Alden Black, also known as AB, is a music artist based out of West Covina. He grew up singing in church choir but left music behind to pursue sports during high school. After he graduated in 2014, AB found his way back to his roots and started creating music with a group of different artists called West Collective. Today, as he blends elements of jazz, funk, and soul, AB has been finding his sound in the music scene partnering with another local artist/producer Wavlngth. Read more of his story below!
Tell me about yourself.
My name is Alden Black, also known as AB to my friends and family. I'm 24 years old and I've been making music for a little over 5 years now with my best friend Dom a.k.a. “Wavlngth.” My parents were a huge driving force for me in the music world because they would always push me to strive for greatness. My dad was a songwriter and keyboard player for The Gap Band back in the 70's, so his raw talent, plus my mother's work ethic, the day I decided to do music I pretty much sealed my fate.
I took formal, classical piano lessons for 10 years before going on a music hiatus to play basketball and run track (high school). Once I graduated in 2014, my friends and I would gather up and rap freestyles over beats for hours to pass time. Eventually we wanted to see what it would sound like if we recorded our raps, then we got tired of using other people's beats, and started to make our own. At that point, we began developing the formula for the music we make today.
Piano isn't the only instrument that I have been able to learn. Around 12 or 13 years old, I picked up the guitar and learned via YouTube, and at around age 23, I was gifted a bass guitar, and have been implementing all three instruments in my production ever since.
Who are some of your influences in your work or just in general?
I have so many influences that have guided the different aspects of my work, it would be best to split them into categories. As a musician, I'm inspired by the legends like George Benson the jazz guitarist, Herbie Hancock the jazz keyboardist and xylophone player, and Victor Wooten world renowned bass guitarist. Even before I picked up each respective instrument, each of these artists opened my mind to the infinite possibilities that come with an instrument. They taught me, it's not always about what notes you play, but what's most important is how you play it, and how it makes the listener feel.
As a producer, my list of influences is much more modern, with the likes of J Dilla, MF Doom, Kanye West, 9th Wonder, Kiefer, Dj Premier, Chuck Strangers, Statik Selekta, etc. I could honestly list names forever. In short, I'm inspired by the producers that hone in on their sound, master it, and absolutely will not compromise the quality by trying to conform to the current trends.
I have only recently been able to really consider myself a singer, but my influences in that area have had me at least trying to sing my entire life, that list includes Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Ronald Isley, Sly and the Family Stone, Anderson .Paak, Erykah Badu, Sade, Jodeci, Jaime Foxx, and many more artists whose voices speak through the music. True talent as an artist is bringing something to the project that no one else could have, anyone that can display that plays a huge part in opening my ear to the possibilities.
Finally, as a rapper, my list of influences is much too long. However, at its foundation, my "Rap Roots" stem back to a few Key artists: Rakim, your favorite rapper's favorite rapper. He opened the gates of lyricism that changed rap from ABC rhymes and elementary hooks, to lyrical masterpieces that tell stories and convey feelings. Next up would be the late Big L another rapper who's lyricism puts him in my hall of fame even with such a short career. One of my biggest Rap influences is AZ, an east coast rapper that gained fame rapping alongside Nas during the Illmatic era. No one raps with the unique rhythm and syncopation that AZ does, they just can't.
What is the hardest part about your process of work?
I would have to say the hardest part of my work process would be just letting go of insecurities, feelings of inadequacy, and general doubt. Some of the projects I've felt the worst about, someone else will hear it and say it's their favorite beat, or a really catchy melody, while to me I can only think about everything that is wrong with it.
As an artist, it's next to impossible to put yourself outside of your own mentality and really appreciate your art for what it is. One big reason why I feel this is a shortcoming of mine is, in the five plus years that I have been making music, I have yet to release an official project that people can find on most platforms.
My perfectionism has become a downfall at this point and I'm developing faster workflow methods and exercising more restraint when it comes to trying to make everything perfect. I'm ALWAYS going to pay attention to detail, but the support we have received from friends, family, people that found us online or have attended one of our live performances, has been amazing; so, I owe it to the supporters to provide consistent content!
When I put my name on something, I want it to be done well. That's just how I have always been and it may be to a fault, but I know in the long run I will be much more satisfied knowing I gave the world something I'm proud of. The balance of that pride, and the humility of wanting to show the world my gifts, is definitely the hardest part of the process.
As an artist, in what ways have you seen yourself grow from your past projects?
I think my biggest area of growth has been my actual talent. When I start a new instrument or unfamiliar project, I feel way behind when I listen to others who do the same thing, which does nothing but drive me to practice practice practice. From project to project, the biggest change that I can feel is in how comfortable I feel in the moment. If I come up with a bass line that I really like, I can practice it 1000 times until it sounds perfect. But the day I sit down and come up with a really good, cohesive bass line just by sitting down and feeling the music, I know in that moment that I have grown as a bass player.
The same goes for when I'm recording in the booth, I've learned that it's not about re-recording that one part until I get it right, as much as it is about me knowing what the song needs well enough to already get it right. I rarely write while I'm recording (because studio time costs money lol) but when I do and it's something that undeniably needs to be a part of this song, I feel like I have grown as a recording artist by training my ears.
How have you been staying productive through quarantine?
Quarantine has been an ABSOLUTE blessing for me as a person, and artist. Free time is an extreme luxury when you're Twenty-Something going to school and working, so the amount of time that I have had to practice, write, produce, record, and learn has been extremely beneficial to me. I have been able to invest in studio equipment, arrange my studio in ways to better help creativity, plus I've learned many things about myself, and about my craft. I have a couple video projects I'm working on at the moment very similar to a video that I did at the beginning of the quarantine.