Pink Sweat$, despite what it may seem, is not an overnight success story. However if you haven’t been paying close attention to the singer, you might think that’s the case. The Philly-born artist who has been co-signed by major streaming services like Spotify and Apple, has seemed to live many times over in his short 28-years.
Born David Bowden, Pink Sweat$ spent his youth in Jersey and West Philly, before moving to New York to pursue music writing. He wasn’t looking for the limelight, rather, he wanted to write his heart out behind the scenes, and bless pop artists their biggest hits. Somewhere along the way, as he explains in great detail below, things changed. It wasn’t just one “thing,” it was a culmination of life events, everything from a rare esophageal condition to a move to Los Angeles. All of a sudden, he wanted to keep the songs he was writing to himself. Thus, Pink Sweat$ was born.
Even though Pink Sweat$ is now frontward-facing in the industry, his pop star pursuits haven’t changed. If anything, they’ve intensified. Pink Sweat$ is on a mission to become a Black mega-pop star, the type of artist who has a classic record that is played at weddings around the world. The type of artist that shows Black youth they need not be limited to just rap and sports. The type of artist that breaks down boundaries and pushes genres forward.
During our hour-long conversation, Pink Sweat$ speaks with both a passion and a purpose. He clearly has an organized vision of both his career’s trajectory and the world at large– making astute observations and analogies about the music industry in between. He spares no detail when discussing how exactly he “made it” in the industry; a mix of both hard work and luck. He explains exactly where he takes issue with the music industry, in such a way that it is difficult to dispute.
His demand is relatively simple: diversity. Diversity across genres, beyond the colour of one’s skin — although that definitely plays a role– Pink Sweat$ is also referring to the type of content and the type of people within the genre itself.
“I want the little boy like me that’s sitting in some neighborhood where its underfunded schools and he has no outlet to step forward with his creativity so he feels out of place, I want that kid to feel like dang, I can look at Pink Sweat$, he’s got money, he’s got love, he comes from where I come from, so it’s possible. I don’t have to rap if I don’t want to. But a lot of times people do things that they think are easier or more acceptable. You would be surprised how many rappers sing but they didn’t come out as a singer. They just rap cause that’s what worked for them. A lot play piano or grew up singing in church or grew up listening to only RnB. Or a lot of RnB, you know, Marvin Gaye. All these things. A lot of rappers are diverse themselves. Like them individually, they are very diverse people but a lot of times you don’t get to see those sides, and for me, I want to be that side for those kids,” Pink Sweat$ explains.
Still, the singer has his sights set on one genre to overtake specifically, and that is pop music. It’s interesting to hear his perspective as a Black man and artist, specifically through the lens of pop music, because this is not a narrative we often hear, let alone one we examine too closely. Rap music has become the biggest genre in the world, and thus it has also becomes our main focus (not to mention, we here at HNHH are predominantly hip-hop fans, right?).
Pink Sweat$ is not only an extremely talented singer, who delivered the first half of his debut album today in the form of The Prelude, he is an insightful and thoughtful artist with a purpose and drive that motivates his every move. This is a powerful combination, so it’s time to start paying attention.
Read our full interview below, edited lightly for length and clarity.
Image provided by Atlantic – Thrice Cooked Media
HotNewHipHop: Hey, this is Rose from HotNewHipHop, how are you?
Pink Sweat$: I’m, well, how are you?
I’m good, you know, just working from home every single day. Where are you living right now?
I live in Los Angeles
Ok, so this is going to be a little bit introductory because we’ve never done anything with you on the site before and I’m a pretty recent fan so I feel like I’m late to the Pink Sweat$ party. I just feel like you came out of nowhere, but it’s possible that I just wasn’t paying attention, so maybe you could backtrack for us a bit, like where did you come from? How did you find this success? From my vantage point it seems like the success happened very quickly, like all of a sudden you had this Apple and Spotify cosign and everyone knew who you were but I’m sure that’s not the case. How did you find success and how long has this journey been?
