Release Date: Apr 15, 2014
Record label: Def Jam
Genre(s): Rap, R&B, Contemporary R&B
For those who didn't get around to checking the brief 2013 release Downtown: Life Under the Gun, August Alsina opens his first full-length with "Testify," a ballad that, with grim elegance, lays out the New Orleans native's background. Within a matter of four minutes, he sings of abandonment, envy, poverty, desperation, survival, and the death of his brother. When he confesses, "Didn't graduate, I'm thinkin' damn, I gotta deal," it's as if he is confronting a reality that coping and selling drugs -- "just to get a meal" -- are one and the same.
One of the lovelier songs on “Riverside,” the self-titled debut album of a sturdily approachable new jazz quartet, bears the title “Old Church, New Paint.” A slow waltz by the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Chet Doxas, from Montreal, it inhabits a kind of arid terrain between Protestant hymn and cowboy tune. The industrious trumpeter Dave Douglas, who actually made a recent album of hymns, joins Mr. Doxas on the melody, helping give the impression of deliberative but bluesy determination.
Tag-lined as a 21-year old R&B crooner “groomed” by Grammy Award-winning The-Dream, Def Jam’s August Alsina has a lot to live up to. Starting his career in 2011, the New Orleans artist made a move to Atlanta that not only changed his career for the better, but also injected a new sound and era into his music. With a heavy heart, August Alsina opens up the album with “Testify.” Over a piano-driven melody, August tells the tale of his childhood; one that includes parental abandonment, teen angst and disobedience, drug abuse, hustling and overall the truth behind the struggles of many young adults who grew up in the hood.