CHASING CLASSICS

A combination of divine appointment, timing, preparation, hard work and opportunity will take King ARod to music’s promised land.

talent AL-SHERROD “A-ROD” LAMBERT
photography by DAVID CARLO
styling by YACHI GAULT
interview by JILLIAN KORKOSZ & YELENA DEYNEKO

fashion collection ABERCROMBIE & FITCH

Your real name is Al-Sherrod “A-Rod” Lambert. Were you always called Arod by family and friends or did you consciously adopt the name at some point?

KING Arod: I started being called Arod by friends later in my high school career and throughout college and it just stuck. I’ve decided recently to leave “Arod” to Alex Rodriguez and to now be know as “KING Arod” which is really a realization of who I believe I am. I’m a natural born leader and have taken control of my kingdom which is my life and my art.

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Were you born in NJ?

KA: I was born and raised in Newark, NJ. My experience growing up was mixed. One of struggle and later stability. My parents battled addiction issues when I was younger. This forced me to grow up quick. At the age of 10 we (my younger brother and I) were sent to live with our grandparents. My grandparents essentially raised us until I moved out after graduating high school.

How and at what point were you first introduced to music in a meaningful way?

KA: I was introduced to music very very early on. I come from a musical family. Everyone either sings or plays an instrument. My grandfather sung background for Sam Cooke. My grandmother was a Pastor, so we all sung in church. I can remember writing my first song at the age of 6 years old on the family piano which was in the living room of my grandparents house.

​Was that your first song? Do you still have the record of it?

KA: Lol I wish I actually recorded it!! I would call people to the piano to watch me perform it for them live! But I remember it so maybe one day I’ll play it for you 😉

How did you become involved in the music industry as a songwriter and additionally, as a producer?

KA: I was introduced to a producer by the name of Eric Hudson who was also from New Jersey. I put in work with him in the studio from 2008-2010 and finally he invited me to come work with him in Los Angeles! At the time I was an admissions counselor for a college in New Jersey so I had to make up an illness to get me out of work! When I finally got my story right I requested the time off work and was off to LA. When I landed I went straight to the studio and was immediately thrown into a session with Oscar winner Jaimie Foxx! As I nervous as I was I knew one thing for sure, I was PREPARED! Every musical experience in my life, all the late night sessions, notebooks full of song ideas and writings, the compliments on my talent and the no’s I had received in my previous three years of songwriting had prepared me for that moment! Needless to say I delivered! That session spawned my first professional writing credit and sparked my career! I wrote two songs with Jamie on the “best night of my life” album and the rest is history.

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Did you have a mentor to guide you as you entered the music industry? What were some lessons you consider most important?

KA: One thing I haven’t had was a mentor. I’ve always longed for one. I’ve been led by my spirit and God. Thankfully things have been working out with just us two :). The most important lessons I’ve learned is locate your value in any room or situation you find yourself in,​ and make sure the others in the room realize it as well. Know why your around. Know who you are around. Be authentically you and remain positive.

Do you find the world of music to be hectic or therapeutic?

KA: Music is divine. In my belief system music was created before the earth was even formed. It’s the only art form that comes from the spiritual plane and then is transmitted into natural. That’s why it’s so powerful. That’s why it can drastically change people’s moods and even cure illness. The music business on the other hand…that’s a whole different animal. The business side can suck. Hectic doesn’t begin to describe it! Try destructive.

​How do you combat destructive?

KA: I stay grounded! And aware business-wise. I try to stay inspired by the future and get in touch with why I loved music from the beginning. Working on my album has been a great way to do that!

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What does your day normally look like?

KA: I usually start my day with meditation, worship and prayer. Then I may have my morning jay. I like to get high early and spend the right part of the day on a higher frequency. After that I hit the gym and then I’m off to the studio!

​What does meditation, worship and prayer involve? Is it something your created yourself or do you follow any spiritual or religious teachings, books, etc?

KA: My younger brother is a pastor…so I speak to him often. I attend church sometimes in LA and I depend on my own spirit and where it leads me.  I usually spend 30 minutes in a dark and quiet space where there are no distractions. I may sing…then pray and sit in silence for that time.

What’s your songwriting process? Do you start with melody or with lyrics? You work on these steps simultaneously or complete one before starting on another? Do you take breaks or become obsessed with a project and have to finish it before doing anything else?