Honestly that’s a pretty cool question. I like that. So for me, I was a songwriter and producer before then. I lived in Philly for a long time. I was born and raised in Philly. I lived in Jersey for four years, for highschool. I pretty much just did the spectrum of music, just tryna make it happen as a songwriter, had no desire to be an artist. Just took in with my friends as far as music, you know, just going across Philly. Eventually I left like I maxed out in Philly and the closest place after that was New York. So I found an artist. At this time I was trying to break into pop music as a songwriter and I just felt like I didn’t have any ties and nobody was trying to give me a shot really, and I started to feel like it was because I was Black and I was like, hm, how can I make myself faceless, and people can’t hear my voice and be like “Oh, that’s too RnB.” So I discovered an artist. I developed her. I created a team with my current manager and we started releasing music with her. It started to go pretty quickly, pretty organically and from there people started to inquire about who was writing these songs.
Who was the female artist? It’s a female artist that you’re talking about?
Well, I don’t wanna go into it right now.
Okay well that’s fair.
These are things that I want people to find on their own, cause it’s like – digging. I want people to be able to dig it up. But I found an artist and it did well. It didn’t explode, but on an independent level we were doing well in the pop phase and we started to get inquiries from labels and people who wanted to work with her and they were like “yo this is dope, who’s writing these songs?” thinking that she was writing the songs and it turned out this Black kid from Philly is writing the songs. So they’re like “Oh cool, let’s work with him!” So then I just started branching out and I would work around New York. I asked my manager around that point to become my manager, because at first we were just business partners. And then, I was just freelancing my writing career. He had agreed to become my manager. He was like “sure, I believe in you and you’re really talented.” So he became my manager and then I started asking him to find me opportunities that were outside of RnB and rap. So he started searching and searching and he found a few things, but just came to terms that New York wasn’t the place at the time so like, shooting average wise, LA would probably be a good choice. I had been to LA before but not really, more like, I’m here for two days, three days, to try and meet somebody specific. He suggested that I come out here to LA, and I really didn’t want to come to LA. I was like ah man, I’m still in Philly nah mean? I’m rocking out on the East Coast pretty much. He’s like “bro, I feel like you’re talented enough, if you go to LA you could really make something happen.” So I just kept saying no and then the opportunity came for me to come here with a group called “Xuitcase City.” They were my friends and I was writing songs for them. I wrote a song for them that was doing well on Spotify, independently as well, on I guess the pop-hits side. So we just all came to LA and I was essentially working for them, writing for their project, or writing with them on their project. At the same time, I was just hustling because I wanted to make a living so I was just working on the side with other people, whatever other artists wanted to work with me. And I just got a spark one day while writing this song after sessions. The first one was my first song was my song “Cocaine” on my Volume 1 EP. The second song was “Honesty.”
That’s my favorite one.
Yeah, that was the second one and from there I just kept writing songs, I lost count. From there, I just kept writing songs every night, or every day whenever I had free time, I would be writing songs which is nothing abnormal for me because I’m a songwriter. I would just be writing songs, no purpose, no real genuine purpose, just trying to get placements and stuff. So I sent them out to my manager and he sent them out to a couple of people and we started to get a couple of hits back from people that usually wouldn’t get hits back from. So from there I was excited. I was like ok, cool, cool, that’s dope. You know, let’s see what happening.
Just one quick question, so the songs that you were sending out, that you’re referring to right now, were you referring to songs like “Cocaine” and “Honesty?”
Yeah, Volume 1.
Okay, so those were songs you hadn’t made initially with yourself in mind, you were like “I’m gonna see if other artists want these?”
Yes exactly, cause like I said, I had no intention of being an artist, It was never like a dream of mine.
So you were saying that there were people that were interested?
