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Pink Sweats is a living example of why the phrase “less is more” is oftentimes true. The Philly-born singer found his way onto listeners’ radars with two main ingredients: his voice and the fluttering strums of his electric guitar. Soon enough, he graced the world with his Volume 1 EP, a project that put to use the same formula employed on his breakout single, “Honesty.” With a stripped-down body of work, Pink Sweats’ heart-torn ballads of love and its highs, lows, and everything in between grabbed the attention of R&B lovers who enjoyed a sound different than what the general landscape had to offer.
The Philly native’s sound didn’t stay that way though. It would slowly grow and expand from his initial streamlined sound. However, that was all in the plan for Pink. Between the arrival of Volume 1 and his newly-released debut album, Pink Planet, the singer gave fans more from his wide-ranging palette of artistry. New instruments appeared beside the singer on his Volume 2 and The Prelude EPs and it was clear that the Philly native was slowly building his own world.
That moment comes with the release of Pink Planet, Pink Sweats’ official debut album that’s been in the works for a little over a year now. Its 18 songs find the singer deep in the alternative R&B genre that he’s taken comfort in since his career began three years ago. Pink Planet is also the most complete version of Pink’s musical world, giving listeners a healthy dose of what the singer has to offer with his talents.
We sat down with Pink Sweats to talk about the new album, what his “Pink Planet” entails, the R&B genre, and more.
What are you feeling and looking forward to the most now that Pink Planet is here?
I feel excited, I feel nervous, I feel a little bit of “hurry up” and “wait” kind of thing. It’s been a long time coming from Volume 1 to now. It’s been literally the most beautiful journey I could ever ask for, I’m just excited.
Back when we spoke in 2019, you mentioned the increasing musicality between your Volume 1 and Volume 2 EPs. The former is “strictly guitar” as you said and the latter has a “little bit more rhythm to it.” With Pink Planet, there’s even more here. Talk to me about your growth and this increasing musicality.
It was like I want to spoon-feed the people. It’s not like I just got these new sounds like a meteor hit Earth and I found it and now I got more musical. I’ve always been this way, it’s just now, I feel it’s the proper time in my process to reveal all that I do and all that I am as a creator, like my core. Some people probably look at it like, “Wow, this is so crazy. He just popped up out of the blue.” I’ve been doing this for going on ten years making music. I haven’t been an artist, but I’m really just a creator. I like being in the studio making songs, that’s my core and now I finally get to showcase all the kinds of music that maybe I wanted to write for somebody else, but they might not have been as receptive to that style of musicality and things like that. I’m just using my platform as an artist to be a nerd, to do music, and not worry about all the gimmicks. I got songs with strings and guitar solos, I’m playing bass, drums, keys, just going crazy and having fun and being a little nerd.
This is a project you’ve had in the works for some time now. How many times did you say “I’m done” and how many times do you end up going back in to tweak this thing or that thing? Or just completely change something?
I’ve literally probably done that five times cause over the first period it’s like “I’m finished,” soon you get to that phase where it’s like maybe someone at the label is saying what they think. Then, you try to adjust that, and then you say, “I’m finished,” again. Then I hear something and I’m like I wanna tweak this or add this, I wanna replay that. Then, the label again, “Oh we hear this,” then it’s right back to me. Then it’s like I wanted to add a whole new couple of songs. It’s a lot of times, countless times I pretty much was done in my head and then you just keep pushing, keep going — or not even pushing, just keep working and then you end up making or creating something that you feel like is worthy of being on the album. Yeah, that’s happened a lot over the top, I think I’ve been making this album for a year, or honestly since the end of 2019. For it to finally come out? Whew, relief.
How has your initial vision of Pink Planet changed, if at all, from when you first picked the name and decided on its concept to now?
