research&development

aloe blacc


revolver 2006


by B+


shine through cover


revolver 2006


by B+


revolver 2006


stones throw logo


aloe blacc :: shining through

Hailing from California via Panama, Aloe Blacc is firmly at the forefront of the nu-soul r-n-b revolution, with his debut album “Shine Through” a favourite with DJ's, radio stations and music critics around the world. Aloe's soulful musings, sung in both English and Spanish, sit atop his music, a sonic palate that draws on latin, soul, r-n-b and hip hop for inspiration while unashamedly moving things in a new direction. “Shine Through” gives you a glimpse into the future of soul music with punchy rapping, delectable vocals, dreamy melodies and an understated melancholy that transfers beautifully in his live performances.

Aloe releases music on Stones Throw Records, one of our favourite labels and home to some of our heroes including Madlib, Quasimoto, J Dilla, Jaylib, Madvillain, Dudley Perkins, Koushik and many more.

We asked Aloe to do an interview and podcast for us and he went crazy, laying down a mix of his own music - some exclusive - with musings about his inspirations for the tracks, how he developed them, the samples and more. Quite an insight as we're sure you'll agree.


You were here in October 2006 for the Red Bull Music Academy. How did you find the experience at the academy and of Melbourne generally?
I really enjoyed the Red Bull Music Academy. The program is well organized and I felt very welcomed by the staff and other participants. The amount of creativity buzzing around that program is inspiring and I was able to collaborate on some nice tunes with other talented musicians and producers. I had a good time visiting Melbourne as well. For me it was a terrestrial mash-up of LA and San Francisco because like LA some things are too far away to walk but there are little pockets of night life in different areas where everything is a short stroll away.

Your debut album 'Shine Through' was released on Stones Throw records last year to critical acclaim. How did you contact them and what has it been like working with arguably one of the most important labels in music today?
I met the Stones Throw folks through OHNO. I went to Europe to tour France with the help of my friend Eastoar of Hip Hop History (sister organization to Hip Hop Congress in the US) and he connected me with the Subotage agency in Germany that had prepared a tour for LootPack. I joined the tour because they had space for me, as Madlib was home working on his Blue Note release. I made friends with everyone on the tour, DJ Romes, Wildchild, P-Trix, MED, and OHNO. I started recording to beats OHNO gave me when we returned home and Egon and PB Wolf at the label heard the music. Then OHNO featured me on his album on the track "Getaway" and PB Wolf asked me to submit a single. The first single was "Want Me" b/w "Arrive." After releasing the single Wolf offered me a deal. It's an honor to be in the company of such talented artists and to make music with folks like OHNO, Madlib and J Dilla (RIP).

Your bio boasts that you were a "stow-away" on a Lootpack European tour. How did that come about and what was the experience like for you?
The tour was my first experience doing a lot of shows outside of the US and it taught me so much about performance and stage presence because I had to communicate my energy and ideas to audiences that didn't all speak English.

Australian singer / songwriter Paul Kelly sights sex, love and death as the main inspirations for his lyrics. Do you have a similarly easy set of inspirations or do you have less tangible sources?
The source of my inspiration is mysterious to me. I think there is a muse deep in my subconscious that pushes ideas to the surface at random. I like to write uplifting and motivational songs that can help and heal. Sometimes these songs come from the melodies dancing around in my head. When I put words to fit the melody is when a song is born. I like to have fun sometimes and make songs that are laughable. That comes from listening to funny calypso songs when I was growing up. My parents played all sorts of stuff from the caribbean and the calypso and reggae often had a humorous tone in the lyrics.

Although born in the USA, your heritage is Panamanian which we can hear in tracks like Gente Ordinaire and Severa. Were you surrounded by latin music growing up or was it something you consciously sought out? Who are some of your favorite Panamanian / Latino artists?
Growing up there was always latin music arround. Blacks from Panama during my parent's era listened to Spanish-speaking music as well English-speaking music such as soca, reggae and calypso because English was still spoken heavily by their cohort being only one or two generations removed from their emigrant parents and grandparents. In my home and at the parties I could hear a range of music from salsa, merengue, tipico, calypso, soca and reggae. Some of my favorite latin artists/groups are:
Ismael Rivera (Puerto Rico)
The Exciters (Panama)
The Beachers (Panama)
Ruben Blades (Panama)
Hecotr Lavoe (Puerto Rico)
Willie Colon (Puerto Rico)
Jorge Ben (Brazil)
Antonio Carlos Jobim (Brazil)

You appeared on Melbourne-based artist Lanu's debut album "This Is My Home" on Tru Thoughts / Ubiquity earlier this year. Do you have any plans to further collaborate? Are you aware of much contemporary Australian music?
I was on tour in the US when I got the request to collaborate with Lanu. I really liked the song and the concept came to me immediately. When the album was completed and I recieved my copy from Ubiquity I was honored to see that the album was titled after a lyric in our song. Not sure if that was intentional but it still made me feel good that I could contribute more than just the music. I definitely plan to do more songs with Lanu. I am writing to a couple of tunes now that I hope to record when I visit Melbourne.

File-sharing and other digital technologies are causing upheaval in the music industry. Is it all bad in your opinion or can you see some positives to the changes?
I guess the ease of file-sharing is causing problems for the record industry, but I think it is a great way to promote new music and artists. The industry needs to learn how to embrace the technology and use it to its best advantage. People who care will pay for quality work. Labels need to figure out a way to add more quality to the products they sell to make it worth the money for the new digital consumer.

You have a separate hip-hop project, Emanon, which you do with DJ Exile. Where did you meet and what do each of you handle in the group?
I met Exile through my friend Anthony Johnson. Back in high school Exile was looking for an emcee to rap on his mixtape and Anthony suggested me. We have been working together ever since. He makes the beats and I rhyme. Sometimes we switch roles but for the most part he does the music and I write the lyrics. Exile has a an album coming soon where he is producing and rhyming. There is an album out now that he made called "Dirty Science" featuring the likes of Ghostface Killah, Kardinal Offishal, Slum Village, Blu, Ta'Raach, MED, OHNO, and myself among others. The next EMANON album is the works. We have about half completed the songs. We are both very busy with our solo projects but it will all come together in due time.

What can we expect from an Aloe Blacc live show?
A live Aloe Blacc show depends on the setup. Sometimes I am with a full band and that is a lot of fun because songs can be extended and modified spontaneously. When I perform Exile we blend the EMANON hip hop vibe with the new hybrid soul that I do on Shine Through and it makes for an interesting presentation. When I perform by myself I like to blend the elements of my strictly hip hop past with the soulful, latin, and uptempo stylings of my recent work. In short - expect to have a good time.

When can we expect more Aloe Blacc material or is Emanon currently taking up most of your time?
A live Aloe Blacc show depends on the setup. Sometimes I am with a full band and that is a lot of fun because songs can be extended and modified spontaneously. When I perform Exile we blend the EMANON hip hop vibe with the new hybrid soul that I do on Shine Through and it makes for an interesting presentation. When I perform by myself I like to blend the elements of my strictly hip hop past with the soulful, latin, and uptempo stylings of my recent work. In short - expect to have a good time.

Aloe Blacc Podcast for r-n-d.net

- (also available through our podcast).

Aloe Blacc Links