KA: I usually do Melody’s first! Lay down what we call gibberish tracks. A lot of times I then stop and write to those gibberish tracks. Usually the words are in their somewhere if I listen enough. I allow the beat to speak to me and i flow with what the chords and sounds are telling me or I go off the energy in the room at a given moment. When I wrote exclusively for artists I would ask them what they want to talk about. What’s been going on in their lives. How they were feeling at the time. I find that if we tell the truth it resonates with people. Songs are just experiences we hope a great amount of ppl have experienced, we just have to talk about them in clever and exciting ways.

When creating a song for another artist, is there is a lot of collaboration involved? Or do you complete the project yourself before offering it to someone?

KA: It depends some artists like to be involved some just want to record a finished product.

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How do you know the project is complete? Do you ever go back and change anything, or do you let it be and move on?

KA: With my own music I can tell immediately, not only if I’m going to like it but I can usually tell how it will be received by others! I find the “psychology” of music very interesting how melodies and words will gain certain reactions from people. I go back and make edits sometimes with how I vocally performed a song and when the artist or a label may want a rewrite or edit.

​Can you please elaborate on the “psychology” of music?

KA: To me it’s how music, specifically melody effects our moods. How lyrics can make us think of certain things. How culture has been shifted by music and how depending on where we are as a society with gender roles…race relations…economics play on how music is received and appreciated.

​Have you ever considered singing the songs you’ve written yourself?

KA: Never regret! Some people love my rendition of “boss” which is a song I gave to R&B singer Omarion. The song featured Rick Ross and is one of my favorite songs I’ve written. It was during the time I was just coming into my own as an artist so a lot of the swag in the song is my own.

How many songs have you written? How many are sung by another artist? How many by you? How many are still waiting to be heard?

KA: I’ve written thousands of songs. I’ve placed over 50+ with other artist and my debut album has 11 on it. This is my fourth rendering of this album though. So just for this project alone I’ve written over 30-40 songs. I actually have my second album pretty much ready to go as well.

Of all the songs you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?

KA: My favorite song might be If we had your eyes by Destinys Child member Michelle Williams. I think it’s my most important work to date because I talks about how if we could see situations and each other the way the creator sees us (from his point of view) we would see how connected we are to each other and to the earth. We understand we are one another. Our lives reflect the society we live in, the world we share. We may have different experiences, races, ethnicities, religions, genders and sexual orientations but we really are more the same then we are different.

Do you ever start a project thinking, “I want to write a hit song”? What elements need to be in play for a song to be a hit?

KA: I don’t think it needs to be a hit. I do go in trying to write the most catchy song I can. Which is based in melody first then a concept that is rememberable. I always say I’m chasing classics! Not hits!

Have you ever experienced writer’s block, and if so, how do you deal with it?

KA: I have had bad writers block at times. I try to write thru it! Using techniques I’ve learned and read about that help you depend on your knowledge base of crafting songs verses your inspiration. I’ve written songs in 10 minutes and in 10 days. There’s been many sessions where I leave with nothing. It’s all apart of being an artist…a creator.

​What are some of the techniques you could share with other artists?​

KA: Find the conflict! Songs where there is a conflict work well. Consider the catch as well! What is the thing that will make someone say oh!? Or make them think that was clever or I can relate. And tell the truth!

Who are your biggest musical influences? And personal influences?

KA: My musical influences are so vast I’ll try to name a few. Earth Wind and Fire, Jay Z, Drake, Stevie Wonder, Deangelo, Erykah Badu, Anita Baker, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Sean Combs, Babyface, T pain, J Cole, The Isley Brothers, Hall and Oates, Michael McDonald, The Beatles, Boys 2 Men, Whitney Houston, Kanye West, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eric Clapton, Bill Withers, Bobby Caldwell, Queen, Frank Sinatra, Lauryn Hill, R Kelly, Kirk Franklin, James Hall, John P Kee, Fred Hammond, Dr. Dre, Steven Tyler, Simon and Garfunkel, Sade and Johnny Cash to name a few lol.
As for personal influences, a lot of my personal influences are musicians and entertainers but outside of them God…Malcom X…Martin Luther King…Steve Jobs, Barack Obama…my older brother Amir…my younger brother Alvin…My uncle Alim Muhhamed…my grandfather…my mother and father and my grandmothers.

Your story is the epitome of dreams becoming a reality, did you find your journey to be a matter of luck or effort? Challenging or easy?

