August Alsina’s Testimony was one of the most impressive R&B releases of 2014. But Alsina’s reputation hasn’t grown as much as you might expect since he put out that album. This is due to a couple factors: first, it’s hard to get much radio play as an R&B singer if you’re not named Chris Brown. Second, Alsina’s sound isn’t necessarily fashionable at the moment—his music is clear and springy at a time when darkness and gloom are in favor.
But he just keeps doing his thing: he quietly released an excellent new track, “Hip Hop,” earlier this year, and last night he unveiled the video at the BET Awards pre-show. The instrumental is as bare as they come, a testament to the power of simplicity: loop a piano, throw in a breakbeat, call it a day. This provides a fine template for Alsina to sing a story about his rise, tinged with both melancholy and hope. The song ends up being an assertion of his own perseverance and an ode to the art form that gave him purpose: hip-hop. The Payne Lindsay-directed clip for the track is set in the singer's hometown, New Orleans, and the visual adds a political subtext. As Alsina croons, “I pray for my better days,” a TV shows footage of police beating protesters.
Watch below, and read FADER’s GEN F on Alsina.