Yeah, people were interested and then we got the hit back and we’re excited, getting ready to send the songs out, and then we get a text or an email from management saying “can you send the files so we can get the beat,” or mess around with it, stuff like that. I don’t know, I was like uhh, mess with the beat, no, this is how the song is supposed to be perceived and consumed and people will do what they want with it. I felt like a lot of the songs had stemmed from my real life. But as a songwriter, when you’re writing your own songs on your own time, you’re trying to like, get your creative…off. You’re trying to get one off. Like I’m experiencing these new things and this is how I communicate, is through music. But for whatever reason, these are all new theories to me and new realizations being in LA with those artists. Those are my friends so we’re in LA, we’re having fun, we’re seeing famous people. We’re kicking it at house parties. So all of those experiences and thoughts and feelings went into those songs and it was almost like hindsight, where I realized: Damn, I’m sensitive about these particular songs. My manager, the funny thing is like, usually I send him a song, I don’t care about these songs. I expressed myself. However anybody perceives it, if they wanna change anything about it, I don’t care. So for whatever reason, these songs I just felt really protective. I met with a guy named “Twice as Nice,” that’s his producer name, and he always just made me feel like I’m crazy. He’s like “bro,” he’s an Australian guy, very, very successful person. But he’s like “bro, you’re great, for you to not be an artist…” And people would come by and play their music for him and he’d just rip them to shreds. Like, “what is this, I don’t feel nothing, you’re just making any type of music and it’s so forgettable.” So when I first met him, he didn’t even know who I was and he was like “play me something.” So I played him something and he’s like “This is the shit! This is the fucking shit! Like, I’m feeling something, this shit is unforgettable!” So around that same time, I was playing him those songs from the EP and he’s like “I gotta get those placed, Ima send them to everybody.” The biggest artists he could think of he’s like, “Ima call this person, Ima call that person.” Before I can let him do it I’m driving home and I’m uneasy. I just feel uneasy and I send him this long message like, “bro, I hope that you don’t hate me but I need my songs back.” I just had this feeling inside that I’m supposed to put these out.
And you never felt that way about any of your songs previously?
Never, never in my whole life. But I felt like I needed to put this out. I’ve done things before where people talked to me or coerced me into being on the hook or something cause I might have written on the song or written the song and they’re like “bro just get on the hook,” and throw a random name on there. So I’ve done that before but it definitely wasn’t desired. It was never like I wanted to be or felt like I had something to say. So when I came across these songs, like I said, I messaged him this long message because I had to explain myself. This guy is successful and he knows lots and lots of people and as a writer, he could put me in a lot of rooms. So for me to tell him that the songs he just fell in love with, that I want to take them back, I was kind of nervous. He was super understanding like “Bro, I just want you to follow your heart. I believe in you. I always thought you were amazing.” So he just pretty much gave me his blessing. So I was like, “yeah just tell everybody I’m taking the songs back and I wanna do my own thing.” And he just gave me a little bit of advice like “I know your manager, he’s a cool dude, just make sure he’s on top of his shit, you don’t want these songs to go to waste.” And I was like, “Nah, I trust my manager and my in house team to the fullest.” So if we doing it we doing it and my manager started seeking out distribution because we gotta put out the project. At first it was kind of a hard sell because the music is not necessarily trendy so it’s hard for us to connect with people. You know, we sat with a couple people.
What do you mean it’s not trendy?
It’s not trendy like it doesn’t scream to a business person “Money!” It’s not rap. And also it’s no beat. So when you’re in the moment of something you don’t always understand it before. Like a lot of people will be like “I don’t get it, what do you mean?” But imagine, as a business person, you’re tryna make sense of this before it happened, like nothing happened. I don’t even have an Instagram, like nobody knows me, I’m just this kid, a writer from West Philly, and I’m playing you these songs with no beat! The beat is everything, as long as the beats knocking he’s good. So it’s like, some people, they see the vision but they don’t know how to execute it. It’s like “I like this, but I don’t really know what I could do with it.” And that’s what I ran into. And one of the guys, even early on who was showing me a lot of love was Johnny Snipes and he was ready to press go.
As a distributor?
Yeah, as far as the conversation, like we never made it to paperwork but he was like “Bro, you’ve got something special. I know there’s something there.” I met him face to face outside the office, it was like a hotel and we was just kicking it and he’s like “there’s something special there” and I was like “man thank you.” From there I just kinda felt like, I don’t know. Like I don’t know anything about being an artist or distribution. But a friend of mine connected us with someone who I already knew from Philly, they were a new company so I’m like, I’m new, you’re new, let’s just figure this thing out together. It was a lot of highs and lows as far as what I thought it was going to be. Cause we’re like if I get signed or get distribution, that sounds like a big word, distribution, like my shit gon blow, my shit gon blow up! But then it’s like no, that’s not how it works.
There’s still work to be done.
Exactly, but distribution is literally just distribution, they just make your music get put on the platform. But from there you can’t make anything happen. But I got lucky and people at Spotify, luckily for me they actually listen to the music and one of the women, I don’t want to say woman because I don’t know if she’s queer, but her name’s Athena, she used to work at Spotify. She came across my music and she emailed us. She’s like “yoo this is crazy!”
