Aloe Blacc The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Published Oct 24, 2010Singer/rapper Aloe Blacc is best known these days as the man behind "I Need A Dollar," the theme song for acclaimed HBO series How To Make It In America. The theme song's notoriety generated helpful momentum for Blacc, dovetailing nicely into the ramp up for his most recent release, Good Things. The strictly soul orientation of the new disc is something of a change from his diverse yet predominantly hip-hop informed debut. Blacc laughs and says "I'm adapted to every style. Coming from hip-hop we pretty much sample all of it."
Even though it makes sense to be a soul man on the heels of the retro-ish "Dollar," the album was actually complete long before the song broke. L.A.'s El Michels Affair (who impressed with their live revision of Wu Tang Clan's Enter The 36 Chambers) are responsible for the instrumentation. While label Stones Throw may not seem like an obvious choice for a straight-up soul record, Blacc is loyal. "The label itself is definitely spreading its wings and embracing different genres, and the audience is growing with them."
Nevertheless the next album "will be hip-hop," Blacc says. "The next album is going to be with DJ Exile, and we're working as Emanon."
What are you up to?
Finishing up a new Emanon album, Birds Eye View, with my long-time friend DJ Exile and helping to promote Maya Jupiter's new self-titled album, which I co-wrote and co-produced.
What are your current fixations?
My undying fixation is creating new art. I am a workaholic and it's difficult to stop making new music. That said, I am addicted to good art because it feeds my muse.
Why do you live where you do?
I live in L.A. as a matter of convenience, but then again, my sisters and my nieces and nephew are in Southern California. So as much as I wish to live somewhere else with no smog, clean tap water, better public transport, and more trees than buildings, I would be too far away from my family.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Ted.com, Eugene McDaniel's Headless Heroes album, Leon (the director's cut of The Professional), John Perkins' book Confessions of an Economic Hitman.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
My wife and I took my mother to see the Broadway performance of Fela for her birthday. The play is just as much a concert as it is a theatre presentation. It gave me a greater understanding of Fela Kuti and his music, as well as a deeper appreciation for politically active artists.
What have been your career highs and lows?
My career lows would likely be my early recordings as a teenager. Looking back, I am glad that I started making music so early, but I am not glad that I released music without having the strict critical artistic views I now espouse. My career highs would be the success of "I Need a Dollar" and my cover of "Billie Jean." I was humbled and honoured to receive a personal phone call from Bruce Swedien (Michael Jackson's engineer from 1978 to 2001) who says he loves my interpretation of the song and he believes Michael would have loved it as well.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
I am not sure. I have a really hard time acknowledging ignorance, so I can't remember anything like that. I know I've been quite a harsh critic of myself after a show but I will spare you the self-deprecating details.
What should everyone shut up about?
Stop worrying about what you want and start thinking about what you need because it is only a matter of time before we lose total control of our important resources to corporations.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like that I am open to learning but I hate that my impatience keeps me from dedicating enough time to learn thoroughly.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
The Do Over in Hollywood ― blog.thedoover.net
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Unless it's an autograph after a show, send it to my lawyer before signing.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Luckily, I have never had to do it, but I have no tolerance for disrespect.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Generally nice people and clean cities.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
I remember buying Nas's It Ain't Hard to Tell on cassette, but I don't know if that was the first LP I bought. It is, however, probably the most important purchase I made as an MC.
What was your most memorable day job?
I have not had many, but in high school I used to write lyrics while working behind the counter at a bagel shop.
How do you spoil yourself?
Sleepless studio nights.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
A professor in the social sciences.
What do you fear most?
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I met Bill Withers a few months back, and as I am explaining to him how much I admire his work, he looks over at my wife and says, "How'd you get that girl?"
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
I would serve Gandhi my improved rendition of mom's special lentil stew.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Making grandkids for her to spoil. She is my biggest fan and has always supported me in life.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
D.J. Rogers' "It's Good to be Alive" or Ruben Blades "Pedro Nevara."