KA: I believe it’s a combination of divine appointment, timing, preparation, hard work and opportunity. It’s been a challenging and rewarding experience.

You have the unique ability to write and produce across many genres. What is your favorite genre to work on? And for your own songs, what is the direction?

KA: My favorite genre is any that allows the artist to be creative and unconventional. I love Pop, R&B, Hip Hop and Gospel so I can’t pick one over the other. For my music with Av DiVinci (my band) we are really based in Hip-Hop/R&B, with sounds that speak to our Rock, Gospel And Pop influences.

You’ve said that gospel music holds a very special place for you. Why do you think this genre, an intersection of faith and music, has such an impact on your life?

KA: It is what my being is made up of. Faith and creativity. The medium that I’ve been successful in is music and it’s probably because just like faith it was the earliest thing I was introduced to. It is me at my beginning.

Despite working with huge stars, there’s got to be someone you’d like to work with but haven’t had the chance to… Who and why?

KA: I’d love to work with Stevie Wonder because he’s one of the most creative minds to grace the planet.

You are a multi-platinum producer! Can you walk us through the emotions you felt when you received your first plaque?

KA: I felt a​s though I had more work to do. I felt as though my name should be in the artist field. I look at my plaques as a new challenge for Me.

The album that you wrote for, Live by Lalah Hathaway, won a Grammy this year! Congratulations! In the past, other credits of yours have also won Grammys and additional awards. After winning so much, does victory taste any less sweet?

KA: Same as with the plaques. Each new success reminds me that I have the possibility and responsibility to keep pushing forward. To keep reaching higher.

Have you ever experienced any set backs or challenges? If so, what were they, and how do you combat them?

KA: There’s always that internal enemy that tries to tell you your not good enough. I am a master number 22. So I combat myself often with being overwhelmed by my dreams. Knowing full well I can achieve so much but not fully embracing the grandeur of what life can be for me when I truly lock into my full potential.

How would you describe your evolution an artist and as a person, since the day you started till now?

KA: I have evolved so much. I’ve broadened my world view and idea of who and what GOD is. I’ve realized whether you believe in him or not you would have to admit that if GOD did exist what we know about this being is only a small piece of his totality. I’ve learned to love myself more and believe in my self more which has helped learn to love and accept others. I’ve learned how success can make those around you act and how to tell when someone is sincere.

If you could let people know one thing about you, what would it be?

KA: I am fully aware and yet eager to become more enlightened, more of a representation of the power of self and of love.

Are you able to share any information about upcoming projects?

KA: Welcome to the Av. Season 1 by Av DiVinci will be available on al Digital platforms this spring!!

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We love the name of your band. What is behind the name and who are the members of your band?

KA: It is honestly a correction of my name and a nod to one of my influences Leonardo Da Vinci. I should be named Alsherrod Vasser. But i don’t have my father’s last name (Bynum) and strange enough he doesn’t even have HIS fathers last name (Vasser). So by choosing the intials A.V I’m correcting something that happens far too often in the black community in America. So now AV is explained that leaves DA VINCI, because like Leonardo, I am a master of my craft. And so are my brothers in the band. Instead of being totally influenced by Da Vinci we are even more led by DIVINITY. Which is why we use the spelling DiVinci. AV DIVINCI

When and how did you establish your band, and what was the process/requirements of finding your members?

KA: I decided to start the band in 2014. I reached out to my family members and childhood friends from Newark to be the members!

What is your take on the music streaming market (ie. Spotify, Soundcloud) and how it affects artists?

KA: Streaming is great for the artist! Hip hop is by far the most streamed music in the world! Until the payout % are fixed, streaming is death to the career songwriter and in many cases the producer.

What is the best way for you to connect with your audience?

KA: I still believe it’s performing live in front of them!

Professionally, what is your biggest aspiration now ?

KA: Sell out arenas around the world! Win a Grammy for song of the year. Host my own television show.

Aside from music, what are your personal dreams? passions? hopes?

KA: I see myself one day running for public office! Mayor, governor and who knows what after that.

Do you have a mantra or a prayer or a quote that comes to mind at a critical time for motivation?

KA: Trust God…he’s prepared you for this.

Do you have a ritual that you observe on a regular  basis? what is it and why?

KA: I think a lot…like a lot lol does that count?

Who is always by your side?

KA: I walk alone a lot…living in my head…but my girlfriend is often with me and my band mates are their when they can be.