From the global hit “I Need A Dollar” to the genre-bending EDM classic “Wake Me Up,” Aloe Blacc has never been one to shy away from breaking norms and pushing musical boundaries. In his conversation with Michael Franti on the Stay Human podcast, Blacc shares what influenced him, his take on artistry, and the importance of his latest album All Love Everything.
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Growing up in southern California, there wasn’t much musical diversity in his suburban streets. Yet, that didn’t keep him and his friends from trying to soak up “any morsel of hip-hop culture that was coming through the airwaves and coming from the television.”
“Eventually when we got our driver’s licenses we’d be up in L.A. every weekend, sometimes on weeknights, just to be in culture and then bring it back down to Orange County,” Blacc tells Franti. “Find our own little spots to rap, make beats, share graffiti, and b-boy or freestyle dance. That was kind of the early seeds of me becoming an artist and inspired by hip-hop artists of the time like, N.W.A., De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Pharcyde. Hip-hop artists that were either talking about street activity and street life or talking about philosophy and the life of the mind.”
Blacc carried the raw authenticity he was seeing in the hip-hop scene as a teenager and used that to fuel his own music which tends to be an honest reflection of the world he sees around him. Aside from authentic lyrics, Blacc also explains that he strives to make his music accessible to all.
“Because I crossed through so many environments and groups of people, I want to be sure that my music is not alienating anyone. As an artist, you shouldn’t pander, but I don’t feel like what I do is in any way, ingratiating. What I’m really trying to do is create music that is speaking to human experience, from my viewpoint,” Blacc says.
Doing exactly that in his most recent release, All Love Everything, Blacc details the realities of being a father. He explains that being real with his audience, through all stages of life, is something the music industry lacks.
“In the music game, there’s this constant hunger for youth. Everybody’s gotten young and energetic, and doing the most rebellious young thing and I think we miss out on music that gives a full picture of our humanity. I had a relationship with Bill Withers and I wish that before he passed, he continued to record and release music. He stopped recording in his early 30s, but I’d love to know what he had to say at 60 years old. I’d love to know what wisdom he could share with us about life experience in his older age, because we don’t get that from music, we get it from other forms of media,” he says.
“We have this tremendous access to people’s hearts and minds all day long. I want to hear life in all its glory and all its stages through music.”