Okay, this is like when you released Volume 1?
This is right after we released. And it was doing really well immediately, we were all kind of shocked. We’re looking around at each other like “dang, people like this, okay cool.” I was ready to put the whole project out in two weeks, I was like “let’s do it!” And then we were like “No, we should wait,” and let the song build because nobody knows me yet, why would you put out a whole project so fast. So we sat on it and we started watching the streams and my social media. Like people started hitting me up and I’ve never been like a huge supporter of social media as far as me being an artist because I feel like the music matters more than anything, I don’t really want you to care that much about my life that much to where you’re watching my every move. It’s like a music first, social media second kind of thing. But I made it a point to respond to every DM early on when people hit me up. I had like 10k followers or something like that. It started to move and I was like “oh, this is kind of weird!”
That’s so crazy. So it sounds like you were kind of reluctant to move to LA, but if you had never moved to LA you would have never become an artist like what you’re doing right now?
Yeah, no I wouldn’t.
So crazy. Do you think looking back at you saying “no,” initially, were you being shy? Or not even shy, but like worried that you might not be successful with that [as an artist]? Like I feel like if this was me and I was writing songs I would also want the credit? Like it must be hard to give the songs away to someone else?
No, nah, that’s easy. I feel like the genuine truth is, for natural artists, it’s hard for them to give songs to someone else as a songwriter. And the truth is, a lot of songwriters started out wanting and dreaming to be an artist. Which is something that I learned later. I thought that everybody always wanted to be like me. One, because I always felt out of place, you know, I grew up in the hood, I’ve seen lots of crazy shit. But that’s not who I am, it’s just where my circumstances landed me and when I grew up I listened to a lot of different types of music as I matriculated through my ages. My parents forced me to not listen to what they call “secular music,” you know, RnB and Rap and all these things. But as I started to find music for myself, I found that I enjoyed pop music a lot, and because it was more so allowed in my house I would listen to pop music, I would listen to country music. And then as I got older I also listened to rap and started to realize “dang, I like all these songs.” But in school, when you’re in like 6th grade and you just heard Maroon 5, that’s not dope to come to a 99.9% black school with a bunch of kids who live and die Jay-Z and 50 Cent and all these people. I can’t come to school and talk to my friends, that’s not the topic, the topic is “yo, you heard that new Jay Z, you heard that new Lil Wayne?” And I felt so out of place because for me, it’s not even that I didn’t want to listen to those things, it was not on the table for me, I grew up extremely strict. So it’s like me trying to find my place and my footing, I really wanna know if they heard that Maroon 5, you know? But I don’t know because I’m scared to even ask cause everybody, we rapping at lunch, we beating on the table, Pharrell and Neptunes you know? I wasn’t even allowed to listen to that stuff at home but I listened to Maroon 5 and Avril Lavigne, stuff like that. So I’m pretty much not even gonna talk. I’m gonna act like I know exactly what ya’ll talking about.
Do you remember the first rap song that you legitimately heard or the first album that you were allowed, or maybe not allowed but you were old enough to where you were able to get a CD?
50 Cent! 50 Cent was the first album that I remember listening to outside of kid rap, like I think Lil Bow Wow was out or something. I seen Like Mike so I heard the music on that. But as far as a CD, it was 50 because my uncle had it and he was like closer to me in age, my uncle was. So he was older, he always had the cool stuff, you know, so I was just like following him. He liked 50 Cent so I liked 50 Cent. So I don’t know, I know for a fact that I chose Maroon 5 because I was flipping through the stations on the radio and it grabbed me, no influence. Nobody influenced that and I just liked pop music. I don’t know, it’s happy, it’s fun, or even when it’s sad it’s just still something.
There’s something nice about just having music that you can just enjoy and it’s not something that you have to overthink and it’s just easy to listen to. I feel people like sometimes people lambast pop music as if easy listening is bad listening.
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images
Thank you for being very thorough with your introduction and I didn’t know all that about your come up. I had read something about a rare esophageal condition? When did that happen and what was that?
