Snoh Aalegra Lets Her Emotions Run Wild on ‘FEELS’
The cover art for soul singer Snoh Aalegra’s new album FEELS sums up the singer’s emotional state. “FEELS has a rainbow, which represents all the colors, all the feels, all the emotions, all my mood swings and just being on a journey,” she says of the animated cover art by New York artist, Joe McDermott, which features a brunette in space with a rainbow. “She’s in space, she’s kind of lost,” she adds.
Aalegra was still able to find a muse, though, in the ups and downs of one relationship over the past two years, which sparked the entire project. The follow-up to her 2016 EP, Don’t Explain, features collaborators Logic, Vic Mensa and Vince Staples and perhaps most importantly, her Swedish and Persian roots. For the deep cut “Like I Used To,” Aalegra tapped Swedish rapper, Timbuktu, who she describes as the “Nas of Sweden.” She isn’t afraid to go deep either, especially on numbers like ”Time,” a dedication to her late father that was also sampled on Drake’s latest effort, Views.
Before embarking on a nationwide trek as a special guest for Daniel Caesar’s The Freudian tour, Aalegra sat down with TIDAL and, naturally, spoke on matters of the heart. She also shared a playlist of the Swedish jams that shaped her life.
Why title the album FEELS?
I always write about my real-life experiences, so I’ve literally just been writing about what’s been going on but also working a little bit on my past. So it’s a mixture of everything I’ve been going through. I’m such an emotional person, like I feel so deeply. Everything is just so serious to me. After I wrote the title track ‘FEELS,’ I just thought that was a suitable title for the album. I was just planning on making another EP, but I happened to record 50 songs, so I had to pick from them [and] then it became an album.
What inspired the Vince Staples collaboration ‘Nothing Burns Like the Cold‘?
“Nothing Burns Like the Cold” has a double meaning. Reflecting on my relationship with that person at the time and also a little bit about what’s going on in the world today. Can we talk about love like we care about love? Can we talk about us like we care about us? Just everything we’re going through right now. I thought Vince was perfect for that one ‘cause he really spits.
What made this set of artists, from the Swedish rapper Timbuktu to Vic Mensa and Vince Staples, the perfect guests for the songs that you put them on?
Vic was recording his album [in the same studio] and I was recording mine. He was next door and I was actually having a meeting, playing my songs for somebody and he just knocked on the door like, ‘Sorry to interrupt but what’s that song?’ And I was like ‘You Keep Me Waiting.’ He’s like, ‘I wanna jump on that one.’ I was like, ‘Sure.’
And Timbuktu, I grew up admiring him. He’s an O.G. rapper in Sweden. He’s like the Nas of Sweden. True poet. We were following each other on Instagram and I had done the first half of the song. I was doing the Swedish talking and I was like, ‘Damn, I need somebody Swedish on this,’ so I just [direct messaged] him and was like, ‘Yo, I admire you. Would you mind doing something on this [song]?’ And he was like, ‘I would love to. I’ve been following your journey for a while and I really love your music.’ He was super open about it and he recorded it in New York when he was here so we made it happen.
Can you break down what he’s saying on ‘Like I Used To‘?
It’s very, very deep. My version in the beginning is saying I don’t feel like I used to. Also, again, a double meaning just in life like, ‘Maybe, OK, I’m changing and our relationship is changing.’ Then the metaphors are about the seasons then [Timbuktu] comes in and kind of takes the male voice in the song where he spits back to me saying, ‘Well I’m good without you, take care,’ like dissing my character. It’s like really beautiful poetry.
What do you hope this project says to fans who have followed you on your journey?
I hope that they feel something. That’s always my goal. I want to be a part of their lives. Just how music that I love is a part of my life and it’s the soundtrack to my life and how I build memories and attached to songs, I hope it can be attached to an important memory in their lives. Honestly, I just want as many people as possible to hear my music. I’m still growing and want to grow my audience.
Why was it important to you to show your Swedish and Persian roots on the album?
Because I feel like everyone’s always so confused, asking me, ‘Oh, you’re Swedish? But you don’t look Swedish. Oh you live in L.A. and you’re Persian?’ I moved around here and there and I think it’s important to show people where I’m from. I just want people to get to know me. I’m proud of my heritage and I’m proud of being Persian and being from Sweden. It’s just such a beautiful culture from both those countries. Living in L.A., I’ve been so inspired from all the musicians that I’ve worked with so I am a result of all of that.
How would you describe both of those cultures?
Well, it’s funny ‘cause both those cultures are almost opposite in a way. Persian culture is so warm and welcoming and not saying [the Swedish are] not welcoming but Swedish [culture is] kind of like a colder energy and very straightforward. We’re very straightforward with our answers, very simple and plain like Ikea, the furniture. Swedish people are just very simple in that way and I think the Persian culture is way more colorful. The Swedish one is earth colors. I love how I have to be a mix of both and take from both worlds.
Was FEELS about just one relationship or several that inspired the project?
[The songs are] all about one guy, so that’s why it feels extra personal.
Did the person you made these songs about hear the album?
He’s heard it. It was mixed feelings because it’s not all positive. It’s very up and down, and it’s a roller coaster. It’s very truthful. For the person involved, it may feel like, ‘Whoa, this is private information,’ but that’s what happens when you hang around me. I’m gonna write a song about you.
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