If you love that feel-good, heartfelt, soul music, you love Elhae. Signed to the iconic Motown imprint, the recording artist is meticulous with his craft, putting his best foot forward with each release. Born in North Dakota but raised in Georgia where he currently resides, Elhae creates his own fusion of R&B and hip-hop, bringing a layer of authenticity and cohesion that sets him apart from the rest.
Growing up singing in his mother’s choir, Elhae exploded onto the scene with his breakout hit “Needs” back in 2016, and has yet to show signs of slowing down. In 2018, he lent his talents to the Coachella stage, performing in front of a crowd of 40K. Fast forward to today, he returns with his highly-anticipated project Aura III, the third installment in his critically-acclaimed Aura EP series—arriving on the heels of a 2-year hiatus.
Flaunt caught up with Elhae via Zoom, who was in high spirits over in Atlanta. Read below as we discuss the inspo behind AURA III, his much-needed break, getting Rick Ross on the project, relationship with Masego, shooting the visual, love for art and fashion, getting back on stage, and more!
How are you holding up in Atlanta?
Quarantined, I got my shots. As an artist, we’re moving constantly, so it was only necessary. Might as well go and get it done. Ready to get out there and get on vacation soon. [laughs] Everything’s been good, put the project out. Now we’re here trying to figure out other things, keep it going.
AURA III out now, how does it feel?
It’s cool, it’s doing really well. The singles off of it did really well beforehand. Now that it’s out, it’s good to see I can take a hiatus, ‘cause I took 2 years off before. Last project I put out, it was the last time we talked 2 years ago. It’s good to put out music and know that people are still going to listen to it. That’s cool.
Why has it been 2 years since your last album?
[flutters lips] Man, ups and downs. Just life. I’m human like everyone else dealing with relationship problems, health problems, all those different stuff that comes into account when you’re living life. I’m an artist, but I’m not invincible. I go through stuff like anybody else. With my career as well, I was with Atlantic and that time was up with us. Our relationship, so we decided to go our separate ways. A lot of different stuff in the last couple of years that led to where we are now.
What sets this one apart from the last one, with it being the third installment?
Last project, I was trying different things out. Trying different sounds out musically, trying to figure out another area that I could tap into. I got away from what got me in the door in the first place, which is now labeled Trap Soul. Back then, it was R&B vibes over the trap drums, which is what I came into the game doing. Around the time TRAPSOUL came out from Bryson [Tiller], we’re using the same producer before we even knew it. He stamped it as Trap Soul, then it went on to do its thing. I saw a lot of people rushing to that territory and saturating the sound. I put out my last project, Trouble in Paradise, as more of an effort to see if I could find another niche or another area to roam in. It was a great project, but this project I went back to those roots and tried to tap into what was familiar to me.
What’d it mean to get Rick Ross on “Fun Fact”?
Cool. Even the last project, he was on there, but we ended up not using his verse. It’s great for him do a record, then it actually comes out. I’ve known Ross for a while. I’ve known him for at least 10 years now. It stood to his relationship with my managers. They’ve known each other since they were teenagers, back in the day. It was one of those things where I was able to always be around those guys. Even before I was who I am, learning the ropes and seeing how they maneuver throughout this industry, touring, studio, being a fly on the wall. It was good to have him up on the track and get that out finally.
How’d it feel to hit one million streams on Spotify for “My City”?
It’s cool. Whenever you get a record and it does well, you always gotta take your hat off to it. It’s showing that it has life and it wants to run. We’re moving on that right now. Radio’s supposed to pick it up, so that’s exciting. I’ve never had a radio song. Even a label with Atlantic, they never took any of the songs to radio. Here we are with Capitol, Motown, I’m excited that’s the record we’re finna push. There’s a bunch of them on the project too that I think have that same strength to live on radio and go make it big as well. I’m elated that’s the record doing well. I love Masego, that’s my brother. I’m happy we’re doing it together for sure.
Talk about your relationship with Masego, I know you guys have been friends for a while.
Since the Soulection guys over there. Joe Kay and Soulection, that’s how I met him. SoundCloud was a big thing back in the day: 2015, 2016 timeframe where you have these artists like Kehlani, Bryson, myself, Ella, a few people had that run on Soundcloud. I was happy to be in that circle for a while. I’d go to different people’s shows.