Um, honestly, that started when I was like 19, 20. I don’t know, it’s like, it’s rare, as far as I’ve been told, there’s not much research on it yet but people are trying and it’s rare.
Did you need surgery or something?
It’s something that I’ve had for a long time, probably until I was like 25. 25-26. Yeah, I had gotten a surgery which was like a relief kind of thing. It’s not a cure but it’s like a longer term treatment.
So this is a condition that you’re still dealing with currently?
Yeah, it’s just the symptoms are way way more released because of the surgery but it’s not like an official cure, there is no official cure that exists right now. And yeah, that had happened to me at the time of just pursuing my dreams, and at the end of the day, for me, even in my, I’m just letting you know, in my high school quote I put “dream big or don’t dream at all.” And I’m not the one who said it, but I remember being in English class and being like “yeah! I like that!” So me being sick at the time, it didn’t really matter. It was kind of just like I wanted to enjoy the moments I was having with the people I was meeting, you know. I was like damn, I was meeting a lot of bad people. But the good people you meet, you create a brotherhood, a sisterhood, Brother, sister, whoever, you just create bonds and I really didn’t want my friends to know I’m sick because they’re gonna worry about me. I don’t want them to worry about me, I don’t want to worry about me, I want to have fun! Like if this is something fatal, I didn’t know at the time. Growing up you don’t know what’s going on. I just know I’m having fun. At the end of the day, I’m having fun with the music, and I’m chasing my dreams. This is it, this is it, I have to face my reality. My mortality, you know? And honestly that’s one of the parts that made me step into artistry too, you know? It’s like being faced with the idea that I’m 19, 20, all of this until 25, I’m suffering with this situation that feels like it’s draining my body. Like I feel super malnourished, I can’t keep down liquids. And towards the end it just gets repetitive like “man this is just my life and there’s no way I can continue living like this.” My body just completely gives out. So when you face something like that and you come to terms, it’s easier to just be light hearted about things. That’s why to this day, I’m not a serious person. I kind of take things like a day in the park. I don’t know why we’re all here but I hope it’s to learn. It’s something that I wanna enjoy and I want to live in the moment and be in the moment. So becoming an artist was one of the byproducts of that realization, like “man I’m holding back.” Why am I holding back? And to answer your question from earlier, I was holding back because I was afraid. Not afraid of people so much, but more afraid of myself. It’s like, I would always call it that this type of music I’m making is evil or it’s bad, so I’m thinking on that like “Is it?” “Could it be?” “What if I’m wrong?” So just second guessing what if it doesn’t work and I end up loving this? What if I love this and it doesn’t work, what then? It’s like I already got this one thing.
I feel like with everything you said at the beginning and then putting this last piece of this condition you had together, it kind of comes all together. Like you had one life to live, like why are you not, pursuing this career I guess. This other path.
Yeah, and also my team. Like I feel like I had this perfect set up with my team. Like usually in the music industry you can kind of, for a lot of people, they just settle. Like “ohh, I met this dude he said he’s a manager.” And he’s never managed nothing, he’s not even an organized individual but I’m just gonna take the chance. He said he knows Kanye’s cousin’s brother or something. But for me, I felt truly confident in my team’s skills. Like my manager studied marketing and he actually was in the process of his own business. And it was like online stuff, shit that you need. You need people that are good at the internet and he was studying these things. And then my video team, my creative team, we had already built a relationship just from sleeping on the couch, like they were my roommates. So like I’m sleeping on the couch and naturally, I felt like we all had good personalities so we would all hang out. And then one hangout turned to another. To another. To another. And I realized I actually liked these people. They’re good people. Then you say “Oh, let’s shoot a video.” Why not? Why would I call someone else if we’re already friends? So I was just super confident in my team, that whatever we wanted to do it could be done, you know?
And like, that’s so important you know. Having a team that you trust and that also believes in you. That’s hard to find. Okay, so let’s kind of dive intoThe Prelude. So I just found out that this is actually the first 6 or 7 songs off your debut album?
Okay, so your debut album, you were going to release it during the pandemic? Or the pandemic happened and derailed your plans? Is that what happened? Or how did that affect it?
