Boom VisionTM Podcast

Ep. 28: AIM: Amplifying Social Impact through Soul Music with Aloe Blacc 


Quote: "Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” - Plato

Today's interview is my guest, Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III.  You may know him by his stage name, Aloe Blacc, Grammy-nominated recording artist, singer/songwriter, philanthropist, husband and father.  With such a soulful voice and energy, what does it mean when he describes his music as AIM?  From different pivots in his life that shaped his path in music, how does Aloe create a strong foundation of mind, body and soul to amplify his voice and positive impact?  In today's interview, we dive into:

  1. Aloe's origin story
  2. What prompted him to branch off into a solo career as a vocalist.
  3. The biggest influence in his musical career
  4. ROI versus ROH (Return on Happiness)
  5. AIM: How Aloe describes the music he creates
  6. How creating a strong foundation of mind, body and soul helps amplify his purpose to inspire social impact
  7. His advice for folks that feel stuck and having a tough time on their default path. what to do to create transformation.

Show Notes

[3:36] - Quote: "Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” - Plato

Welcome to episode 28 of the Boom Vision podcast!  I am excited to share today's interview with none other than Aloe Blacc.  From a hip hop artist turned singer songwriter, this Grammy-nominated recording artist is a husband, father, and philanthropist who uses his platform of music to create meaningful social change.

As a brief background:

In the years since Aloe Blacc’s last album, Lift Your Spirit, the global superstar spent time working on an even dearer project: his family. All Love Everything (Delux), his latest album, is the singer-songwriter’s first collection of material written as a father, a journey that’s expanded Blacc’s already heartfelt artistic palette. Aloe has said “Becoming a father made me want to share those experiences in music,” admitting it’s a challenge to translate such a powerful thing into lyrics and melody. But the listeners who have followed Blacc over the course of his career know that his facility with language and sound is deep -- if anyone was up to the task, it’s him.

Raised by Panamanian immigrants in Southern California, Blacc grew up around the sounds of salsa, merengue, and cumbia. He initially developed his own taste by throwing himself into hip-hop before trying out his soulful voice to other ends. Across five albums, his sound evolved and grew, finding a pocket that reflects the long and beautiful history of American soul with timeless, descriptive songwriting that speaks to the broad range of human experience, from platonic love to love for humanity, from politics to aspiration. Aloe Blacc isn’t defined by genre. Beloved hits like “I Need a Dollar,” “The Man,” and “Wake Me Up,” with Avicii, may not fall under the same musical umbrella, but they’re united by how they make the listener feel.

So without further ado, here's Aloe:

[6:21] - Aloe's origin story.

  • Grew up in Laguna Hills, CA
  • Parents were immigrants from Panama
  • Discovered passion for music at a young age, particularly hip hop. 

[8:35] - (BY) Did you know you wanted to be a singer/songwriter early on, or did that come later on in life?

(AB) Never thought of it as a career goal, always recognized it as a hobby. Started with DJ Exile. It didn't need to expand to a career, I always thought I was going to have a regular job/career.

[9:27] (BY) What happen in your journey that pivoted from a hobby to there's something here where you doubled down in your music career?

(AB) All through high school and my college years we were creating music. Our music was making it around the world through MP3s. Mailing cassettes to Europe. There was a growing fan base in Europe, cult following. After college, got into corporate America as a business consultant.

There was a point where there was a reduction in workforce and I was made redundant. I use that as an opportunity to do music before I got another job. Eventually I got signed to an indie label. That's when he took this music opportunity seriously, always knowing the safety net was going back to school.

[12:08] - (BY) It sounds like there was really no attachment to this element of fear?    

(AB) That's right, there was no element of fear, on attachment. It was just 'take it or leave it' attitude, I was happy with the fans that I had, it was enough to be a weekend warrior, and the accolades from my peers.

[13:48] - (BY) When you signed with the indie label, do you feel there were seeds you planted that bear fruit then? What was that journey like for you?

