“Hey world, yeah I know it’s been awhile,” Lloyd acknowledges on “Tru,” a heartfelt message after a near four-year, unexplained hiatus from music and the spotlight — something that came as a bit of a surprise to devoted fans after what you may remember as a particularly successful mid-aughts run for the velvet-tongued singer.
This year, however, the 31-year-old artist began to open up more. Through Twitter and Instagram, we learned he’d received his GED and was spending time with family (you may have seen his niece in a video or two). He also made an appearance on Donald Glover’s FX television show Atlanta this past fall, and dropped his Tru EP — his first release as an independent artist — in December. It was during that time, Lloyd told me, that his last few years were spent in and around Atlanta, exploring places to work out or write, and kicking it with friends from the music world, old and new.
On a recent trip to The FADER, the R&B crooner sat down with us to discuss what sparked the mental, physical, and spiritual journey he’s been on since stepping away from music, the crop of young artists who inspired him to re-enter the game, and how picking up the guitar made him realize “that greatness doesn’t always live in the club.”
Was there one overall turning point that led you to start living your life differently?
I think it was the moment that I realized mind, body, and soul is interconnected just like most things in the world and most people in the world. I realized how much goes into my day that I'm not present for and that I should give thanks to, recognize and appreciate, like the coffee I drink in the morning or the clothes I wear, the car I drive, the phone I use — all of these different things. Even the ideas I express which are a reflection of the influences that have been given to me in my life: my niece being born being one of them, my brother overcoming a great depression of his own, which made me question the legitimacy of my own happiness. From there I’ve just kind of been on search to really find out what that meant.
I really thought in order to do that I needed to cleanse my palate in so many different ways, music kind of being one of them. I got away from it. I joined the “anti-social’ club and I enjoyed it: I graduated high school, I went on a little bit of a spiritual journey, if you will. I've picked up books about Buddha. I read about food health. I just started to really embrace the concept that all of these things are connected so, you know, in order for my mind to be healthy my body should be healthy, and if my body and my mind are healthy, my soul, my spirit is healthy. And if all three are just kinda moving at the same pace then I could really provoke the kind of happiness I was hoping to see in others, especially the ones I love.
More specifically, what made you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle?
Just the idea that I could push myself instead of pushing someone else. To start on myself. To challenge myself, to make it as hard and uncomfortable for me to overcome myself. It was really a war versus me. Coming from New Orleans, growing up in Atlanta, we got a real soulful kitchen in my house. We also have a long line of health issues after a certain point in my family: diabetes, blood pressure, heart attacks, all of that kind of shit. I wanted to just find more of a balance between the things that I needed and things that I wanted, and food was one of the biggest battles I had to endure. From there, I just kept pushing until it became normalcy.
I don't eat meat. I haven't eaten meat in six years almost. From time to time, I'll eat fish. I guess the furthest I'll go left is vegan and the furthest I'll go right is seafood. I ride my bike a lot, I run a lot, I do calisthenics a lot. I don’t really do weights a lot. My idol is Bruce Lee. I'm also not a gladiator, I'm not an olympian. I take breaks, sometimes longer than I need to, but then I always find a way to get back into it. I like boxing a lot, I like Bikram yoga a lot, and also I just like reading. It's like a mental exercise in itself.
You said some books guided you along your journey — which ones in particular?
One is a pocket-sized book of all these Buddhist teachings. I read a little passage everyday, and that inspired me, because I find in Buddhism, more than in any other form of religion, that the center is in the person. All reflection starts inward and works outward. I find that it holds a person most accountable for their actions, their thoughts.
Another book that I read that I really enjoyed is: 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African-American History. It details all of these beautiful facts about my heritage that I was never given in school, or any institution that I attended. That was one of the biggest wake up calls for me because, it was when I really started to yearn for honesty. I don't want bullshit anymore. I don't want someone to tell me what they want me to hear anymore. That's not fair, especially since I didn't ask to be here. So let me at least live in some sort of truth. It made me really angry, frustrated. I cried. That's the only book I've ever read and shed tears. Both of joy and anger.
One of the first books that changed my life is Nathan McCall's Makes Me Wanna Holler. He just talks about how he was young, he was careless, he was unstoppable, and fearless. And how all of those things caused him to kind of destruct himself, until he came out of it not so much fearless, but acknowledging the fact that life matters. I actually had the chance to speak to [McCall]. He's a professor at Emory in Atlanta. I got to tell him how much his book meant [to me]. I was talking about the book on a plane one time, to whoever was sitting next to me, just about how much I loved this book, and how it changed my life. They said, "Hey that's one of my best friends" and called him on the phone. It was crazy shit.
