Titus Makin is Feeling “Righteous” as Butterfly Ali

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Titus Makin is a name recognized by many who have seen him on-screen, having seen success on various television shows, most currently “The Rookie” on ABC, and previous shows such as “Glee” and “Pretty Little Liars”.  However, the name we will most likely be hearing more prominently in the near future is that of Butterfly Ali.  Makin is tapping into his first love of music in a big way, under this name — and we are here for it. The moniker is fairly easy to figure out if anyone has an awareness of Muhammed Ali and his infamous quote. 

Makin sat and talked with American Songwriter recently about his new music including his new single “Righteous”, and his journey in all things creative.  Graduating from the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, this guy doesn’t run short in talent, and his music appeals to those that love a fresh take on jazz, soul, funk, and the blues.  Keeping true to his roots, yet bringing a new wave into classic genres, you will want to tune in.  See what Titus has to say about life in the industry, and keep your eyes and ears peeled. You will undoubtedly be seeing and hearing from Butterfly Ali quite a bit.

Also, check out the newly released music video for “Righteous” below!

American Songwriter:

All right. I am here with Titus Makin, or should I say, Butterfly Ali? We’ll get into that in a minute… but first things first- I always like to get to the personal side immediately, because why waste any time? Where are you from? Where’d you grow up, and tell me a little bit about little baby Titus.

Titus Makin:

Baby Titus! Military family. I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, lived there for only three years. To this day I have yet to see Hawaii in a way that I can remember it. We moved around every two to four years. Lived all over America and some places overseas and yeah, found my way to Los Angeles throughout all of that, on the performing arts side.

AS:

Thanks for service on your family’s end. We love the military. Do you come from a musical family at all?

Makin:

No, I’m the only one. It’s one of those random things. I believe if anybody, I get vocal abilities from my mom, because in a church setting when we’re all singing, she definitely sounds the best. I’m like, okay, well if that were to be a family trait passed down, it’d probably be from her side, so that’s what we go with. But as far as a professional pursuit, yeah, I’m the only one that’s ever tried to do music.

AS:

She’s got a good voice, though?

Makin:

Yeah, for sure. Side note, technically on my mom’s side, my second cousin is Johnny Gill, and he’s a singer that was in New Edition for a while…New Edition was with Bobby Brown and everybody, then he went off solo. But anyway, that’s about as much as I know. But we don’t know each other in real life.

AS:

It’s in the blood a little bit then, that’s pretty cool. You’ve been in the industry for quite some time. For those that don’t know you yet, you’re an actor as well as a musician. How long have you been in the industry, as a whole?

Makin:

The industry as a whole, honestly for about the same time I’ve been in L.A. I would say about the last 10 years, I’ve been professionally in the industry. Went to school in New York at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, then came out to L.A. in 2009 to furthermore pursue music and acting. Acting kind of just took off rolling super fast, first.

AS:

Okay, so you were actually pursuing both and the acting is the first thing that hit for you?

Makin:

Yeah. Exactly. As soon as I moved to L.A., I was technically trying to get music things going right away with this manager that used to work for Boyz II Men, and then I joined this boy band and that was a crap show. And then acting stuff kind of took from there. But yeah, music’s always been kind of the first passion or goal, whatever you want to call it.

AS:

Music is your first love and acting has been a nice avenue for you to be able to make a good career, still be creative, and then build a platform to now really do what you truly love. It feels like what you’re saying is you’re now stepping into the next chapter, which is the most exciting chapter for you, because it’s what’s in your bones. It’s what you really breathe, music.

Makin:

100%, well said. Yep.

AS:

That’s awesome. I want to actually touch on your platform a bit. You’ve got a pretty good following, and the other day… I’m kind of going a little off track here… but you recently posted, a picture expressing how you made the conscious choice to not Photoshop it. You went into this whole thing about how you said you typically do. You were very honest and very vulnerable in that. Can we plan on seeing more of that from you, and what message are you wanting to give your followers in posting that?

Makin:

Yeah, that was pretty much an eye opener for me in that moment, too. I was only thinking in that moment when I posted it, but I was like, well actually maybe this is something I could stick with more. Alicia Keys is doing that. She’s been doing that for a while. She’s really promoting self love and not needing tons of makeup and airbrush and all that stuff. She’s stuck with it for a really long time. Even live and on the red carpet, she won’t add anything. But mine’s more of just recognizing it and really appreciating yourself, and I don’t want to go crazy with it.

