There comes a time in life when we decide to take a leap of faith. It can be scary, it can be nerve-wrecking but it can be done. Singer-songwriter Elijah Blake took a leap of faith when he decided to part ways from Def Jam Records, where he released his debut album — Shadows & Diamonds — in 2015. The album featured his smash hit “I Just Wanna,” which has over 38 million streams on Spotify.
While he is grateful for being signed to a prestigious label like Def Jam and managed by Jay Z’s company Roc Nation, Blake felt like he wasn’t completely understood as an artist. In fact, the companies had a different vision for Blake than he did.
“It was kind of like, ‘We want you to be this way,’” Blake explains to Rated R&B over a telephone conversation. “It’s not to say it was a bad thing but it’s kind of like you’re in the middle of this tug-of-war with the label and the management company and everybody around you.”
Now that Blake is independent, he has full creative control over his work — something he cherishes. His sophomore album, Audiology, is out now and truly represents Blake’s artistry. He avoids the trends we may hear in today’s music for something that’s more organic and authentic. “I really wanted the music to have my DNA on every song,” he says. “This is the first project for me that I didn’t give a fuck what anybody said or what anybody wanted me to be.”
Check out our full interview with Elijah Blake where he discusses finding inspiration for Audiology, being a songwriter, being sexually abused as a child, working with Keyshia Cole and more.
RATED R&B: How did you come up with the title Audiology?
ELIJAH: Anyone who knows me or who is familiar with my music knows that I’m heavily influenced and in love with Prince’s artistry. He had an album called Musicology. In order to get to the freedom I inhibited for this project, I had to do a lot of studying of myself and understanding why I am set in my ways sometimes. If you look at biology, the study of life, I just basically put the study of myself in audio form, which is this project.
RATED R&B: It’s clear you had creative control for this project because the songs you have released haven’t sounded trendy or like trying to chase after radio…
ELIJAH: Thank you so much for even noticing that. It was big to me. I brought in live musicians for everything. I feel like the industry — at the time when they were trying to figure out how to monetize streams — went through this phase where they were like,” Is music really selling? How do we make money from it?” There was a high risk and low reward, so they were basically making everybody make songs they knew for sure would work. So everyone started sounding the same. We were losing everyone’s identity. So for me, I was just like, “Let me go to the shit that made me want to do music and stop worrying about the radio single and what’s going to sell. If it’s true and it connects with an audience, it’s going to work. It might not work right when you want it work, it might not work within the first week but people come back to those projects.
I was at a dinner that No I.D. threw at his house and I got to meet the guy who signed Prince. He was telling me how the first three Prince albums, people didn’t get it at first, but he didn’t give up on him. People came back to it and they were like, “Ah, now it’s genius.”
RATED R&B: The Afrobeat and Caribbean sound has influenced many new records. It seems to be the new trend because it’s working for some artists. What are your thoughts on it?
ELIJAH: I’m from the islands. I was actually born in Dominican Republic. For me, it’s kind of like watered down. I think people from the Caribbean are aggravated (laughs). There are a few artists that do it well but then there’s people who’ve never been there. They don’t understand the swing tempos. They don’t understand certain cadences. They don’t understand those type of accents to make the truth of the culture, so they’re kind of diluting it in a sense.
RATED R&B: What’s your most vulnerable song on Audiology?
ELIJAH: There’s a song on there called “Mama Knows,” which I talk about an experience that happened in the church. I just think that with this project I want to be as transparent, bold and fearless as possible. When you talk about young men, like seven or eight, who deal with molestation, there’s a stigma especially in black culture that makes it seem like it’s your fault. No one ever talks about it, so it continues to happen. It wasn’t until my last relationship with my ex-girlfriend — she went through it at a young age. We had a hard time connecting sometimes on figuring out why she had a lot of trust issues or why we would argue about things that seemed kind of miniscule to me. I kind of knew it was coming from a deeper place. Once we talked, she opened up about her childhood experience. It gave me courage to talk to her about [my experience] and her reaction wasn’t what I thought it would be, which you think you will be pushed away or judged by it. So when I was around my homies, I started gauging on how much I could say about it but when I was talking to them, they were like they went through it too. So this is a common thing.
RATED R&B: I respect that you are being open because there are a lot of victims who remain silent…
ELIJAH: It’s like you’re seven years old there’s no way it could have been your fault. So I just want to help push away that stereotype.
RATED R&B: I heard you worked with Keyshia Cole on her new album. How involved were you on that project?
ELIJAH: Very involved. I think I did like 85 percent of the songs but Keyshia is changing the track list every day, so we’ll see (laughs).
RATED R&B: You worked with Chris Brown, too, on Heartbreak on a Full Moon…
ELIJAH: I did some songs. I didn’t get a chance to go in like I do with Keyshia and be there all the time. There’s three songs that I worked on with this producer I signed. We have three songs on the project that I’m very excited about
RATED R&B: How did you become a brand ambassador for Harry Belafonte’s Sankofa Organization?
ELIJAH: During my last promo run, I did an interview with Ebro at Hot 97.We kind of segued into a conversation about Mike Brown and I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. It’s like we black out our Instagram and we do all these things on social media but we need to be just as active in real life. If you look back in history, music and fashion kind of goes hand in hand with politics. When [Martin Luther King, Jr.] was doing the movement, Nina Simone fighting a good fight and Marvin Gaye was singing songs like “What’s Going On” because music shifts moves and heals the world.
Stream Elijah Blake’s new album Audiology below.