At A3C last year, August Alsina performed on one of the stages, one of the few singers slated on a bill full of rappers headlined by 2 Chainz. The audience wasn’t made up of the usual backpack set that crowds into festivals. Instead, the club had the vibe of an average Atlanta (or anywhere) club night where the hood came through to see a live performance. And so, the sound system was equally hood and shitty.
A bad sound system doesn’t serve as a setback for rappers since most rap with backing CD and proceed to yell their way through their set. But having inadequate sound doesn’t work for a singer. Riding high off “I Luv This,” Alsina would be making probably was his first performance for many in the crowd, his first chance to make an impression.
He started, the sound sputtered. He stopped and had the DJ run his first song back midway through, the sound crapped out him again with heavy feedback from the mics and droning bass. Instead of continuing, Alsina announced he wasn’t going to waste fans time by putting on a sub-par set, which left about four rows deep of chicks who had pushed to the front of the stage dejected and the whole venue eerily quiet.
But, the singer saved the moment by asking the DJ just to play his music while he hopped off the stage to mix it up with crowd. He posed for picture after picture, gave out a countless amount of hugs and, by the time he was done, he’d all but won the favor of everyone there. Including me.
The months that followed had bigger speed bumps for singer as he found himself hounded by supposed beef with Trey Songz, all of which culminated in his infamous 106 & Park meltdown. Through it all and the fallout that came along with it, August stood up for himself instead of being apologetic, something that rarely happens in these days of everyone kissing ass to get ahead. Whether or not I agreed was irrelevant at this point; what I admired was his uncompromising nature.
For his music, he ended up racking up at the 2014 BET Awards on Sunday night – including the “Viewers Choice” award – and showed that things were now smoothed out between not only him and the network, but also with Trey Songz, as the latter joined the Alsina for a performance of “I Luv This.”
Say all that to say, there’s a certain level of realness that goes with Alsina, a rawness that’s hard-edged as the New Orleans streets he sings about in “Benediction,” the latest track from Testimony to receive a video. During last night’s awards show, I popped in just in time to watch him accept the “Best New Artist” award. While trying to gain his composure, Alsina was noticeably shaken, even as he tried to hide behind his shades. He appeared to be shedding a couple of tears as he spoke, thanking God and fans profusely for their support. My wife asked me did I think the whole thing authentic.
I told her that everything I’ve seen from the 21-year-old indicates that being real is all he knows. That and the awareness he shows that lets you know he understands he’s been blessed to make it this far.