Record of the Week: Aaron Frazer’s ‘Into the Blue’

Aaron Frazer fell in love with soul music dancing around his living room to Michael Jackson playing on the turntable as a kid. But, in a way, his love of soul amplified thanks to hip-hop and the first CD he ever owned, Will Smith’s 1997 album Big Willie Style.

Frazer got a soul education at the age of nine listening to the interpolation of “Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers, Smith’s “Men in Black” rap to Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots,” the George Benson sample on “Miami,” and the biggest song on the record “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” a melody taken from Sister Sledge’s “He’s the Greatest Dancer.”

Studying classic hip-hop records helped Frazer develop his instrumentation through the years and some of that hip hop philosophy can be heard on his second solo album Into the Blue.

“It’s always been implicit in the music that I make, but I think on this record, it’s clicks towards forefronting that influence,” Frazer said. “I think hip-hop from its very beginnings was about taking disparate elements and bringing them together. Here’s a drum break from one record, a bassline from another record. Here’s a guitar from another record, and sometimes completely different genres. I think that when you incorporate that into your approach, you can move between these different styles with hip-hop as this common thread. Of course, this album is not a hip-hop album, but I think it’s in there in the philosophy and it’s in there in some of the production techniques.”

On his debut album, Introducing…, Frazer enlisted the help of Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. On Into the Blue he connects with Alex Goose, who has worked with the likes of Vince Staples, BROCKHAMPTON, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib just to name a few. Although the production techniques have a hip-hop influence, Frazer maintains that throwback soul and smooth falsetto he has developed over the years.

Into the Blue started the first two months of 2022,” Frazer said. “I had linked up with Alex, who I had found back in 2010 on DatPiff, shout out to one of the greatest mixtape websites. He had just put out instrumentals with Jay-Z a capellas on them that Jay-Z didn’t use for Blueprint 3. Alex put them out as Blueprint 3 Outtakes, and I found that mixtape. Fast-forward to 2018, and I just sent a message like, ‘Yo, I know this was a while ago, but I loved this mixtape,’ and we became friends from there. In 2022, I came out to Los Angeles just to work for a couple months, and that’s when we started writing the instrumentals, but no lyrics yet. Then I toured with Durand Jones and the Indications for the rest of the year. March of 2023, I came back out to LA to move officially and that’s when we started working on the songs.”

Frazer says this is the clearest portrait of who he is as an artist, and lyrically dealing with grief, loneliness, and searching for healing. From a breakup to his move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, he illustrates that move with a spaghetti western influence on the album’s title track.

“When you travel west, there’s a whole lot of empty space between New York and LA,” Frazer said. “There’s amazing cities all across the country, but in between those amazing cities, there’s just a lot of space, a lot of time to think and it definitely put me in certain headspace making that journey. Being in a place in my life with so many different life transitions, a new city without my friends and my community in New York, it was the end of a long relationship. My band was taking a year to rest, so it was like all these structures were pulled out from under me and landing in a new city. It felt like this big, lonely, empty space, but also felt full of possibility. I think that made me feel like these images of a cowboy, riding with rain pouring off the front of his black Stetson. He’s in this large, lonely place, but the horizon also represents a lot of possibility.”

Aaron Frazer also shared some thoughts on tracks on the album Into the Blue ahead of its release this Friday.

“Thinking of You”

The opening track on the album starts off with a traditional soul track with a bed of strings while the artists talks to the audience — or, in this case, the subject of the song.

“I love that opening track, talking is like a lost feature on records,” Frazer said. “I feel like even back to the ’40s, I think about the Ink Spots. Every song they’d have who I call ‘the low boy.’ Where he would go, ‘Baby, I don’t want to set the world on fire.’ It’s just like in the middle of the song and it’s amazing. Honestly, it definitely feels like I’m talking to the audience, but in truth, I was talking directly to my ex on that one.”

“Fly Away”

Here’s a song where Frazer taps into ’90s R&B music with a beat that would make Raphael Saadiq and Tony! Toni! Toné! proud, taking a sample from ’90s R&B group Hi-Five.

“When Mary J. Blige blew up, I feel like what she was doing was taking ’70s soul samples and singing this ’90s R&B approach over it,” Frazer said. “So here I’m using the same ingredients, but kind of flipping the ratio. I think the instrumental is very ’90s R&B, but I’m still somebody who’s rooted in that ’70s soul vocal tradition. It’s absolutely my tribute to ’90s R&B, SWV, Tony! Toni! Toné!. It’s just a summertime jam. Weirdly, with that one, I had written the vocals and the melody with Lydia Kitto from Jungle, who I wrote a couple of different songs on this album with. Goose had this instrumental that he had created, and he was like, ‘Yo, what do you think of this?’ And it happened to have the same chords as the song that we wrote, so we just combined them. It was funny to see his face because he had no idea we had a whole song ready, and all of a sudden we’re singing a finished song overtop its instrumental. It just fit together like that.”


“I think working from drums first has been interesting, because it kind of puts you in a certain frame of mind, a certain paradigm musically,” Frazer said. “I started with the tambourine and built out the drums from there. I picked up a bass, I’m playing bass on that record, which I’m very proud of because I think that’s my only bass credit I ever got until now. The bass line came next and it just started to feel like a chase scene to me, but I didn’t want it to be so literal. I feel like karma is something that comes back on you, and it’s something that everybody can relate to in one form or another.”


An example of the hip-hop influence on the production side of the record including a drum break that was used by Drake on his track “Hotline Bling” for Frazer’s English and Spanish duet.

“Dime means ‘tell me’ in Spanish,” Frazer said. “That song started with the drum machine that a lot of people might associate with Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling,’ which is actually Timmy Thomas. We started with that drum machine, and it put me in that Tropicalia infused frame of mind. So I was writing with a co-writer, Sophia La Fuente, who is from Spain and is an amazing writer in Spanish. I knew I wanted to have a Spanish-speaking artist on there, so I enlisted the help of Cancamusa, who is a fellow singing drummer, from Chile.”

“Time Will Tell”

Frazer gives a shout-out to sad songs you can dance to and talks about the inspiration behind the record:

“I’m a very private person, it’s an interesting time to be a private person and try to do music because I think there’s a certain level, especially on the internet, of what people want you to share and all that stuff,” Frazer said. “I was going through a breakup in that aftermath of a breakup when I was writing this record. I think sometimes when something ends, there is a sense of ‘was it for the best or not? Could it have been a mistake or whatever?’ This frustration of you can’t know. In life you just make your best decisions and then live with them.”