Oh yeah, so essentially, it’s just a new phase for everybody in the whole world as far as music and lots of other areas. But we just decided that we, I’m obsessed in a sense with, I’m obsessed with people giving me a shot. Like you know, you hear those stories back in the day of like people going up to the record label everyday for 160 days until they get heard and then they go to Diddy or something. Like I’m obsessed with, just give me a shot, like don’t turn me down without hearing me. And the thing with my music is, I want people to hear it! I want it to have a shot whether you like it or don’t. I want to be in front of as many people as I can and if everybody denies me that cool, but I want to at least know you heard it. I want to know that you listened, you know? That’s one of those things. So we just wanted to make sure that we can get and market the music the way it should be. This is my first label release essentially as far as a project and you know, labels have their system and how they do things. It’s one of the reasons why we decided to go with a label. So that we can go bigger because even though financially and things like that, I was doing well independently, it’s just, you know, step-wise and experience-wise, we just don’t know past where we are. Like how are we going bigger? My label is pretty good as just as letting me move like I’m independent as far as creativity. And you know, I take their advice sometimes when it comes to the release stuff. It’s not that thought out, it’s kind of just “hey, there’s no need to rush this.” We want to make sure everyone can hear and dissect this music. And for me, a full project right now as not a global artist, I’m not a global artist as far as the masses are concerned yet. So like, let’s take it slow, let’s do half and half and then you know, do what you wanna do.
Did you produce on every song?
I produced on almost every song on my album, except for, I think it’s only one one I didn’t produce on. But every song I’m on there playing something. Playing drums or keys or bass or something. Everything I’m on there. Every verse is by me, every chorus is by me. And I think it’s an art I’m trying to keep alive. I feel like a lot of times as writers, you know, you feel limited. And you feel you can only do this or “I will only be respected if I make this kind of song.” Me, I just want to make the art that I enjoy listening to as far as longevity goes. Cause there are songs that I like listening to in the moment but I’ll never listen to it again past that year or past that week. It’s like certain songs for me that I listen to, I’m like “I could listen to this forever!” I wasn’t even born when this song was made.
What is one of the songs you could listen to forever? Like an example that you can think of, just curious?
Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You.” I love, what’s the uh, Donny Hathaway song, I can never remember the name. *Sings* “I’ve been singing a song for you…”
I don’t know if I can say this but a lot of like, what I consider Boyz 2 Men songs are, like Babyface, a lot of songs to me he writes are just timeless. And a lot of songs he’s done with Babyface, Boyz 2 Men, cause they’re from Philly too. Those are timeless.
You’re naming like Rnb songs too, rather than pop. I mean like, it sounds like…
To be specific, those were pop songs back then. Like that was popular music at the time. RnB was like what rap is now. Like you’ll see when a lot of rappers get big, will be like “I’m a popstar now!” Like Drake will make pop references. DaBaby. Because it’s about what’s popular at the time. Like RnB at the time was pop. You knew almost every RnB. If you we’re big in RnB you were known. It was like now, RnB is a growing thing, it’s resurging. But it’s not at the forefront necessarily. Like I don’t know any solo songs that are RnB songs.
I definitely think, and I actually wrote a piece about this. I feel like there’s a resurgence of RnB right now.
There’s more excitement, like I’m so excited about so many different artists in the genre. I don’t know what it is.
It’s like people get used to something and it gets too easy to do and that’s when you know the next shift is coming. Like rap is just, it’s dope don’t get me wrong, but it’s easy.
When 50,000 songs a week are uploaded to these platforms and so much of them are rap songs, as listeners you don’t know it but you feel it because this song sounds like this song and my little brother is a rapper and he sounds like DaBaby. Everyone’s starts trying to copy each other. That’s something that becomes reformed away. That doesn’t mean doing away with the last thing. It just becomes more refined and the people who are at the top, they’re special. It becomes harder to get to the top in that realm. And for me, it’s a great time for music in general because if you’re really good and you’re likeable and people actually perceive you as likeable, whether you’re a nice person or not apparently, you have a shot. You have a shot. You assemble your team. You get down with your homies, your friends, whatever you need. You genuinely have a better shot now than ever in the history of music because the people choose. And at the end of the day, when you don’t have to yield to the labels, even though I’m signed to a label, you don’t have to yield to them anymore in the sense of making income. You put your own money, your time, your resources into it and then you sell it to Google for a billion dollars. It’s the same thing with music. The ability we have now is to operate like an individual business.
