The South Got Something To Say: A Conversation With 5am, ATL’s Hybrid Artist

5am | Photo Credit - Marissa Ramirez

At 5am, night turns into day and new opportunities flirt with the idea of a promising tomorrow. A moment of tranquility exist between the last gasp of darkness and the first breath of a new morning: change is plausible, more now than ever before. In a similar way, Atlanta-based artist-producer 5am is promoting change on his own terms.

Keyed accompaniment, lo-fi acoustics and soothing guitar chords help bring 5am’s enigmatic narrative to life. He delivers real stories that channel an emotive appeal, juggling romantic possibilities and formal adieus through melodic riffs.

Admittedly, 5am isn’t hellbent on spotlighting love or the lack thereof. At this stage in his career, he’s all about being accountable with his influence, or as he states – “That’s a big part beyond music, stepping into a leadership role. Some people really don’t take heed to that.” But when you’re micromanaging relationship woes and simultaneously learning how to be a man while raising a child – in the middle of a global pandemic – mental health matters, self-preservation matters.

The South got something to say and 5am pens personal truths on wax, leaving no verse unfinished. For the most part, a good portion of our conversation was centered around change, but not just at the surface level, a holistic type of adjustment: something comprehensive, inside and out. He charms listeners with raw emotion and a palpable sense of relatability — a clear indication of the balance that must exist throughout any transition.

This Friday, 5am’s new album – You’re Going To Be Fine – is slated to release. With a promising future ahead for Hotlanta’s buzzing troubadour, this project will catalyze the momentum required to transcend 5am’s career to new heights — something long overdue.

What’s the backstory behind your stage name? 

Truthfully, it was after a show that happened back in 2014. Me and my friends were at Waffle House. I used to go by my real name, Blake, but I started thinking, “Yo, I need a stage name,” something that fits. Everybody was throwing out hints and one of my friends was like, “After midnight, maybe 2:30am or something like that.” I said 5am, and we thought that shit was hard. So, I hoped on Twitter and shared it (the name) with a couple of people and that was it. It just fit the aesthetic of my music, so I just ran with it. 

I had no idea you’ve been making music since 2014.

I’ve been dropping music for a minute but I really didn’t find my sound up until that next year and a half. I was really just trying to figure out what direction I was going in. I’d say 2014 is when I started to really release music. Up until then, I was practicing, just recording songs to see if this is something that I’m going to take seriously as a career. 

What was your defining moment as an artist, when did you realize that you would pursue a professional career in music? 

I knew early on. I wanna say when I was a freshman in high school. I was recording music on my own and the right stuff was connecting for me at that time. I was doing open mics back then – my mom was going with me to different shows. I just liked the feeling of thinking this is something that I can get better at, this is something that I wanna grow into, just like somebody playing basketball. I looked at it like that: this is my basketball, this is my business degree etc. 

Talk to me about the relationship with your mom, has she always supported your career as an artist? A lot of times parents don’t really see the vision, especially when career paths don’t revolve around the traditional nine-to-five. 

As far as a mother-son relationship, it was great, but as far as her seeing the vision, she definitely didn’t see the vision, but she supported it. She didn’t see it, but she wasn’t against helping me. My first studio setup, she bought it. With promotion and studio time, she would help out and see what she can do. But also, she made sure I kept a job, she was being realistic. It was the best of both worlds. It kept me in reality: don’t get lost in trying to be ahead of myself. I’m still in reality, I still got bills, I still got this going on, so I gotta keep some money in my pocket. 

There’s so many aspects and so many different sharks in this industry. The more you’re able to do for yourself, the less you have people in the way of your dreams. 

It’s been nearly 2 years since the release of 5:88 (feat. TM88), what has changed? 

The acknowledgement of my music, the fanbase, just people recognizing my music at this point, on a bigger scale. That tape allowed me to be on playlist I’ve never been on before, blogs I’ve never been on before, Kevin Durant reached due to that tape. It was a lot that happened because of that tape.

I’m excited about 5:88 2

Personally, what do you feel like was the most tangible takeaway from your sessions with TM88?

Just the organicness: not stressing shit and just letting everything flow. Letting the production take charge and using my voice as another instrument for the beat. 

“Falsetto” carries a dreamlike melody that enchants listeners with romantic possibilities. Has your life as an artist ever complicated things in a relationship? 

I’ma be honest with you, it is what you make it. It also just depends on your partner. They might have an issue with who’s around, no matter if it’s girls or you’re at the club – they might not like the attention. They might not like you being so vocal about a certain topic: maybe politics or something like that. It’s a lot that goes into it, because with being an artist you sign up for being a leader. Some people like to play behind the scenes, they don’t like to step into the forefront. That’s a big part beyond music, stepping into a leadership role, some people really don’t take heed to that. That’s the only thing I really be going through. When I’m with certain girls, it’s like maybe they don’t fuck with going out or they say I’m on Instagram too much. I don’t know, just small shit. 

How do you get past that natural fear of oversharing with your listeners? It seems like vulnerability is often frowned upon at times, especially in the Black community when it comes to men. 

I think it’s acceptable as long as you don’t name drop. At the end of the day, we’re (artists) doing it (making music) so that we can let other people know they’re not the only people going through it. I took it upon myself to share my thoughts and be an open diary so that other people don’t feel alone. That’s just a sacrifice that comes with it. 

About what percentage of your music is influenced by your emotions? 

I would say about 98%, I mean 100% really – I don’t know how anyone could go in the studio and not feel anything. Something gotta click in order for something to come out of your mouth. It’s just one of those things where you have to let your emotions takeover in order to say some of the shit you want to say. 

For most artists who might be in the studio 340 days out the year, for us – because I’m in the studio like that, all day every day – some days it is kinda dry, you might just be forcing shit. But you’ll know, you may take a break. Something might happen, a memory might strike or a beat will bring out a certain emotion and out of nowhere you’re having memories that you can relay in the music. Really, it’s just a bunch of memories, going down memory lane in the booth. 

Can you put into words what life has been like with learning how to become a man while raising a child?

It’s been interesting. It puts life into a different perspective: you have to look at the safety of everything before bringing your child out. 

What have you been doing to manage  your mental health during the pandemic?

Reading different articles, listening to music, spending time with my family, and just brainstorming for when the world opens back up. 

Lastly, are you happy? 

Yes. I’m breathing. At the end of the day, each day is a new chance to make shit right with whatever you got going on, so yeah – I’m happy.

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