As far as the lineage of melancholy, visceral R&B is concerned, Toronto trendsetter turned platinum-selling star The Weeknd set the bar pretty high with 2011's House of Balloons. Fast forward nearly a decade and The Weeknd and his XO team have built a crew of industry wildcards like Belly and Nav. Now, Ontario-hailing singer Black Atlass adds another layer of talent to XO's roster as the label's newest addition.
Much like his predecessors, the 23-year-old artist born Alex Fleming thrives in being shrouded in the shadows. His stage moniker reflects this.
"There are so many beautiful things that come with the word black and the color black that I think relate to," the singer says. "You know, the universe, the interconnectedness of us all of us really just represents the world."
Black Atlass' sound has been getting him looks since he was in high school — his song "Paris" was featured in a 2012 Louis Vuitton ad campaign — and while he's released music independently and spent some time on Fools Gold Records, it was around this time last year that Fleming shifted his creative ambitions and his label affiliation. Fleming took a trip to L.A. and serendipitously ran into XO Creative Director La Mar Taylor, who told him the team had been watching his work for a while.
"This is exactly the opportunity I've always been looking for," Fleming says of the XO and Republic Records relationship.
A move to L.A. and the mentorship of the XO team have inspired Black Atlass to create differently.
"[The Weeknd's] Abel [Tesfaye], he's someone that's an idol to me," he explains. "And I'm lucky enough to consider a friend and to be a part of my life has just incredibly inspiring. But really just the whole team is sort of a mentor to me and every once in a while. But the way that the team works: very supportive very family oriented."
The singer's first single as an XO artist, "My Life," and forthcoming album is inspired by his move to L.A. The drowsy, Oliver Goldstein-produced track and accompanying visual find the crooner lost within The Theatre at Ace Hotel, pining for a woman who represents the City of Angels. The NPR Music-premiered video is directed by Kid Studio, the same person whose helmed the videos for The Weeknd, Big Sean, 6lack and more.
"The whole project is just kind of about my journey with this character throughout the city," he explains. "It has this dark element to it, true to this fantasy. It's a female character being L.A., [which] represents that sort of contrast to the experience and it's the devil and angel on your shoulder at the same time."
Black Atlass' debut album from XO and Republic Records is due out later this year.