August Alsina Feels the 'Luv' on R&B Charts With Debut Single

August Alsina

"Raw honesty." That's what convinced Island Def Jam executive VP/head of A&R Karen Kwak to sign New Orleans native August Alsina. Now the 21-year-old singer/songwriter's unflinching style is attracting national attention.

Alsina recently earned his first Billboard chart-topper with "I Luv This Sh*t," vaulting 4-1 over Drake, J. Cole and Jay Z on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop airplay tally the week of Oct. 19. The song's 21-week climb made Alsina the first R&B singer to top the chart with a debut single since Jeremih's 2009 "Birthday Sex." (This week it sits at No. 2.) The track, which features labelmate Trinidad James, also hits No. 2 on R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay this week, a new peak, with 27.3 million audience impressions, according to Nielsen BDS. "It was a slow burn," Alsina says of the song's rise. "It created a life of its own."

"This young man is a star," says Mark McCray, OM/PD of mainstream R&B/hip-hop KBFB Dallas, where "I Luv This Sh*t" racked up 110 spins during the Oct. 14-20 tracking period. "With singles like this, he can be an artist we're talking about for years to come."

"I Luv This Sh*t" is from Downtown: Life Under the Gun, an autobiographical EP released in August that candidly reflects Alsina's hard-knock life. By age 18, he'd lost his dad to drugs and alcohol and dealt drugs himself before a final wake-up call: the murder of his brother. A refocused Alsina recorded mixtape The Product in 2012, the same year he inked with Def Jam. "I Luv This Sh*t" initially appeared on its 2013 sequel, The Product II, before it began its chart climb. "My music is a gift from God that saved my life," Alsina says.

He's now prepping his debut album, set for early 2014. "People can expect more honest music," he says. "I just tell the truth."

In the meantime, Def Jam senior director of urban marketing Rob Caiaffa says a video for the "I Luv This Sh*t" remix with Chris Brown and Trey Songz is being shot in New York, a tour and new single are coming soon, and Alsina is slated to play "The Wendy Williams Show" on Oct. 28.

"August represents a lifeline of new, young energy in R&B," Caiaffa says. "He's a guy with a profound story, and incredible vocals and lyrics to match."

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