Masego came to Atlanta one day and I went to his show, we’ve been cool ever since. Everytime I pop up in LA, I pop up on him. For this project, I wanted to see if there was space for him, see if we could get something together. He’s the one who sent me the beat for that, it was off to the races after that. “This is incredible, yeah we gotta do this.” I was fortunate enough that he was gracious enough to let me even have the record, so it worked out.
Best memory from that video shoot?
Oh man, we shot it in the hills. I live in Atlanta, so everything is flat. [laughs] Getting up there was the most fear I’ve had in a long time, trying to get up that hill. Because y’all don’t have guardrails up there. How y’all driving up here with no guardrails? It was terrifying. There’s bumps. One wrong move, your foot hit the gas just a little bit harder, you’re going off the deep end. It’s over for you. I’s terrifying to go up there, but once we got up there it was beautiful. The sight, the view was amazing. We had a great time playing Uno on set, jumping around. I’m happy the way the video came out.
Who won the Uno game?
I think Masego’s manager, Justin. He won. [laughs]
One thing you want fans to get from the project?
It’s been a minute since I’ve put one out so the whole idea behind it, for me at least, always is to put great music out in the atmosphere. To re-insert myself into the conversation of the new, modern day R&B artist, artists that are trying to be really creative with their music. Letting people know that I’m back in a sense. For a while, I’ll put a record out then I’ll go off for a year. Put a record out then go off for a year. Put a record out, go off for 2 years. I’ve never been a very consistent artist so this is me coming into Aura III as I’m here and I’m going to stay. I’m going to continue my best to continue putting out great bodies of work, and not 2 years in between. [laughs]
Talk about your love for art and fashion, and merging all the worlds together with your music.
Those always go hand in hand. Art can be anything that inspires you, that comes to me in different variations and different forms. Art is akin to music because music is inspired by art, and fashion is related to this as well. When you look good, you feel good. When you have the right outfit on, it makes the sets better, the videos better. Everything that comes with the artist, the way you present yourself to the audience, it means a lot. It’s important. Having fun with different colors, Pharell’s been a big inspiration to me all my life. Different things that he puts together has always been something I take inspiration from. At the end of the day, all those things are very important for an artist and the way they present themselves to the world.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
It changes as time goes. Right now I’m in this Varsity jacket vibe where I’m trying to find different Varsity jackets, where I can find them. Very urban/street, that’s the way people present it these days. It’s whatever I think looks cool, whatever color pops out to me I go with. I don’t look to many people for inspiration. Just Pharrell, that’s pretty much it and even then…he said one day in an interview, he said “if it looks good to you, that’s fashion.” That’s always stuck with me. If I like it, I don’t care if anyone else does. If I like it, I’m cool with it. That’s the vibe I’ve been on.
What’re you most excited for this year as the world starts to open back up?
To get back in front of audiences and get back on a stage, whenever that takes place. Before we got on this call, I got a routing for tour this year, it was really exciting to see that. That’s the most exciting part so far, trying to get back in front of people again.
Do you have any goals?
With any artist, you want to be praised for the accolades and the things you’ve been able to accomplish. I’m no different when it comes to that. I want to be appreciated for the art that I present to the world. Whatever shape that comes in, I’m fine with. Even if it’s a tweet, someone saying “thank you for this music,” I’m appreciative. In the same sense, in the same breath, awards and plaques, I pray they come in due time as well.
Anything else that you want to let the people know?
Stream Aura III. Look out for a tour, come to a show.
Oh yeah, you’re a big touring artist.
Yeah, that’s my home. The stage is my home. I love to be on stage, I love to do my thing on stage. I’m excited to get back in front of people and do that again.
What’s your favorite song to perform in a set?
I haven’t done any of the AURA III stuff yet so that’s going to be interesting and great, should be a lot of fun. There’s a lot of songs on this project I can’t wait to do. At this point, I love doing “Needs”. “Bang Your Line” is really fun because people obviously love to sing the hook. The beat cuts out in that part for people to roar that, so it’s always fun doing that, hearing that. I’m really, really excited to perform some of this new stuff.