If I do a magazine shoot, I’ll let them do with what they want, but when I have control over those little small moments that we’re trying to be perfect, I think it’s a good practice to release that and just be what it is. That is something that I would totally impart upon my followers or listeners, and something that I try to reflect in my music lyrically. A story of some sort, being relatable, letting people know they’re not alone somehow, and just dealing with your own truth and loving yourself.

AS:

I love it. I think that’s a great message. That needs to be in the airwaves a lot more than it is. I’m glad that you’re part of the pioneering for that. For those that haven’t heard your sound and your music, how would you describe the sound to them? Besides fresh because, come on bro!

Makin:

Come on somebody!!! Haha! Yeah, we’ve been taking some…which is really cool for me, because I’ve never been this far in my journey before…but we’ve been taking some label meetings recently, and people have been really responsive to it. The common link that a lot of people have said is somewhere between Andre 3000, Anderson Paak and Marvin Gaye. I was like, “Okay, I see that, I’ll take that.” Because all of those people are super huge inspirations of mine. It’s like that funky world, but then there’s still a sultry, sexy side that I like to tap into. But then there’s that banshee side of my personality and that’s really what I wanted to do with this music is just show me and stop trying to be whatever I thought pop was. Do you know what I mean?

AS:

Yeah. Honestly, just knowing you on a personal side as well as just seeing you evolve in all of this and hearing your music as you’ve been creating throughout the years, I feel like this is, by far, the most you. At one point when I was listening to your new single “Righteous”, I could literally see you dancing.

Makin:

Yes! Yes!

AS:

And I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so Titus!”

Makin:

Thank you! That means so much to me because that’s exactly what I was going for. I was like, what will I enjoy performing live? Because I’ve had songs in the past where I don’t even feel like performing them live. Because they’re so not me that I feel like I’m covering somebody’s song that I don’t even like that much. But because people tell me they like it, I’m like, “Okay, well maybe I should do that one.”

AS:

Yeah, being influenced by people and what they say. Yuck. Now would you say Andre 3000, Marvin Gaye, and Anderson Paak are part of your inspiration with your music? What are you inspired in right now with your music?

Makin:

Oh, 100%. They nail it when they say that. Granted, sometimes there’s that side of me that I’m like, okay, well still hear me, because I’m not trying to be a repeat of them. But-

AS:

You’re definitely not, for the record. You do not sound like a repeat. It’s fresh.

Makin:

I definitely am extremely inspired by all three of those men, and that is where a lot of my draw comes from, just as far as the energy of it, but I think where I am able to add my own, I guess, personal artistry to it and twist on it is my roots, because I’m a Christian dude from the South and I always like to keep kind of a Southern backbeat soul to it.

AS:

Love that. I love that! Take us through the story of your current single, “Righteous”. Explain what the song means to you and how it came to life and what your thought process was when you were creating that.

Makin:

Yeah, I wrote the song from a personal perspective, but obviously in a way that can be applied to the masses. The meaning of it was when people judge you or criticize you for not… and this could be any community, whether it’s a Christian community, whether it’s LGBTQ, whether it’s whatever community you’re in, if you’re not exactly the guidelines that they think you should be, they look down on you. They make you feel like they’re righteous, like they’re being self righteous. It’s like, oh well, am I not good enough? And that’s where that lyric came from. They make you want to feel like they’re righteous, when really we’re all in this big pot and we’re all a hot mess. People are judging us for our small mistakes, when they’re not looking at their own.

AS:

Wow, that’s awesome. That’s powerful. Especially today with the bullying and everything that’s going on. I just attended this event for Save the Music, and they talked about how hard it is when you want to be heard and you want to be seen, but maybe not at the same time, but you’re also simultaneously terrified to be either. With social media and with all of these things, it’s really great that you’re just addressing the message that is just so prevalent in society. And it’s not just even the younger generation. We’re all getting hit with it. The older generation gets judged, and the reality is, is we’re all human. And so that’s a beautiful thing that you’re doing. When people listen to your song, what is your hope in what they experience when they hear your music?