What I would say about the Pink Planet is I’ve been sitting here thinking about this, so what I’m saying is — I don’t think I ever really said it — now that I’ve sat with the body of work, the idea in its totality, it’s really just a place where people can go and feel seen, heard, loved, they just feel felt. Like yeah, my heart has a place here. A lot of times, the planet Earth, how society is, the world at large, it isn’t always so beautiful to everybody. I feel like I wanted to create a place of escapism that people can go and hear pleasant sounds, hear pleasant stories, hear adoration, things that people desire. Everybody wants love, so it’s like hearing those stories creates a certain level of aspiration which you don’t already have and then a sensibility and a connection when you do have it. It’s like, “Oh man, I understand what you’re saying.” So for me, I just wanted to create a beautiful safe space for people. If there’s no place on Earth, there’s a place here and I can listen to this music and I can go to Pink Planet.
A majority of the songs on the album are centered on love. Would it be correct to say that Pink Planet is also a euphemism for your heart?
Yeah, essentially. It was letting people into my world, the creative space that I made for myself to escape, I want to share that with everybody else. It’s like being a kid, but we’re grown. It’s like where you’re a child, some people at least have grand imaginations, but nobody can come to that place in your head. For me, I get to live out my childhood through music where it’s like I’ve created this place in my head and now I’ve been able to share with the world. Like some Bridge To Terabithia type stuff. You’re just bringing your friends on the rise, everybody wants to listen and give me a shot. So it’s like come on, let me show you.
The intro song, “Pink City,” paints a picture of being trapped in a “city” all to break out and make your own. In your case, what are you breaking free from?
What I was breaking from was the mental bondage that comes with being a human being. It’s like we all have to carry this given weight, it wasn’t a weight that we chose to pick up, it’s just like you’re born and people immediately throw their junk onto you. It’s not always negative things, but it’s just things you didn’t choose. It was the mental bondage of like I’m supposed to be a certain way. If you’re from this place, you’re supposed to dress, act, talk like this, or you’re not from there. It’s like okay… It was also a sense of when I was in my transition from pre-Pink Sweats to becoming Pink Sweats. It was a mental break for me [from] so much fear. That’s the thing people don’t understand is [that] all these mental weights that people put on you, they create a sense of fear where you won’t do things, you won’t act on things, just because you’re afraid. I want to share that with people because I understand that, like imagine if I didn’t take the leap to become an artist was because I was afraid. All of the positivity that came from stepping over that hurdle was insane.
Does the song apply to an actual city as well?
It’s not [so much] a physical city, but it’s just about the mentality. Wherever you’re from, there’s a mentality that was given to you a lot of times, most of us it’s not progressive, it keeps us stuck. I’m sure you’re from somewhere where if you go home, you see people talk about all the things they were gonna do and never did it. You see people from your high school, your college, or whatever, talk about, “If I had this, I would’ve did that.” For me, I’m trying to share my story from the other side of my fear, but being transparent, mentally I was raised in the mud. When I go outside, my environment, the things I’m learning, that’s mud — we were raised in the mud. Coming from that, but slowly progressing day-by-day to change the situation to say you know what? I’m not going to thrive here and that’s when I came to [the] conclusion [that] I’m trying to fit in and clean my act up here, but I really just don’t belong here. I need to go build my own world, I need to build my own mental city, a place where when I have an idea it’s a good idea because I said it’s a good idea not because somebody else had to validate it.
I had this thought that maybe one day I could have 10 million monthly listeners when at one time somebody would laugh. [They’d be] like, “Man that’s impossible, what are you starting from?” Or, “You’re not a rapper bro.” One of my friends really told me, “Bro I don’t know.” I didn’t have any animosity to him because I had already built my system in my mind outside and he just didn’t understand. I didn’t take offense, I wasn’t like “Oh you don’t believe in me.” I was just like, nah man, you just don’t get it. It goes from people not believing to people championing you., and that to me, that’s the Pink City right there. It’s like New York, I kind of wrote the song based [on] New York cause when I became an artist it was like this big city, and people every day just walk around and in their mind, they’re the next thing. Millions of people in the city and in so many people’s minds, they’re the next thing and I always admired that. They’re not looking to their left or looking to their right trying to see who’s the competition, they’re just going after whatever it is. I mimicked my idea off of that.
