Elijah Blake has traveled a long tested road. Though he’s young, he is an industry veteran who has spent time behind the scenes writing records for some of music’s biggest stars. Now, the seasoned newcomer has finally stepped to the forefront and is shining bright in his biggest moment thanks to the release of his official debut album, Shadows & Diamonds.
F?ollowing a standard briefing from a ?Def J?am publicist, a polite, leveled?-demeanored voice spoke on the phone humbly accepting my congratulatory praises. The man behind the voice lets loose a snarky comment regarding the ?Los ?Angeles summertime ambiance he’s currently basking in, providing some brief comedic relief. J?ust like that, the ice is broken. ? few chuckles later, we’ve avoided the dreadful awkward introduction and are now in full throttle with the interview.
W?ith his tone growing more vibrant and passionate as he speaks, E?lijah Blake clearly articulates the answers to each q?uestion with conviction and confidence. ?e possesses the type of self?assurance only an individual who is genuinely in tune with himself can boast. In the streets, there’s a saying used when referencing that guy? “It’s in you, not on you.”
With each wordy response coming through the mu?ed phone speaker, ?Elijah’s aura grows stronger. It becomes clearer that his ??? contains that “it” factor and that he, too, has “it” in him. There’s a lot of hype currently associated with this crooner’s name and career thus far. If given a chance to speak with Blake, one would get the idea that all the praise coming his way is justified. ?is successes have been far from accidental. It is ?quite evident that E?lijah is finally reaping what he has sowed. In fact, when he e?plains it, it comes across as fate?.
“?When I was around the age of seven, my mom took me to a church for the pastor to pray for me because I was so bad. ?t the time, it just so happened to be during choir rehearsal. ?e told my mom to leave me and come back later. While he was conducting rehearsal, he looked over at me and told me to come join. While I was singing I was able to go low and high. The pastor took notice and told me he doesn’t believe anything happens by accident or by chance. ‘You have a gift from God,’ he told me.” Blake credits that specific occurrence as the key moment that struck the right chord in his inner musical “entity.”
Now, at 24-years-old, it’s been some years since the Palm Beach, Florida native’s initial arrival on the music scene. As a musically inclined teenager, Blake first earned clout as a viral success after selling tens of thousands of independent albums online through iTunes. However, his journey on the road to success would be slowed by rough times and roadblocks, including a major record label deal that fell through due to what he cites as “creative differences.” Remaining optimistic, an unemployed, teenage Blake never lost faith.
“There was no backup plan for me,” he confesses. “It’s always been music or nothing. I feel like when you have a plan B in terms of your life or something you’re passionate about, it’s kind of like betting against yourself.”
In 2009, with the odds stacked higher and struggling to keep his head held high, his songwriting ability paved a new route. He earned a placement on Trey Songz’ transcending album Ready, lending his writing contribution on the fan-favorite cut, “Jupiter Love.” Speaking modestly, Elijah touched on the turn his path took–“It got real tough at times, but I’d say with my faith in God and gift of writing, I was blessed enough to be able to exercise that ability to its fullest extent. I think back on how everything played out; I believe it was mapped out this way to actually work in my favor.”
Since then, he’s flourished, winning a Grammy Award for his penmanship on R&B legend Usher’s 2012 chart- topping single, “Climax,” an intimate falsetto-infused ballad. Along the way, Blake has worked with the likes of music heavyweightsincluding R&B queen Mary J. Blige and Caribbean pop sensation Rihanna. As his pen game climbed to elite stature, his notoriety amongst his peers grew stronger as well. His compositional successes were soon followed by a label deal with Def Jam through his mentor, producer-extraordinaire, NO I.D. of Artium Records. In 2012, he released Bijoux 22, which contained eight melodic tracks of nostalgic, smooth, modernized rhythm & blues, and was headlined by the successful Common-assisted single “X.O.X.”
“I am somebody who overthinks,” Blake admitted. “I thought it could have been a bad thing at first, not because of the music, but because that was just something we threw together quick. It turned out it really wasn’t so bad. [Laughs] The impact from that tape was great! Nobody knew Elijah Blake before I put that out. It allowed the world to be introduced to Elijah Blake the artist, not the songwriter.”
Shortly after building his audience through the first offering, a more seasoned Blake found himself carving out his creative niche. In 2014, Blake showcased his biggest artistic growth spurt thanks to the release of Drift, another eight track EP. This one proved to be a darker personal body of work deeply rooted with a soulful core. Each track is driven by emotion and complemented with moody production and thought- provoking lyrics about earnest tales of abuse, love and sex. “One thing I realized is when you do good music from the heart, people will appreciate it,” Blake said. “I remember a conversation I had with NO I.D. He told me, ‘good music transcends everything.’ I put it out and it became my moment for me.”
Today, Blake has continued to organically build a core following. Even as his notoriety continues to grow in vast volumes, he remains mindful of music’s impact as he uses this platform to deliver substance within his art keeping it authentic to its original form. On his latest project, the previously mentioned debut album, Shadows & Diamonds, he hopes to cement a signature sound all his own; he strives to create gentleman-style croons with songs like “Uno” where he confesses his infatuation for his one and only girl. Heartfelt honesty is the intent featured on songs like “Drop Dead Beautiful,” a track a that pays homage to his significant other’s natural good looks.
Both tracks rely on a genuine sense of unguarded masculinity–a frame of mind vulnerable enough for women and masculine enough for men. “To me a great R&B artist is one that sings their truths and incorporates that perspective into their artistry,” Blake said. ”It’s about answering my calling as an individual. I am confident I’ve done that. I feel Shadows & Diamonds is my artistry in its purest form. This album is the glue for Bijoux 22 and Drift…anybody who enjoyed them will love this.”
words ADRIAN JONES-JACKSON
fashion CHRIS SANDFORD
photography LENOX FONTAINE
grooming JERAMI ROBINS
location PAPER FACTORY HOTEL