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Interview: Aloe Blacc Talks Immigration, Big Ambitions and Guest Appearances

"We must remember, this nation was built on people who were forced, and brought here to work. Without these workers, things would fall apart pretty quickly."
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(Etienne Oliveau/Getty Images)

(Etienne Oliveau/Getty Images)

By Brian Ives 

Work is never far from Aloe Blacc‘s mind. In fact, it was a lack of work that led him to pursing music full-time.

“I was in business consulting,” he tells Radio.com. “I was helping hospitals improve their service and improve their collections.”

Of course, white-collar jobs like those are not guaranteed career paths, and indeed, his ended unexpectedly. “It just so happened that I got laid off and I had the chance to focus on my hobby full time.”

That led music to become his full-time career, and that career took off in a huge way last year when he sang on Avicii‘s “Wake Me Up,” which became a galactic hit for the EDM producer. Blacc recorded a stripped down version for his own album Lift Your Spirit, and the video was inspired by work as well: more specifically the issue of immigration and immigrant workers. He even collaborated with NDLON (National Day Laborer Organizing Network) on the video for the song.

The issue of immigration is close to home. “I’m a first generation American, my parents came from Panama. And without the opportunities afforded them to become citizens, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do what I’m doing now, and [to] create so much positive change in the lives of others through music, through the philanthropy and charity that I do, through the messages that I’m able to bring in my music and my interviews. So I wanted to address the issues of immigration and day labor and how we approach it here in the U.S.”

“We must remember, this nation was built on people who were forced, and brought here to work. Without these workers, things would fall apart pretty quickly.”

This is all very heavy subject matter, and Blacc stresses, he’s not always going to create music and videos with a political message, but that’s because he wants his messages to reach more people.

“I want to make fun music that people enjoy. At the end of the day I need to be more popular so I can have a bigger voice, so that I can have influence on the way that these situations are handled, the way that people choose to purchase their products, and maybe influence change in the way some corporations develop their products.”

As for other high-profile collaborations, a la his big hit with Avicii? Blacc says he doesn’t have any coming up: “I generally reserve my guest appearances for friends of mine from the underground hip-hop scene from back in the day. I’d rather sing a hook on a homie’s song than try to jump on some big pop singer’s joint, it doesn’t feel right, it’s not a natural fit for me.”

Aloe Blacc kicks off a tour opening for Bruno Mars starting on May 27 in Fresno, California.

 

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