While it's no secret that some of hip-hop's hottest stars have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth, August Alsina's rise to the top of the Billboard charts was far from straightforward. Coming up in the suburbs of New Orleans, Alsina's unstructured childhood and early exposure to gang life, drug abuse, and addiction left its mark on the rapper's somber, gritty lyricism. Relocating to Houston after both his biological father and stepfather became addicted to crack, the "Benediction" rapper has never been shy about using his early experiences as inspiration for his tracks. "Of all my childhood memories, I don't have any good ones," says Alsina of his formative years. "How I came up is deeply rooted into my music because I come from shit. I come from nothing."
August Alsina at the 2014 BET Awards - Michael Buckner/Getty Images
While he was still in his teens, Alsina grew his first fanbase by uploading videos of himself singing covers to YouTube in his distinctive R&B/hip-hop fusion style-- a feat that was soon undercut by getting kicked out of his house at age 16. In the aftermath of losing his one connection to his growing followers, Alsina resorted to selling drugs to make ends meet. However, in the wake of his brother's shooting death in 2010, Alsina rededicated himself to his art and turned his full attention to fully breaking in to the music industry. "If that didn't happen, I wouldn't be here today," says Alsina of his brother's untimely and tragic death. "I'd probably be dead. If it wasn't somebody killing me, it'd probably be me killing myself."
Catapulting off of the success of his growing online following, Alsina relocated to Atlanta and signed to the prestigious Def Jam Recordings label in 2011. After dropping his first mixtape, The Product in April 2012, Alsina achieved mainstream success in 2013 with his breakout track "I Luv This Shit" which triumphed at the top of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Mainstream Airplay chart for two weeks.