Be Real
After a year full of career highlights mixed with personal health issues, August Alsina is getting back to the music.
Interview Dan Rys
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

It’s been a rollercoaster year for August Alsina. The 2014 XXL Freshman celebrated the release of his debut album on Def Jam Recordings, Testimony, last April by hitting the road with 2 Chainz, Teyana Taylor, Usher and Chris Brown for a series of non-stop tours across the country. But a performance in New York last September landed the New Orleans native in a coma for three days, suffering from exhaustion and forcing him to cancel a string of tour dates. Now a year later, he’s back in the studio finishing up his sophomore LP, This Thing Called Life, re-dedicating himself to his fans and his hometown through a more personal, reflective project. The singer spoke to XXL about working with Lil Wayne, his health scare and what he’s got in the works. —Dan Rys

XXL: What did you learn from the release of your first album?
August Alsina: What I learned was to be more personal as an artist. When you come into this game and this industry, it’s kind of like really being born again, because you don’t know too much about it. You’re just new and fresh to everything that goes on and how this shit runs. And I just learned to really play this shit by your own rules. There ain’t no manual to it, really. It’s all about just giving people some real, heartfelt music.

What was your past year like?
I think more than anything, my health issues were the biggest eye-opener for me. I’m doing better with taking care of myself, but I don’t do my best. And that’s just because I’m naturally a hustler; that shit is just in my spirit. I just want to know how to be better. I’m always actively working on being a better me. So I think that alone put me in the hospital, because it was just exhaustion. I was putting a lot of people before myself. You know, this shit ain’t easy. And it’s just about trying to find balance. When your life transitions like that so suddenly, you’re dealing with a whole lot that people don’t know about. It just took a toll on me. I was in a coma for a while and I woke up with a tube down my throat. So it’s about balance. So as I go and as I grow, I’m learning, man.

The first single on your new album is called "Hip-Hop." What does that song mean to you?
I just wanted to give people something to be able to find some positivity in and be uplifted by. I feel like a lot of people expected me to come back with, I guess, some club shit. But this music is deeper than a “turn up” to me. This is literally the ghetto gospel for the hood. I’m just on some positive shit, man, and I just felt like that record was very needed. This shit ain’t a popularity contest to me. When you hear the album it’ll all make sense.

How does it feel to have Lil Wayne on your album?
It’s pretty fuckin’ epic for me to be able to share a track with Wayne. Coming up from New Orleans, them niggas was the only sense of encouragement and inspiration we had in the city. They showed us that this shit might be really possible for us to come up and do this music shit for real.

What do you want fans to walk away with after hearing this album?
I am one of the most human muthafuckas on the planet. Some days I’m up, some days I’m down. But I think one thing that does get you moving is hope. This album is a little bit of therapy for me. It’s just about trying to get a grip on this shit and re-acknowledging all the places that life has taken me.