Alexandria, Louisiana based producer Afro Sensei just released his debut album "After Hours", an eight-track collection of really DOPE Deep House music; the set includes 'Sanctuary', a DOPECAUSEWESAID staff favorite. We connected with Afro Sensei for this interview to get more insight into "After Hours", specifically, what he's most proud of with this release, his favorite song on the album, how he decided which songs made the cut and much more. After reading our exclusive Q&A with Afro Sensei, be sure to stream/download the album below.
Tell us about the "After Hours" album title; what's the significance behind that name?
After Hours really sums up the album both musically and conceptually. When you think of the words after hours, for me at least, it immediately brings to mind late night clubs and bars, and the music you typically hear is a lot of the music that's on the album, whether that's deep or tech house, garage, nudisco, trap and hip hop/R&B. And people usually are up to certain activities during after hours, whether that's dancing or hanging out or other, more horizontal things:).
For those who are unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe it to them and why should they stream/download "After Hours" as soon as they finish reading this interview?
Conceptually the tracks that contain lyrics, like "Lazarus," or "Sanctuary," tell various stories and describe various characters that exist in the 'After Hours' world. "Lazarus" for instance, is told in first person through the mind of someone who's struggling throw off influences, whether that's religion or toxic relationships or just your everyday headaches, that are suffocating their true identity. However in "Sanctuary," I take on the role of instigator, someone pushing people to transcend their own fears or insecurities and lose themselves in the music. I was raised in a pretty religious environment, and lyrically, both of those songs make use of a lot religious imagery and reference different Christian sayings and gospel lyrics I heard growing up. In "Lazarus" I turn those references on their head to critique religion, in particular the hold it has had on the black community, while on "Sanctuary," I use them as metaphors for the power of music and the dancefloor. Visually I wanted to act out the themes as well, so that's why I went to the bandages, crucifix and slavery imagery for "Lazarus," and the sangoma visuals for "Sanctuary," which in traditional African voodoo serves as a healer.
On another track, "Parking Lot Kingpin," which will probably be the next single, I'm playing the sarcastic, omniscient observer, telling the stories of two individuals that populate the parking lot. Which, if you've ever hung out in the parking of a nightclub, you know you'll run into some interesting characters. Or become one yourself.
I would describe my sound as definitely rooted in house--that late 80's, 90's house sound like Frankie Knuckles, Kerri Chandler, Masters at Work. Of course Daft Punk was a big influence, along with Cadence Weapon and stuff coming out New York and Miami, like Holy Ghost!, AVAN LAVA and Afrobeta. I love the classic disco stuff as well, like Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder, Chic. Of course, growing up in the South, hip hop, especially bounce and the trap sound out of Atlanta also influenced me as well, so that crops up on tracks like "Middernag" and "Omega." I love R&B and synthpop as well, which I think comes across in "Sensei Interlude" and "Refuge."
Someone should download/stream After Hours because I think it's a really cohesive album sonically and lyrically, a good blend of club tracks and more laid back cuts. Plus it's their favorite price--FREE.
How did you decide which songs made it onto this album? What will you do with the tracks that didn't?
It was really about which tracks most fit the flow and the concept of the album. Originally I was going to open the album with an instrumental track instead of "Lazarus," just a super bass-heavy cut with big house chords, but after I finished "Lazarus" and "Sanctuary," and the album really started to take shape, it really didn't fit. Another track that didn't make the cut was an ambient, Drake-influenced kinda of track that I had lyrics written for, but didn't feel was dynamic enough production-wise. Then there was a really 90's-style R&B track I was tinkering with--think Jodeci, H-Town, that whole era--and the production was solid, but in the end it really didn't seem right for me. I'll probably end up polishing those tracks and either giving them to other people or using them for a future EP or album. I sat on the instrumental for "Refuge" for at least year before I knew what to do with it, so you never know.
What are you most proud of with "After Hours"?
First off, I'm most proud that I finished it lol. I don't have a producing or songwriting partner or a band, so everything--the composing, arranging, lyrics, mixing, mastering--had to come from me. Aside from that, I'm most proud that it feels like a cohesive collection of songs, not just a variety pack of "here's this kind of track, here's this latest trend." Beyond that, I'm happy the visuals are in sync with the music.
This may be a tough question to answer but what's your favorite song on the album? And why?
Ugh, don't make me choose between my children lol. If I had to pick one, it would be "Refuge," probably because its message is really straightforward and to the point. On the other tracks with vocals, I'm taking on these different personas and striking different poses--to paraphrase her indomitable majesty Madonna--and while I love those songs, I really feel I tapped into something more intimate and emotional with "Refuge."