Al Rogers Jr. is just as likely to spend performance time dancing with the audience, as he is rapping and crooning on stage. A self-described “student of the game,” Al has cultivated a flow that shines on tunes like “Nobody.Betta” and “Tellme” – emphatic love songs that demonstrate his ability to craft memorable hooks to bridge his potent verses. His most recent offering “SadeWithLove,” a homage to R&B soulstress Sade and Baltimore club music, is an open letter on his own personal growth and his direction going forward:
“Why do I feel this way?
Maybe it’s the blues I sing or maybe it’s the green you bring,
Why do I feel so much pain?
God damn it I’m bruising again, but I refuse to lose again”
Before he prepared to perform at the acclaimed Kahlon show, Al discusses the influence of Big Daddy Kane, how he makes universal music, and why he’s ready to make himself a household name all over the country.
Words + Photos by Antonio.
AL ROGERS JR.: I studied Andre 3000, you may be able to see some similarities. I love Tupac Shakur. I even got a Nefertiti tat – she’s tattooed on my right chest plate, just because of ‘Pac. Lupe initially was the first guy who made me start rapping. I love Big Daddy Kane, because I like to dance. Back in the day he would rip an MC apart all while doing splits and shit. Outside of rap, I love everybody from the Beatles to Janis Joplin to Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Al Green.
“I love Big Daddy Kane, because I like to dance. Back in the day he would rip an MC apart all while doing splits”
Q: You said you skated down here. Did you skate a lot growing up, were you part of a skate crew?
AL ROGERS JR.: Growing up I was more into boxing. I had boxed for like six years, to get me out of trouble. I picked up a skateboard probably when I was around 19, and that kind of transitioned into me finding different art forms like graffiti and underground hip-hop, because hanging out with a lot of those guys and shit, it’s like a family and opens your mind up to different shit you might not have been used to coming up in the hood.
Q: Which Lupe album – was it Food & Liquor? Was it the cool? – or what song made you think “I can do this too”?
AL ROGERS JR.: It was probably The Cool. “The Coolest,” that song – that beat, was the first beat I ever wrote to, for real. I wrote a full fuckin’ song just to that beat. I think I called it “The Fool,” or some shit like that! (Laughs) Yeah probably, the Cool. Food and Liquor was a fuckin’ classic. Every time Lupe came here to put on a show, I always caught it.
Q: How do you think performance and style works amongst the bill tonight at Kahlon tonight. It’s going to be very diverse. You said you like to dance. Do you think you’re going to tailor your performance to the crowd tonight?
AL ROGERS JR.: Not at all. I had a surprise guest spot at the third Kahlon, I believe it was. This is my first time playing with a full set for Kahlon. I make music that makes motherfuckers dance, so I don’t think I got to really craft it to fit with the bill. I just think that my sound is universal. I believe that I make music for everybody. I just really want everybody to just enjoy themselves and I think we’re going to rock out tonight.
“I make music that makes motherfuckers dance, so I don’t think I got to really craft it to fit with the bill. I just think that my sound is universal”
Q: How do you prepare for a performance? Do you have a ritual before?
AL ROGERS JR.: I eat bananas, I eat oranges, drink a lot of water and I practice with my brush.
Q: As the mic? In the mirror?
AL ROGERS JR.: Yeah, yeah!
Q: Are you big into healthy eating and keeping a good diet? Or is it just for performances?
AL ROGERS JR.: I’m not big on healthy eating, I wouldn’t say, I haven’t [eaten] beef or pork in over eight years. Anything with four legs, I won’t touch. If it’s like a possibility it weighs more than me, or weighs as much as me, I won’t touch it. Chicken, turkey, fish, shrimp, crab… I’d fuck that shit up. Beef and like lamb, and pork and shit, I can’t get it. I love pizza though. Pizza is my favorite. That and my mom’s macaroni and cheese.
“If it’s like a possibility it weighs more than me, or weighs as much as me, I won’t touch it”
Q: Is that a personal choice or religious reason, or is it just the terrible way that a lot of meat is cultivated in the US that you made you decide not to eat beef or pork?
AL ROGERS JR.: Nah, I don’t shame those people though. I’ve seen some of those videos and that shit is pretty harsh. I don’t have personal feelings towards that though. I will say that my mom made homemade hamburgers from ground beef when I was younger, and that shit fucked my stomach up. I was sick for like three days, so that’s when I stopped eating beef. I was kind of done with it. And pork, I’ve never been a huge fan of it besides bacon, and even that there’s a substitute for it. I love turkey bacon, so I can just eat that.
Q: What song are you looking forward to performing tonight the most?
AL ROGERS JR.: I have a new song from my up-and-coming album called BabyAl, the song is called Blue Green, I’ve never performed it, I’m performing it tonight. And my song called “Sade With Love,” it’s like a Baltimore Club feel. I’m excited as fuck just to dance, yo, and dance with everybody.
Q: Have you gotten a chance to perform a lot outside of Baltimore?
AL ROGERS JR.: I have in my earlier days. I’m trying to branch out now, I’m going to SXSW on the 17th, I haven’t booked any shows yet. But right now, I’m just looking forward to the experience man. My earlier days, I used to get out a lot, but talking to Abdu [Ali], it made me change my mindset. I’m about to tour [this year].
Q: What changed?
AL ROGERS JR.: I think I was kind of stuck in the mind-frame of taking over home first. But now, I feel like I have a steady-enough support system here. I haven’t [done] what I wanted to do here yet, but I definitely need to travel more. That’s a dream I’m going to make a reality this year.
“I think I was kind of stuck in the mind-frame of taking over home first. But now, I feel like I have a steady-enough support system here”
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
AL ROGERS JR.: In five days, I’ll probably be at home, writing more rhymes. Hold on, nah damn I have a studio appointment in five days! A six hour session at Wright Ways, so I’ll be recording some more of BabyAl. Five months from now I would like to have planned out a tour and expanding my voyage to places I never dreamed of seeing. [Five years from now,] allowing God’s work to continue blessing me and laying down my footsteps along with the greats before me.