(AB)  Seed was planted just before I took that corporate job. When I graduate from university, I went on a tour with some hip hop artists in Europe. At the end of that tour, I began to record with one of the artist that belong to that indie label. When the record label hear the music I recorded, the ironic thing, it was an unexpected motivation for signing me.

They knew me as a rap artist. But one of the work I did with the artist, I sang one song out of 16 songs that I rapped. The label wanted to sign me as a vocalist, not a rapper.  I didn't have any prior experience as a vocalist, so I had to experiment and develop what it meant to be a singer.

[15:53] -  (BY) Now I'm really curious, what song was that?

(AB) I had an album of rap songs. One of the beats that I was suppose to rap to, I couldn't figure out what to say, so I sang a cover of Sam Cooke's song: A Change is Gonna Come. And literally, the words are true, an entire change came. It ultimately foreshadowed my career, making music for positive social change, transformation, using my songs.

[17:03] -  (BY) Energy behind words: I'm a firm believer that words have energy. I'm curious, How did you come up with your stage name Aloe Blacc?

(AB) When I was younger in high school, I really looked up to and respected A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Black Sheep. There were part of this family call Native Tongues Family. Q Tip was an artist with A Tribe Called Quest. I thought my style of music was smooth like lotion but also soothing to the soul, so I chose Aloe Blacc, hoping one day I'd be part of the Native Tongues Family.

[17:58] (BY) Pivotal Career Moment: In business, there are times where finding co-founders to create a company, or there's other times where instead of combining each other's strengths, you become a solopreneur. You mentioned you started partnering with DJ Exile. What was it that prompted you to branch off on your own?

(AB) I was doing a lot of experimentation, I was stretching my boundaries. The internet at the time offered a lot of music for free. Experimenting with different styles and genres of music. I continued to write and record hip hop, but I was also testing out jazz, R&B, rock and dance music.

Ultimately meeting this talented MC named Blu. who I introduced to DJ Exile. They started to work together and creating music together, it was meant to be. Their combination was historic, they made a classic hip hop album in the time that I was absent working with Exile and I was focusing on singing.

[21:21] - (BY) Inspiration & Influence: Where do you draw your inspiration from when you create your music? Is there a particular band, singer or song would you say has the biggest influence in your life, and why?

(AB): There was a singer that had the biggest influence in my life, and made me want to really focus on singing and the particular role as a songwriter, not just a rapper, and that was Cat Stevens.  I just saw the sincerity in his face, I hear the compassion in his voice, and I wanted to do what he was doing and make people feel the way he made people feel.

[23:03] - (BY) Priorities in Life: Being family oriented, how has being a family man transformed your career in how you prioritize and balance your career and family now versus before?

(AB) Before I got married, my hours were completely nonsensical. 

When I started dating Maya, my hours changed dramatically. I wanted to stay up late and creating music, but Maya wanted to have a unified sleeping and waking habit.

When we settled down and had our first child, that was the moment when a lot of the touring stopped. One final US tour in 2014. Story of missing his daughter's first steps when Aloe was doing a show. I'm going to organize my life to prioritize my family.

[26:49] - (BY) Has that shifted the types of projects you want to get into? Your decision making?

(AB) It impacts the decision making on the types of projects I work on. I'm currently working on a project that's connected to television, since it's closer to where I live.

 [28:05] - (BY) Intuition/Following Your heart: In business and professional careers, there's times when you might make a decision where logic/left brain is pointing you towards one direction versus your heart/intuition is pointing you towards another. Have you ever experience that in your career? 

(AB) It happens all the time, especially in music. Sometimes logic tells me one thing, heart tells me another, and sometimes neither of them win.

[31:18] - (BY) ROH vs ROI: Return on Happiness versus Return on Investment. Is there a project that you share as an example?

(AB) Yeah, I'm actually in a process right now working with a production company to do a TV show that showcases the process of creativity.