There’s a bit of juxtaposition happening on “Chains.” You’re wrapped up in this lady’s chains, you say you’re a slave for her, but you do it in such a tender way. How are you able to tap into this delicate sound so well and in so many ways?
Honestly, that’s a song that is close to my heart because I feel like love is the most powerful thing and, I’m sure last time we talked I said this, but it’s like so many people walk around in the desire of this thing called love. It’s like, “Oh, I wanna be loved, I can’t wait to be in a relationship,” or they’re scarred by love. Love is so powerful, it can make somebody do the worst and the best. Having love can make you be at your best and losing love can sometimes make people go crazy. That thing that typically feels intangible, but the way I look at it is love is just “acts of service.” There is no genuine desire for return. You just love something or a person, I just want to be here. I’m literally wrapped in you to the point where you just want to make them happy, you want to see them at their best. It’s kind of like, in a strange way, the only love you ever get that feels eternal or feels like forever outside of your partner is [from] a parent. When you’re firstborn, you didn’t do anything and they just loved you so much. You’ve accomplished nothing, you ain’t made no money, you ain’t get an A in school yet. You ain’t even eat and they’re like “Oh my God, my baby!” Mom’s crying, dad’s there, so the only time you get that outside of that is when you’re in love with someone else. Your parents love you so much that they’re literally engraved and entangled in your world.
As an adult, when you really find love, it feels like, “Dang, it doesn’t matter what this person does, I’m rocking with them.” That’s really how it’s supposed to be. When they say “life or death,” it’s on some Bonnie & Clyde type sh*t. If we gonna be that, we gonna be that. If we’re gonna be the Huxtables, we’ll be the Huxtables, but if you want to be Bonnie & Clyde, we can do that route too. I’m just rocking with whatever’s going down. I’m entangled here, I don’t even want to go anywhere else. And just the way I lyrically did it, I wanted to pit somebody against their mind like he’s really in love huh? I wanted people to feel that [and] wonder is that even possible.
How much fun did you have making “Icy” and “Give It To Me?” Cause those are songs that are groovier and much more upbeat than the rest of your catalog.
They were probably the most fun songs for me. I was just making songs, honestly, I wasn’t even working on my album when I did that. I just wanted to get in with my friends and that’s what I did, I just called up my friends like, “Man, I’m bored, I just wanna get in the studio.” We just started making these songs and I’m like, this should go on the album! Just the energy around my friends being able to be a part of my journey when it counts. Back then, they were there for me when there was nothing going on, but now that everything’s going on, being able to plug them into that and allow them that exposure as producers and stuff like that, means a lot to me. It’s like, “Yo man, this is lit. We’re really doing it.”
Speaking of collaborations, you’ve worked with a number of artists over the years. Mahalia, Wale, Jessie Reyez, and Gashi. Despite this, all of your projects are, for the most part, solo efforts. Why’s the Pink Planet only yours to create in?
It’s just me because at the end of the day, as an artist, it’s my goal to empower people via my actions. I feel like as an artist, I’ve had a sense of confidence that I want to be a part of spreading for other artists, for other songwriters, everybody. Where it’s like as a singer, most of the time the formula is “feature, feature, feature, feature, feature, feature,” you gotta have features, that’s the only way you can make it. I just wanted to say, “Hey, I’m taking a risk,” but I’d rather bet on myself than somebody say that such and such is the reason that people listen to me. I’d rather people listen to me, so when I really got something important to say, it counts. That doesn’t mean I won’t feature, it just means that history will tell the story itself, I won’t have to tell it. The music will say, “His first album, no features. The project before that, no features, the second one, no features.” So if I can do it, if I can change my life and reach these heights without it, then that means somebody else has a chance. At least they don’t have an excuse to say that they didn’t see anybody do it.
What kept you occupied during quarantine last year. I feel like you can only record so much music before having to get out of the studio and do something. What was your getaway?