Makin:

Well, depending on the track, but just overall, me as an artist, I’m hoping that they’re feeling heard and seen. I want people… It’s almost like I want to be speaking for the underdogs, which is a common theme for a lot of musicians, but that is just something that needs to continue to happen. Letting people know that, “Hey, I’m not holier than thou. I’m just as messy as you in love and life and heartache, and we’re trying to get through this together.”

AS:

That’s so beautiful…so powerful. I love that. Yeah. Thank you, seriously. Coming from a songwriting world and we’re all about that at American Songwriter. We really get to the heart of music and the heart of writing and why things are created. For you to stand for that and want people to be able to experience that and be a voice where sometimes people feel like they may be voiceless, it means a lot to just the community, as a whole. I thank you on behalf of them.

Yeah. I also want to ask you, because I want people to go and listen to your stuff, and they can find you on Spotify and all of the social streams and everything under the name Butterfly Ali. I want to ask you where that name comes from. 

Makin:

The reason I did the name change was because I kind of felt a little cornered with the name Titus Makin, which I’m not ashamed of. This name change isn’t an alter ego thing. It’s really just an artistic expression, to be honest. Because with Titus, there’s so much acting history connected to it, that I felt like, okay, they knew me as a Pop artist and then I’m a cop and I’m on this and I’m on that. There’s so many things, because people don’t really separate very well. I’m learning that from social media. If you’re not posting about being a cop, then they don’t know who you are. Do you know what I mean? And I say that because I play a cop on The Rookie. Not jabbing at real cops! Ha!

But when it came to releasing this new music, I was like, man, I’m finally in a place where I feel like I’m speaking for myself and really doing something I want to do. In my head, I was kind of in the way a woman would birth something of her own…I’m like, “Oh, I’m birthing this new music. I want to name it.” You name your child, I want to name this expression. I just feel like I’m in my element and I don’t feel bound to the industry’s understanding of Titus Makin, thus far. I just wanted my own artistic expression, and that was the reason I did the name change, and then the meaning of the name change is…I wrote a song and I named it Butterfly Ali before I even attached to naming myself that. In the song, I wrote a line that said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” which is obviously ode to Muhammad Ali because that’s a statement of his, and I just loved it. I felt like it was literally my whole life in a quote, because I’m typically known as a really nice guy, but I’m like, “Well don’t get it twisted. That doesn’t make me weak and you can still be a boss nice guy.” The beauty of a butterfly, they’re these simple, beautiful creatures that open up their wings and defend themselves from the worst animals. Yeah, I literally took that and then gave props to Muhammad Ali for saying it, and that’s how Butterfly Ali came about.

AS:

That’s awesome. Dang. Good choice, man. People are going to be calling you to do their media and stuff for your creativity. Haha! Okay, two more questions real quick that I wanted to ask you,  because you’re a really freaking busy guy. Like you said, you’re on TV, you act as well as sing. But what can we be expecting from you, mostly, this year, in 2020?

Makin:

Yeah, well the rest of this year, those who would like to can still watch The Rookie on ABC, Sunday nights. That will be coming on for the majority of the year, the rest of season two will be airing. And then outside of that, just a lot more music. We’ve been in the studio nonstop. As I said, hopefully one of these labels will be the right home for me and we’ll kind of get on the bandwagon and get stuff going on a bigger level.

AS:

Yes! Good luck to you on that journey with the music stuff. Are you doing any live shows and can we plan on seeing you in Nashville anytime soon?

Makin:

You know what? Nashville does sound like a trip I need to take, super soon, but just to see friends. As far as live shows go, no, as of now, I don’t have any planned or scheduled. We’ve kind of just been on the releasing side of music, and getting Butterfly Ali more established. Getting this name out there, doing interviews, getting people used to, familiar with, and seeking the name and the music. So by the time we do some live shows, people can come in familiar, singing the songs, having a good time, understanding who this guy is.

AS:

Awesome. Well, Titus, thank so much for taking the time to talk to me. I know you’re so busy and hopefully I can do you justice as far as just sharing a little bit about who you are and getting your name out there more, because you’re an amazing guy and I know you’re just getting started. Truly, I mean that.

Makin:

Thank you, Jessi. That really means a lot. Seriously. And thank you for even having me and being so kind to do this!

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