[35:20] - (BY) AIM: What does this acronym mean to you and where did it come from?

(AB) AIM is an acronym that means Affirmation, Inspiration, Motivation. It speaks to the theme of my music, rather than a specific genre. The songs that have hit for me, are song that affirm your goals, being inspired or inspiring others, or motivation.

(BY) Remind me of my acronym I AM. Intention + Actions = Manifestation (Episode 2)

[38:13] - (BY) Do you feel you have a good foundation of mind, body and soul? and how do you create that strong rhythm and foundation for yourself?

(AB) Recognizing who I want around me, what energy I am willing to accept around me. When I should or should not push to do something, when I should rest. I feel like I have a good sense of what it is I am capable of. What I'm willing to deal with, in terms of people's energy. Whenever I feel imbalance, I need to change something about that imbalance, or I am purposefully learning to moving into a new realm. 

Story: When I was part of a major record label, I felt a huge imbalance.

[41:15] - (BY) What advice can you share for our audience that might be having a tough time with their default path, you mentioned about transformation: what advice can you share with our audience to help them bridge that gap?

(AB) Take small calculated steps. It doesn't have to happen overnight.

Story about Richard Branson

Takeaway: For anyone looking to make a huge transformation, it's ok to take bit sizes and incremental steps.

[45:45] - (BY) If the DeLorean was real in that you can travel back in time, what is one thing you would tell yourself if you had an ability to travel back 10 years ago and share with your younger self? 

(AB) I would tell my younger self: find a mentor now. Get the right deal and the right leadership. Network way more. Amazing things are going to happen.

[46:41] - (BY) When we talked about intentions prior to the interview, you mentioned about positive transformation. What positive transformation would you want to activate 10 years from now?

(AB) If I were to be able to make positive transformation to high schoolers, someone who's 8 right now, a cohort of 3rd graders, give them opportunities to computer coding, business literacy, travel, following and nurturing that cohort, they would be so equip for entrepreneurial endeavors, university, or career.  Especially underserved communities.

Sustainable transformation is what I'm really about.

[49:19] - (BY) Usually I ask where can our listeners find you? Is there any upcoming or current project you have that you'd like our audience to check out?

Aloe's information:

My latest album really is an album that I sincerely wanted to dive into this concept of being a parent, being a father, being a family man. I am focused on using my skillset to continue to tell my story in real time, where I'm at in my life.  I encourage people to engage with, in terms of the projects I'm involved in, is my latest album called, All Love Everything. To find their story in the songs I share.

[51:35] - I really hope you all enjoyed today's interview with Aloe as much as I did! There's a few main takeaways I got from today's interview:

  1. When you let go of the attachment to fear, it gives you the space and mental freedom for your passion to come into your life. Early in his career, Aloe did not have any attachment to fear. It wasn't that he tried his hardest to make it in the music business. His mindset was take it or leave it. He was already in the music business. He was just operating at a level that he was satisfied with as a weekend warrior and overseas fan base. It's because he removed the element of fear, that freed up the space for his passion of music to breathe and grow, allowing the universe to have music keep showing up in his life.
  2. ROH vs ROI: Return on Happiness versus Return on Investment. There's often times that your conscious mind will be evaluating your options from a ROI level.  However, when you know there are things that have a high ROH in your life, don't ignore it. If you can give yourself the permission to prioritize doing things that give you absolute bliss, make it a point to create those moments for yourself. Quote: "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." - Mahatma Gandhi
  3. For anyone looking to make a huge transformation, it's ok to take bit sizes and incremental steps. If you feel you are stuck on a current default path that you're having a tough time, or perhaps it's bring you no joy, you don't necessary have to make a hard pivot overnight. Evaluate and take incremental and calculated steps that can accumulate to a huge transformation. The key is the take consistent action to change your situation, and not feel bounded by the situation at hand.

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