August Alsina has had a very successful music career, but his way to the top wasn’t as easy as you might think. Born in New Orleans in 1992, August spent his early years navigating a high-crime city and the difficulties that came with having parents in the drug game–but the way he describes it, he and his siblings didn’t realize how much they didn’t have, because of the excess of love they had for each other. 

The talent for singing was always there, but it wasn’t until August posted his first cover video on YouTube in 2007 that his love of music started to become a career.

The buzz he earned from that video (as well as a number of other popular covers) gave him an important foothold in the music industry, as did his first untitled mixtape (which was also made up entirely of cover songs). In 2013, his career took another leap after he landed a Trinidad James feature on the single “I Love It.” Its release brought more national attention to the New Orleans singer and started to catch the eyes of record labels. 

This was also the moment I first caught on to August Alsina’s music. I became a fan instantly when I heard his EP Downtown: Life Under the Gun. Out of its eight tracks, the two that really stand out to me are “Survival of the Fittest” and “Don’t Forget About Me.” 

In the first, August describes how tough it was for him growing up in New Orleans, and the conditions that he faced in his day-to-day life. He also speaks of how he had to deal drugs to make ends meet, and how eventually this led to him getting caught up with the wrong crowd. 

“Don’t Forget About Me” hits even deeper for me as August talks about how his brother was murdered in 2011 due to gun violence, and how he knew the lifestyle he was living would only lead to prison or death. In order to make it out, he had to look in the mirror and decide to lead a better life. This song goes into detail about how his talent started blossoming, and he knew he would have to take it to another level, even if this required him to leave some of the people behind who he came up with. 

August’s 2014 debut studio album Testimony, was his first project to gain national attention. “Testify” is one of my favorite tracks from this project. In it, Alsina digs even deeper into his life experiences and how they shaped him, detailing his unstable home, his years-long drug dealing, and his experiences prostituting. On first listen, it might be surprising to compare those difficult experiences to the laid back and collected persona August presents today, but if anything that’s just a reminder that you can never judge a book by its cover. 

Following his BET Best New Artist win in 2014, August released his sophomore studio album, This Thing Called Life–in my opinion, the most heartfelt and emotional project he has put out to date. August seems very reflective throughout the record, retelling his powerful life story with intricately harmonized melodies. He also discusses his realization of the influence that he had on other people, and his desire to use that influence to make the world a better place. 

This need to grow as a person is reflected most clearly in the song “Change,” where he sings “I’ll change, just so they can see there’s a better way.” Some people can’t adapt to becoming an influential figure, and it’s wonderful to see an artist like August alter their actions for the betterment of the future. 

The most recent project we have received from August is The Product III: stateofEMERGEncy, a continuation of his debut mixtape series. It’s a very lengthy album, to say the least, but does give us a more raw version of August, which is certainly interesting. 

In the song “Today,” August opens up about the pressure he feels to come up with great music and to provide for his loved ones but goes on to say that this also makes him want to work harder and not waste any time because he knows that he can die any day. On “Chase,” he goes into detail about how it might sound like he’s pursuing love with a woman, but in reality, he’s not ready for love–he just appreciates the idea of it; and while he knows that may not be the most moral thing, it’s his reality. 

August has had a great career so far, but since The Product III, he has said he wants to lay low, focus on his health and his family, and when the time is ready for new music the world will know. For anyone looking to become a fan in the meantime, you can check out a few of my favorite August Alsina songs below to give yourself a headstart:

  • “Survival of the Fittest”
  • “Testify”
  • “Hip Hop”
  • “Mama”
  • “Song Cry”
  • “Make It Home (feat. Jeezy)”
  • “Other Side”
  • Benediction (feat. Rick Ross)
  • “Look at How Far I’ve Come”
  • “The Encore”
  • “Don’t Forget About Me”
  • “Change”