Sounds Like: The convergence of a Dirty South striver-rap sensibility with emotive, church-grown R&B
For Fans Of: The acoustic soul and post-incarceration wisdom of Lyfe Jennings and the tormented-and-tattooed pride of Chris Brown
Why You Should Pay Attention: August Alsina's gold-certified breakout hit, "I Luv This Shit," dominated urban radio for months. But its hard-edged ratchet lyrics and Trinidad James cameo are just one side of his music. On his 2013 EP Downtown: Life Under the Gun, he expresses a surprising amount of vulnerability, and in one heartbreaking moment sobs audible tears as he remembers an older brother killed by gunfire. For the full-length Testimony, out this month, he delves into a troubled childhood spent between New Orleans and Houston, which included dropping out of high school, hustling drugs to make ends meet, and bouts of homelessness. Now based in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood and signed to Island Def Jam, the 21-year-old singer has enough industry juice to pull guests like Young Jeezy, Rick Ross and B.o.B But he hasn't forgotten his difficult past, which he shares in songs like "Testify" and "Make It Home." "When somebody gives their testimony or tells their story, the next person can be motivated or inspired by it," says Alsina. "That's all I'm trying to do."
He Says: "[I don't do it for] the fame… I do it for my fam and my squad. My brother left three little girls behind and they need me. I got a deal, but my family didn't. My niggas that I came up with didn't. My come up is their come up, so I gotta work hard to make sure none of us ever have to take a step backward."
Hear For Yourself: The Rich Homie Quan-assisted "Ghetto," an appreciation of women "with billion-dollar bodies" that "keep it hood no matter where they are." By Mosi Reeves