August Alsina Talks 'Testimony' Album & Jeezy-Assisted 'Make It Home'

August Alsina

Picture 300 to 400 young women queued up inside a local mall. Some are crying; others are screaming. Many brandish gifts ranging from letters and handmade posters to cologne. One even totes a cake.

That was the scene on April 16 during an August Alsina meet-and-greet at the Hall of Fame Music Store in Queens. It was one of several stops on the R&B newcomer's release-week promo tour for his debut album "Testimony" (NNTME/Def Jam) that included a layover in his native New Orleans. "To see so many people come out and support me where I grew up and then in New York - you know how tough New York is - it feels good," says Alsina.

The 21-year-old's good feelings will no doubt continue with the Billboard 200 dated May 3, which features "Testimony" bowing at No. 2, the week's highest debut. The set sold 67,000 units in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Six months ago, Alsina topped Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop with "I Luv This Shit," originally released on his 2013 debut EP, "Downtown: Life Under the Gun."

But the singer-songwriter's success is bittersweet. "Testimony"'s April 15 release date is the birthday of his older brother Melvin, murdered in 2010. "This is all in honor of him. I hope he's proud," says Alsina, whose gritty songs about street life, survival and love are clicking. Case in point: New single "Make It Home," featuring Jeezy, debuts at No. 38 on Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop. "We live in a crazy world," says Alsina of the song's message. "You don't know what's going to happen."

Alsina's rough edges - "I talk from my heart; I don't want to be a fake-ass ni--a" - prompted media glare in March when he told website Rap-Up about a row with "Luv" remix collaborator Trey Songz. As he did in a testy recent interview on BET's 106& Park, Alsina refused to address the issue: "It's easy for people to talk about the negative," he says. "Right now I'm focusing on how to succeed in this new life I'm living. Other stuff is a waste of my oxygen."