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Interview: August Alsina talks upcoming album 'Testimony' and industry firsts

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August Alsina isn't your typical R&B crooner. While most R&B mirrors fairytale love stories and heartbreak, August inversely incorporates every day life into his music. The same heartfelt emotion is there, but it's gritty, real and relatable. That's because his songs depict different struggles he faced growing up in a drug and crime-ridden part of New Orleans. From hustling and dream chasing to family and death, they're all experiences that shaped his life and message already partly documented in his 2013 EP, Downtown: Life Under the Gun.

Since dropping his EP, August has topped music charts at no. 1 with "I Luv This Sh*t" (feat. Trinidad James) and toured overseas. He's currently performing alongside 2 Chainz and Pusha T in the "2 G.O.O.D. to be T.R.U." tour as he prepares for the April 15 release of his debut album, Testimony. We recently caught up with August in between shows to talk more about his upcoming album and even delve into some of his "firsts" as Def Jam's breakout newcomer. Check it below:

ALIYA FAUST: How's the 2 Good to be Tru tour going? What's been the best part?
AUGUST ALSINA: Just the experience overall really. It's my first real tour. It's nice to just get the experience in.

Tell me a little bit about your upcoming debut album, Testimony
It's my life. Where I come from, my background, my story. The date is April 15 so it's significant to me because I dropped my first mixtape on April 15th and that's also my brother who got killed birthday. So it's cool to bring that back around because honestly, I wouldn't be doing this if—that was a life changing experience, for me to me lose my brother. I knew I had to do something else, so I'm doing it and try to make my brother live on as long as I'm here.

Besides Young Jeezy, who are some other people we can expect to hear on your album?
Not too many features on there. It's unique for the most part because it's my first album. I just wanted to really focus on giving the people an opportunity to feel me out and other than that, I got Rick Ross.

Testimony is pretty telling in itself, but can you describe the album as a whole for me in three words?
Honesty, the truth and honesty [laughs]. That's all I can say. It's so honest. It's just my life all over it, that's all.

Your transparency is crazy. You've opened up so much to the world. How's that been?
It's a gamble really. It's a struggle. I've never been a person to want [people] in my business or tell people my business, so it's just about what you stand for and what you represent. If I don't tell it, somebody else will tell it, so I might as well be the one. I used to talk about that a while ago, how much of myself do I give to the people? How much do I say and vent? But l'd be cheating myself if I don't speak on it.

One thing I did notice, especially in your "Make It Home" video, was that it had a plot. Videos nowadays kind of lack that. But that's something that's also reflected in your music, the actual stories. So, at what point did you decide to start writing these stories.
It was at some point recording my album. I just was writing something and was like, 'should I say this, should I put this out there?' I just told somebody else that my reality just so happens to be my family's reality. And I don't want anybody to ever feel like I'm talking about them or trying to bring anybody down, but like I said, if I don't say it, somebody else will. If I can help somebody with my story, I need to put it out there.

They are definitely relatable. And unique, the way you relay the message, too. You sing about what people usually rap about. How are guys and the hip-hop culture responding to your music?
It's cool. I see the same amount of dudes as I see the girls. They definitely relate to it. One time I had a meet and greet, it was a bunch of girls in line, but there was this dude. He had a cast on, and when he finally got up there, he was like, 'bruh, you helped me out with my life. I got shot 10 times. I heard your music and I was able to keep pushing.' That's some G sh*t.

Having transitioned out of that lifestyle, is there any advice you would give your listeners who become subjects to their environment?
You gotta do you to the best of your ability. It's a way out. But at the same time, I tell people, even when you get out it still feels like you're trapped into some sh*t. Once you get to a certain point, you get some money or whatever, it's like people expect you to forget all your morals and where you come from and your background and all that. It's weird. Just gotta have a strong head.

You talk about your faith a lot. How has that helped you kind of get through all this?
Without it I wouldn't be here.

Makes sense. You have a lot big firsts unfolding. Tours, new album, you just went overseas for the first time. So, let's talk about firsts. First, what was it like going back home for the first time after you blew up?
I don't even remember when I went back. I'm home pretty often. I duck in and I duck out. But I mean, it's always been love. It's love and it's respect all over the board. Feels good. That hometown love, it's nothing like it.

Do you remember your nieces' first reaction to their first time seeing you on TV?
Man, every time they see me on TV they act like it's the first time, so every time is like the first time for them.

Can you describe what you felt the first time you traveled out of the country, to Germany?
I didn't really feel too much. I just didn't know what to expect. I'm a go with the flow type of guy. If you see me super excited, you'll know I'm really excited. It wasn't too different. It was cool to hear them sing along.

What was the first thing you bought with your first music check?
I think it was a computer. And it got stolen right after, too. I was mad…

How about the first compliment from a fellow entertainer that made you like, wow, I'm here?
I don't really be into that. I do what I do and I'm comfortable knowing what I do for me and for the people so I don't really need anybody to boost me up. It's cool to have people know who you are and respect what you do, but I don't get too caught up in what people have to say.

Last one. You have a whole bunch of tattoos, but what was your first one and what the significance of it?
My first tattoo was this tattoo that was on my chest. It said "music is my life" and I got it done in the hood at some n*gga's house. It was terrible. It's covered up now though.

August Alsina's debut album ' Testimony' hits stores April 15. You can catch him Saturday, March 22 at the Tower Theatre in the Philadelphia area with 2 Chainz and Pusha T (tix available at Live Nation). Follow August on Twitter and Instagram @AugustAlsina.

Remaining Tour Dates:
3/13: Dallas, TX - South Side Ballroom
3/14: Houston, TX - Bayou Music Center
3/17: Saint Petersburg, FL - Jannus Live
3/18: Miami Beach, FL - The Fillmore Miami Beach
3/20: Charlotte, NC - The Fillmore Charlotte
3/22: Upper Darby, PA - Tower Theatre
3/24: Washington, D.C. - 930 Club

Follow @AliyaFaust on Twitter for more entertainment updates.

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