloe Blacc