Unless your surname happens to be “Legend,” you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to take it on as your stage name. Apparently, John Legend wasn’t “scurred.” The name was reportedly given to him by poet J. Ivy while working with Kanye West. Ivy said, “I heard your music and it reminds me of that music from the old school. You sound like one of the legends. As a matter of fact, that’s what I’m going to call you from now on! I’m going to call you John Legend.” After J. Ivy continued to call him by the new alias “John Legend,” others quickly caught on, including Kanye West, and the name stuck. Nine Grammy Awards later, John Legend is living up to his moniker. Born John Rogers Stephens (doesn’t sound very star-like), Legend began his career recording a series of successful collaborations with multiple established artists. He added his voice to those of other performers, assisting them in reaching chart-topping hits. He lent his voice to Magnetic Man’s “Getting Nowhere,” Kanye West’s “All Of The Lights,” Slum Village’s “Selfish” and Dilated Peoples’ “This Way.” Other projects include Jay-Z’s “Encore,” and the backing vocals he sang on Alicia Keys’ 2003 song “You Don’t Know My Name.” He also worked on Lauryn Hill’s album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” playing piano on “Everything Is Everything.” Legend finally released his first album, “Get Lifted, On Good Music” in December 2004. It featured production by Kanye West, Dave Tozer, and will.i.am, and debuted at #13 on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 116,000 copies in its first week. It went on to be certified platinum in the U.S. Legend’s second album, “Once Again,” reteamed him with West, will.i.am and Tozer and was also certified platinum. Legend’s third and fourth albums, “Evolver” and “Love In The Future” respectively, have both reached gold or platinum status as well. But his third single, “All Of Me,” from the “Love In The Future” LP, has given him his highest charting Billboard Hot 100 single to date peaking at #2. The song, inspired by Legend’s supermodel wife Chrissy Tiegen, has been the catalyst to bring Legend yet another milestone in a career already filled with, dare we say, “stuff legends are made of.”
Aloe Blacc has held aspirations of being a star, or you might say, “the man,” since he was 16 years old after he teamed with hip hop producer Exile and formed “Emanon,” which was essentially ‘no name’ backwards, and released their first mixtape in 1996. Even though the group released three albums, “Steps Through Time” (2001), “Imaginary Friends” (2002), and “The Waiting Room” (2005), nothing meaningful happened from the venture. Stepping out on his own, Blacc, whose given name is a very un-hip-hop sounding Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins, III, signed to Stone’s Throw Records and recorded two EPs. By then, Blacc had become more focused on songwriting, a change inspired in part by his social consciousness. “I was uncomfortable with the state of Hip Hop being largely about the expression of ego. I wondered how I could be more crafty at writing songs in the form of a rap that actually expressed more than ego, style and finesse,” he stated. Unfortunately, success would elude Blacc in the United States at first, but be much kinder to him in other countries when he released the album “Good Things” on the same label. “Good Things” was certified gold in the UK, France, Germany and Australia, among other countries, and ultimately hit double platinum in sales. Success finally followed Blacc back across the pond in 2013 when he co-wrote the song “Wake Me Up” with Swedish DJ Avicii. With Blacc on vocals, the song reached #1 in 22 countries including Billboard’s Dance/Electronics Songs, Hot Dance Club Songs, Adult Top 40, and Mainstream Top 40 Songs charts, while becoming the fastest selling single in the U.K., selling 267,000 copies in its first week. With the release of Blacc’s Interscope/XIX debut, “Lift Your Spirit,” which contains the monster track “The Man,” Aloe Blacc has finally made a name for himself at home. Thanks in part to the Elton John/Bernie Taupin lyric and melody, “And you can tell everybody.” But ironically, in his effort to become “the man,” the only thing worse than Blacc forgetting his prior artistic conviction of “expressing more than ego,” is having to tell everybody himself.