That’s such a good analogy. Okay so, so you released “Not Alright.” From the songs I listened to off The Prelude that’s actually my favorite song I think. It’s interesting because the vibe is good, but you’re saying “I’m not alright.” So can you just talk a little bit about, was there anything specific that inspired the song? Or like how did you come to write it? Were you going through anything or was it a general “I don’t like shit right now?”
*Laughs* That’s funny. For me, it’s just, I’m always feeling. I’m not tryna be funny like “oh he in his feels.” But I’m saying like I’m always trying to be alert and attentive to myself and what’s happening around me. Regardless of social media. I can walk down the street and feel it for myself. So when I wrote that song, I just premised it way before all this stuff that’s happening right now. I just felt that way in general. I feel like I just make things look good to people and sometimes I feel like people will want me to just be quiet and mask these questions that I have. And whether it’s true or not, I don’t know, I just feel how I feel and I feel as though it’s because I’m Black. It’s like “no bro, you got money, don’t trip, it’s all good.” And no it’s not good. Just because I got all these nice things it doesn’t mean I’m ok with the status quo of how things are going in my life. And when I say that, for me, a lot of the drive is music. And it can sound shallow to someone but the reality is, music is essentially the black export to the world. We don’t have anything else, you know. Even America in ourself, we don’t make shit anymore. Just as a team and as a whole. But black people specifically, we’re really a combination of obviously sports and music. But even music drives sports, sports drives music. So like, you have a heavy representation of black people in sports. But it’s also concentrated. It’s concentrated in two sports, football and basketball. You know, we don’t really see dominant black athletes in fencing or baseball. So me that’s how I feel about music. Because I’m aware… and sensitive to the fact of how my people are perceived, has to be… I’m trying to figure out how to say it the right way. It has to be diverse. Black people are not selling drugs. People are selling drugs who also happen to be black. And the problem I have is that the state of music is not the content, I don’t judge nobody, do whatever you want to do, but it’s the diversity. Like if I’m not Black and I’ve never seen a Black person in my life, I’ll think all Black people are thugs. Because I only know rap! That’s the biggest export of Black people right now musically. I don’t know anything else. All I hear is this, this, this and this. And you need diversity. It’s like in any realm and specifically Black people need diversity because there are so many agents of media that are trying to paint these pictures for the world that don’t know us. And before you meet somebody you already have a preconception: “I shoot him in the head I pull up, aye!” Like cool that’s dope, but you should also be able to turn on the radio and hear *sings* “I love you baby.” You should be able to have options at a pop level. And when I say pop I don’t mean pop like a sound, like Maroon 5.
Popular, yeah. There’s not enough diversity. And I feel like I have to pay for that as a Black man. Everytime I get in the car. I’m from Philly! I’m inspired by rap music, how I dress sometimes, the things I purchased. I bought chains because I like rap, I’m influenced by it. So when I get in the back of an Uber and the guys listening to popular music, why when I get in do he change it? Because he sees how I dress and he looks at me: “Oh, I already know he’s a hip-hop kid.” Or “I know he only likes rap.” Like no, I wasn’t doing that. I’ll change it. Like “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” It’s interesting, I think it’s cause he don’t know any Black people. I’m certain he doesn’t cause that was weird. You didn’t even ask me what I wanted to hear. Or in this case, sometimes they’ll be like “anything specific you want to hear?” while they’re turning to the rap station. You know, you bugging. But to me, music and how people consume a culture is usually with their eyes and ears. And sometimes it’s from a distance. Like there are places in America where some kids never seen a Black person.
Yeah, for sure.
It’s bizarre but it exists. So imagine all they hear is this one thing. And it’s like yo, you think every Black kid with twistys or chains or locks is a rapper? That’s weird, it’s like every white person is rich, it’s just not reality. We need diversity, cultural diversity in music. And for me, I want to do that specifically because of where I’m from. I know where I’m from. I know the kind of people I grew up around. The things that I’ve seen. But for people to know, consciously and subconsciously that that’s just not everyone’s existence. Some people are just influenced by fashion, by rap culture. I might look and see DaBaby with a grill and be like “ I want a grill now that shit look hard.” But I’m gonna sing the sweetest love songs to you and that should be allowed. Diversity. Like I don’t want to change who I am to try to fit this pop narrative. It’s like no, give me a shot. Give me a shot and why can’t I be the love song guy. You know? And Ariana [publicist at Atlantic] heard this last week cause I was talking about this last week, but all the artists that I love that sing ballads and beautiful songs are white. I don’t even have Black options.
