Alano Adan: The Reintroduction – New Beginnings & Finding a New Path
Alano Adan is one of my favorite rappers. He has been on a bit of a journey – he was signed in 2013, and when that fell through he had a lot of soul searching and growing in his relationship with God. I was able to chop it up with him recently and it was a very enlightening conversation.
How did being signed and then let go impact you moving forward? Being propelled straight into CHH, and then trying to fit into CHH after moving on from that deal? Were you a little jaded to the CHH scene a little bit after that?
I think for me what it was like, all the sudden I have to learn how to market myself. I have to learn to fend for myself. That was a turning point for me and my artistry and not just music-wise, but also learning other skills that contributed to me gaining fans or gaining an audience. I started producing, I started mixing and mastering, doing a lot of other things that were helping me. Also learning what it actually takes to promote myself. It was like “okay you’re not backed by somebody, so now you have to do your own thing.”
Doing music isn’t something that you can turn to somebody in your family and be like, “what did you do to blow up as an artist?” It’s an entirely different grind. You talk to other people that may or may not be in the same position as you. Maybe they’re a little bit ahead and maybe a little behind, trying to pull ideas and inspiration from different places but looking to God for direction first and foremost. It was a crucial transition for me.
Did you find a community right away? Did you find anybody that wanted to take you under their wing or did you kind of feel isolated at that moment? Have you felt like you’re just trying to find your way?
Yes. I always felt like we were better together. If we’re all pulling each other up along the way, why wouldn’t we? I don’t understand the divisive mentality that there’s like, these sets (in the industry) like, “oh, you’re a Crip and I’m a Blood” almost. I’ve never really understood that line of thinking. We could all pull each other up and come up together that way.
I did find community right away. I started working with a group of artists and producers. When it comes to making music I think the songs that I’ve enjoyed making have always ended up being with my friends. They’re the artists that I actually respect because I don’t have a problem with telling one of my friends that I don’t like their music.
I found a community with a few artists that I’m really close with that, who people may or may not know so much, but they’re people that I respect and I think that their music deserves the spotlight. The top artist that I put in that space would be my brother Threat, he was on Arrival but I’ve always had a team mindset when it came to this music thing I’ve always wanted.
Do you feel like there was ever a time in your career where you felt like man, Christians put a box on their music and so I need to buck the trend a little bit and be like color outside the lines a little?
I think for me, my mixtape Meanwhile was the beginning phase of that, and I remember talking with a group of friends at that time like “I’m gonna go secular.” I thought “I’m going secular but I’mma somehow do it for God.” It’s funny because, in that season, it was birthed from a good place. I had my experiences in the Christian space – things that were off-putting where obviously I wanted to do this for God, but I don’t necessarily feel like I need to be associated with these people anymore.
So when I’d talk about my faith, I’m not hiding it or diluting it, but I’m also not sticking to this formulaic approach. Back in the day hip hop was probably more like that where you had an alter call and read a Psalm. This was all just a way of finding my lane. But one of the questions early on that I was asked and I didn’t really have an answer for – “what’s your vision?” I didn’t really know what my vision was.
I just knew that I enjoyed making music and I was searching for a way out. The end goal of what you’re trying to accomplish through your art is more important than the art itself. But this was not my finest hour. There are things that I did in that season that I wouldn’t do now. I thought I was gonna be a secular artist doing it for God but I ended up backslidden. I just feel like for me, I did it and it didn’t work.
So what was it that brought you back then?
These last few years I was just was dropping singles, sporadically, with no real plan behind them. I went into that season, feeling entitled and feeling like I had it all together. Clearly, I didn’t. I found myself in a place where I felt like I’ve gotten so far away from where I started. So I was like “let me get serious about myself as a person,” because music was a thing that I dedicated a great portion of my younger years to trying to chase this dream.
God put this in my heart and I’ve dedicated so much time to it. In the process of growing your craft and growing your artistry, you kind of get lost in the crossfire. You miss out on life things, miss out on personal growth. I had to take some time to fall back from it a little bit and work on myself. Now I’m in a better place than I was in that season. I ended up getting back to my relationship with God in a much healthier place. Meeting my wife, I have a house now. I moved to a new city and my wife and I have a baby boy on the way. That’s amazing.
Very shortly after I decided to get serious about my relationship with God again, all this started to happen and it was like God giving me the nod. “I was waiting for you.” The project took over a year to put together, so it’s like a culmination of going through that journey.
So on your debut album, the second track is called “Welcome Back.” What was that like for you? Was this like a statement like, ‘Hey, I’m back here I am’. What are you trying to say right here at the top?
Yeah. That’s kinda what I was going for because I know it’s my debut album. I’ve only put out mixtapes that were for sale. It was kind of like “welcome back”- because I haven’t put out a project in the Christian rap space in so long. This is like the re-introduction.
I press play on this project and I could immediately tell this is different. Like he’s got Jesus in his bars again, it seems like one of those things like in Corinthians it talks about, “when I was a child, I did childish things. But now now I’m a man and I put away the childish things.” Do you feel like there was a change drastically? You talked about how you went from not being sure about life to having a wife and now having a kid (on the way,) but then probably even as an artist, it’s like the fruit of what you’re living out is showing up in your artistry.
Yeah. And I think that’s where the music jumps to another level. Because I think for me I feel like I had a lot of knowledge, but not much experience. I was raised being taught to love Jesus, and I always believed in God, I was learning Bible from a young age and there’s a point in time where it finally comes together. I was still early on in that place of having this knowledge without the experience, you know? And I think there’s a level of a pitfall from spiritual pride.
From that time to now, I’ve lived life. I’ve gone through seasons. Once you’ve been on both sides of the fence, you just have a different level of umph behind your words. So when you say it you actually believe what you’re saying, you feel it because you’ve been there. It’s one thing to talk about the bottom from the top but it’s another thing when you’re seeing the bottom from the bottom.
My favorite track on this new album is actually “Problems.”
For real? It’s crazy because that is the song that’s over a year old, and I was toying with the idea of putting it out as a single when I had first made it. I’m so glad that I waited on it because the way that this project came together, I don’t have this crazy budget. I’m not working with top quality. I have a basic setup, I got my mic with a pillow behind it. I recorded this whole project in my bedroom, you know?
When I wrote that song, it was around the time where all this racial tension was going on. Every day, like another shooting, and it was just that time, and another reason why I was thinking about putting it out back then. I was thinking about the state of the world in general and putting myself in the frame of mind of people in these situations – worse off than I am. Like you can’t just come off as you should know better. I like presenting a better way. That was just my approach to the whole song.
Who flipped that sample for Bridge Over Troubled Water?
That’s Me. It was an Instagram video. That’s Abby Smith and Jacob Collier. So I had heard the video and I knew that I wanted to keep it for a skit. She’s singing that classic song. And then Jacob Collier lays in all these crazy harmonies. So I just ended up matching the scale of that song. It was like God wanted me to use that sample.