Photo: Courtesy of GRAMMY Museum
Aloe Blacc: Musical Message-Maker | "Required Listening"
On the Aug. 8 episode of the GRAMMY Museum's Required Listening podcast, Artistic Director Scott Goldman sat down with R&B singer/songwriter Aloe Blacc for a wide-ranging interview setting his goals of "inspiration, motivation, aspiration" in contexts ranging from the historic to the deeply personal.
Blacc reveals that his latest album, still in the works, reflects new emotions that emerged from his family life, as evidenced by its prerelease single "Brooklyn In The Summer." "I'm married and I have kids and I have love in my life," said Blacc. "I wanted to express this side of my artistry."
He describes writing a love song as a "new hat" because his releases are dominated by motivational messages he considers urgently needed in today's world. While Blacc admits Michael Jackson's social messages in songs helped him see what was possible, his greater mentors are voices such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela. "These are the elders who have made their statements that last a lifetime," he shared.
Blacc's 2013 major-label debut, Lift Your Spirit was nominated for Best R&B Album at the 57th GRAMMY Awards and reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Seeing himself as an "artivist" — both an artist and an activist — he considers great lyrics as "poems that mean something forever." He seeks to embody positive uplift in his writing because whether positive or negative, "words become a mantra that you sing."
"When I decided to sign a contract with a major label, I realized that I had access to a megaphone that was much bigger than what I had prior," said Blacc. "I have a duty to use it in the right way."
This lofty goal included Blacc's soaring vocals in collaboration with late EDM producer/artist Avicii on his 2013 international hit "Wake Me Up." "It's deeply saddening," said Blacc about his friend's death earlier this year. "It's really hard for me to take because I know how much he loved music and I feel like we've lost one of the greatest producers of our time."
Behind the social messages and even his recent, more romantic composing, Blacc has many other dimensions, including a background in business, artistic projects with producer/DJ Exile, and even his dark sides that he has no intention of sharing. "I'll write and create whatever I want," he said. "There's heinous concepts that I'd never release to the public, that I never want my kids to hear me sing."
The wide range that began when Blacc was a youngster learning LL Cool J's Bigger & Deffer by heart, "front-to-back," also led to his testimony earlier this year, during GRAMMY Week, before a field hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on copyright reform. Take this chance to follow his creative reasoning as we all discover where his artistry leads next in the latest episode of "Required Listening."