“I realized that greatness doesn’t always live in the club. Sometimes greatness lives in your heart and your soul, and it’s not always shiny.”—Lloyd
You started your career in Atlanta, and have returned there to find yourself, and now start anew. What was it about the city that made you feel you could restart?
Because home is home. Home is where your heart is. Home is where your history is. I have a clearer sight of direction, when I have a direct interaction with my history. I also just think that I've always come from the two dopest places in the world [Atlanta and New Orleans]. I've gotten to experience the wonders of the world. All the major cities; they're beautiful. But it's just, something about when you fall in love with what you have, more so than where you could be, or what you could have, or what you once had. I think that's really when you stop yearning so much for extra stuff. You just become appreciative. I don't think anywhere else has the culture, the history, the community.
When I was younger, I couldn't wait to get out of the house. It started locally: my mom's house, my front yard, my backyard, I could not wait to get out of the neighborhood. Then it was the east side of Atlanta, couldn't wait to get out of there. Then I moved in with [my best friend] Jasper, then it was like, "Aw man I can't wait to get out of Atlanta period." Then I moved to New York and it was like, "This is crazy, I'm outta here." Then I moved to L.A., I was like, "Okay this is fine but... it don't have the same love to me amongst each other as where I'm from." And then for some strange reason, I just ended up really craving to go back home. So I went back home, and I just never see myself leaving. What I'm into now is going outside of the city, like the corners of the states to really experience everything that my state has to offer. I find that if I go 2 hours out, I'm in a different world. I don't need to go to Honduras to find a forest and a waterfall — it's right here.
First, let me say that I personalize a lot of things. And in that, I start to see my reflection in others. When I saw those guys’ first video, Key! and Curtis, then Curtis' first solo — it just made me feel like I was watching a younger version of myself as a dreamer, as someone who has really been given a true blessing of having his dreams becoming realities. I wanted to experience that with them all over again. Really, I do that whenever I collaborate with younger artists, whether it's Childish Gambino, Jacquees, Malachi, or whether I'm hanging out with Kap G, or when I first worked with Jeezy, or [Rick] Ross, or Drake [for his first project]. It just reminds me of why [making music] is so special. Especially before it gets weird. Before it gets distracted, before it gets colluded.
I just had to find [Two-9] and tell them how much I thought they were special. Out of that, we learned how much we admired each other. They actually inspired me, believe it or not. It was two people who inspired me to start recording again. That was Two-9 (Curtis, CEEJ, and everyone) and August Alsina, who was then working on his first project. He was just telling me how much my music meant to him growing up, and how much he would like to see me keep recording. He would say, "Fuck all this shit man, just make music. People need you." He got me to record my first mixtape freestyle over a song, which was Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools." Then I recorded something for him, on his first project. From there I started to re-acclimate my love for music. I wasn't ready to really say something on my own, but I knew that it was in me.
What led you to pick up the guitar?
I think being so infatuated with music and music history, led me to the guitar. Then I started listening to Bob Dylan, and it just fucked me up. It made me question my existence. It made me question my validity as a songwriter, as a storyteller, as a human being. I realized that greatness doesn't always live in the club. Sometimes greatness lives in your heart and your soul, and it's not always shiny. I wanted to get into that, and then also the obsession with pushing myself until I break is just something I have.
I don't know why I really yearn for pain sometimes, or some sort of limit to push through. I think it makes me feel alive. I was kind of cocky growing up, I didn't study for tests, I didn't really practice as hard as someone else, and that's always been my gift and my curse. The most talented but the least dedicated to the work. Then I saw the guitar, heard someone playing it and thought, "I could do that, watch this." I tried, and it was the hardest thing I ever did. Then it became, "Fuck you, I'm not gonna stop. I gotta do it." Then I learned to appreciate and respect it. When I wrote my first songs [on guitar], it made me feel like I was singing for the first time. I think that's important in somebody's life. Especially in a marriage, like the marriage I share with music. To make love different ways, to learn about each other everyday, keep yearning for something new. To never abandon it, even when it gets hard, just stick with it and it pays off in the end, if it's true.