My friends and I always joke that we’ve been in quarantine. We’ve been broke and when you ain’t got no money, you can’t go anywhere. When I was coming up, it would literally be the studio to the house, studio to the house. Mentally, I feel like I was prepared, but outside of that, it was more so the fear of people in my family being exposed, my friends, things like that. The actual being inside it was like, man this sucks, but I’ve been here before mentally. Your friend would call you like, “Bro, let’s go to the bar.” It’s like, dude I don’t got no money to even leave the house, I can’t go. I’ve been there where it was like I wasn’t going anywhere. Honestly, it sounds bizarre, but it felt good for me to be at home and not worry about getting evicted, that was always one of my fears. Being home and not stressing like I’m about to lose everything.
R&B has been labeled as many things from “dead” to struggling with an “identity crisis,” I’ve also heard you labeled as alternative R&B so I wanted to ask two things: Where do you think you are in the many shades and corners of R&B and how do you view the genre as a whole?
So for me, I feel that personally, not being cocky or anything, I feel like I’m an anomaly. I’m only saying that because of my background, how I even turned into music, the music I was allowed to listen to, the music I fell in love with to becoming a songwriter, understanding all the different nuances — all the main genres at least. I feel like I borrow from so many things that, in a strange way, I wouldn’t call myself straight up and down R&B, only because of the context of what R&B is today. If I was in the ‘90s, I would say yeah, I’m R&B, but as it is today, it’s more alt R&B or R&B pop just because of the sentiments of me being a songwriter and the understanding of what makes a song a little more R&B than pop, I understand the differences.
I wouldn’t say it has an identity crisis; all those things are just old people. R&B is just what it is, and it’s not dead, it’s definitely alive. I think at the mainstream level when people say it’s dead, I think that’s what they really mean, they’re just not articulating that to the highest power. You can find R&B everywhere. It’s out here; it’s just at the mainstream level, I feel like a lot of people aren’t R&B. Where it’s like back in the ‘90s you look at the charts, it was a lot of R&B singers at the top, so it felt like it was alive. R&B is definitely still alive, I’m grateful for the contribution that I was even allowed to get, people accepting me and giving me a home and a platform to live in. I definitely feel more like a Stevie Wonder in my head. Stevie Wonder made pop hits, he made R&B hits, he made soul hits, all these things. He was a real artist, he was a creative, he wasn’t necessarily a genre, he [was just like], I’ll do what I want to do, cause I can. You just run into certain artists where it’s like we really can’t pin him, we just gotta let them do what they do best.
In our last interview a couple of years ago, you said you wanted to contribute to the culture and preserve it as best as you can. What piece of that puzzle do you think Pink Planet contribute to that overall goal?
Pink Planet, in the grand scheme [of things], it’s introducing love back to what I hope is the mainstream of Black music. At the end of the day, I’m an international artist, I understand what it looks like to go overseas and people look at you strange that you dress a certain way and I also understand why, cause it’s like you think I’m a rapper. You see me and where I’m from, I dress how where I’m from. I got tattoos cause I like Lil Wayne, I like Chris Brown, that was my era, but I’m not out here wildin’, shooting nobody, I’m the nicest guy ever. But when people see you, they can’t even see that… All they ever see is people who look like me rapping about things they perceive as inhumane like you would kill somebody cause they stepped on your shoe? I’m trying to bring that balance back to the mainstream, that’s what I’m shooting for that big spot because there are so many kids that need to see that. I remember being a kid, wanting to be a rapper. It’s like I’m not drug dealing or anything, why would I want to sit up there and talk about that? But when you’re in the hood or in a situation where you ain’t got no money it seems easy. This is what they doing, why can’t I do it? It seems easy, let me just do that, but you don’t realize a lot of people follow you — whether you want them to or not, that’s the position that we have as artists. So, I got cousins, I got family, and I would hate for my uncle or my aunt to tell me that one of my little cousins started being in the streets or something because that’s what they saw me doing. I do it for my family first and I hope that it trickles down to the world.
Pink Planet is out now via Atlantic. Get it here.
Pink Sweats is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Waner Music Group.