Presley Ann/Getty Images
That’s so interesting.
There’s no Black options! The only Black artist doing what I’ve done on a notable level is John Legend. And he’s way bigger than me. But you don’t hear a lot of promoted, beautiful Black music. And when I say beautiful I mean the kind of songs you want to get married to. That’s like all 90s. You gotta go to the 90s to get Black art in that kind of way. And it’s just weird, like you think Black people aren’t getting married? You don’t think that, like what is that disconnect? And sometimes it’s that the money doesn’t go to those things because it takes longer to grow those things. It’s easy for lil such-and-such to plug in their laptop and upload a song that they made in five minutes with zero thought or effort. It’s like “yeah, I did this, you know my grind, my story.” Like what story? I’m curious? I’m interested to hear the story but you’re 16. And a lot of times, people discredit these kids. I encourage them. I embrace it. But I also have to stand up and say that there are people that put a long time into these things and they never get a shot. They don’t get to build, they don’t get to grow. Not every artist is a microwave thing. And when I say microwave I don’t mean no disrespect. I say that, the aspect of like the turn around is fast. You go and buy like, a pizza that’s small enough to put in the microwave, in 10 minutes its done. You can eat it. It’s fine. Or if you bake one, you might spend a little more money on all the ingredients that’s how it is. So it’s like, the powers that be, as far as the labels, just giving back in that way. Cause sometimes it will be a loss. You will lose money. But just to be able to say that you’re trying versus “oh, people don’t want to hear that.” How do you know what people want to hear? You haven’t given it the full attention and energy to try to make it known. And for me that’s extremely important because I want the little boy like me that’s sitting in some neighborhood where its underfunded schools and he has no outlet to step forward with his creativity so he feels out of place, I want that kid to feel like dang, I can look at Pink Sweat$, he’s got money, he’s got love, he comes from where I come from, so it’s possible. I don’t have to rap if I don’t want to. But a lot of times people do things that they think are easier or more acceptable. You would be surprised how many rappers sing but they didn’t come out as a singer. They just rap cause that’s what worked for them. A lot play piano or grew up singing in church or grew up listening to only RnB. Or a lot of RnB, you know, Marvin Gaye. All these things. A lot of rappers are diverse themselves. Like them individually, they are very diverse people but a lot of times you don’t get to see those sides, and for me, I want to be that side for those kids, I want them to see like he made a way. He take care of his family. Just like, we have similar values but different roads and it’s just giving people options. Giving people choices in music. Like I want somebody to know and this guy that looks like me, comes from where I’m from, he’s singing a beautiful song. I can support him.
It’s interesting hearing you say all this through the lens of being a pop star specifically because you don’t think about it. It’s not really something, I mean I’m thinking about it like “yeah it’s all true.” Maybe because I work in hip-hop and RnB I don’t think about the pop side of things too often and it’s like, yeah, it also kind of contextualizes you. Cause I was gonna ask you, what’s your end goal in the music industry? And then you kind of just put that all into place right there. Just to be a pop star. Very interesting.
I just wanted to ask to end, I don’t know if you’re revealing this, but does your debut album have a title?
Yeah, it’s called Pink Planet.
Okay, it’s called Pink Planet. And do you know how far, I mean you’re releasing The Prelude on Friday but is there a timeline for the album to follow that or is it still tentative, up in the air kind of a thing?
Yeah, so the first half this week. And the second half, it’s finished. It’s mixed and mastered but I don’t know. I want people to live and dissect this first half first before I feel comfortable being like “Alright cool,” because it’s a lot to consume as far as what people are used to. There’s a lot of diversity in my music so.
Okay, so it’s only gonna be in two halves? So this is The Prelude and then we’re gonna get the other half all in one chunk?
Yeah, it’s like 6 now, 7 later.
Okay, well I’m really looking forward to it. I love The Prelude, I’ve listened to it a million times already. So thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
Thank you so much, I appreciate you too.
Have a great day.