Written By: Erik Hale Q&A with Orange County Native and Pop Chart-topper Aloe Blacc
Photography By: Nancy Villere of Crush Photo Studios
South County Native Aloe Blacc is Tearing Up the Charts Latin flavor, soulful style, and a swagger that makes a bowtie look dashing is a package you might expect to come from Miami, Chicago, or New York. Aloe Blacc and his catchy pop-soul chart topping hit “I Need a Dollar” (you can hear it as the opening to the HBO series ‘How to Make it in America’) have unexpectedly sprung from the tiled roofs of Laguna Hills. As with most chart toppers Aloe made a long journey before arriving in front of us at the Detroit Bar in May as the cool, suave, and genre busting talent we witnessed. A packed house swooned as Aloe controlled the crowd with expertise. He has toured behind his breakthrough single across Europe, where ‘Dollar’ has topped the charts in some countries. The video for “I Need a Dollar” has already garnered more than 15 million views on YouTube.
*This son of Orange County was born to Panamanian parents in 1979 and at the age of 16, debuted with the group Emanon.
Locale Magazine: When did you discover you had a musical talent?
Aloe Blacc: At seven or eight I started participating in plays at my local community center. I took trumpet lessons when I was nine. I also started writing rap songs when I was that age. I used to listen to Biz Markee, EPMD and LL Cool J on KDAY.
LM: How did you get involved in Emanon?
AB: I met DJ Exile from San Juan Capistrano when I was 15. We put together a mix tape with six or seven songs. We would sell the tapes at the B Boy Summit. We mixed, mastered, recorded and did all of our artwork for our mix tapes. Everything was homegrown. We were high school kids making cassettes.
LM: What benefit did you get out of making music?
AB: We liked to do it. We weren’t into video games, sports, or drugs. We just wanted to make hip hop.
LM: Was it tougher for people to accept you coming from Orange County?
AB: We had to be hungrier then. Now, talent comes from everywhere.
LM: How did you cross over from hip-hop to what you are producing now?
AB: I grew up listening to all kinds of music. As a trumpet player I was playing orchestral symphonic music, and my parents are from Panama so I grew up listening to all kinds of Spanish music.
LM: Did you switch your style to make more money or have you just matured as an artist?
AB: I’m just growing. This is a step in my progression. In my debut album “Shine Through” I experimented with a lot of different genres. This “Good Things” album is just a focus on one specific genre. My goal is to tell stories that are important for people to hear. These are important stories that inform people in terms of political ideas or philosophies, social, cultural, and ethnic ideas. I like to think I am telling the stories that should be told in order to educate folks.
LM: What advice would you give a kid from Orange County that wants to be successful?
AB: Be honest. Honesty is the best form of art. Don’t do it for fame or money. Do it for fun.
Check out this amazing cover Aloe Blacc did of Michael Jackson’s “Billi Jean.” Berlin creative space MADE played host to Aloe Blacc, violinist and composer Mihalj “Miki” Kekenj and painter Jaybo.
Video produced and directed by Moodmacher (moodmacher.com) featuring material filmed by Matthias Maercks for Highsnobiety.com
And now, Aloe Blacc’s chart-topping “I need a dollar.”