To describe singer/songwriter, David Bowden, better known as Pink Sweat$, as an R&B sensation only covers a piece of his artistry. The West Philadelphia native whose breakout single, “Honesty,” has earned more than 400 million worldwide streams, manipulates multiple genres ranging from pop to soul, to EDM. He unabashedly reps love with his endearing lyrics and melismatic sound, fully owning his birthright as a Valentine’s Day baby. His latest release, The Prelude showcases the first half of his highly awaited debut album, Pink Planet including his latest ballad, “17” and the uber slick “Icy.” With a playlist that features Whitney Houston and Donny Hathaway, Sweat$ has a sound that revives true romance, daring us to squash our egos.
“We [are] always trying to be cool when sometimes you just need to be you. Like, you just were crying in the bedroom with a girl saying, ‘I love you.’ Then you were outside talking about, ‘Dang all bitches.’ No, that’s not you all the time. Some people get down like that but, me, I don’t want to do that,” he said during a phone chat.
Since his 2018 debut EP, Volume 1, the 28-year-old crooner has shined on various collaborations and projects such as the soundtrack for HBO’s hit series “Insecure,” solidifying his spot in pop culture history. This falls in line with his intentional focus on creating a legacy that will span future generations.
“I want to be timeless. To me, that’s extremely, super important, especially to the Black cause, because that’s our equity. That’s the one thing that we have,” he explains. “Everybody has their thing culturally. Some people have convenience stores, we’ve got music. At the end of the day, if I’m not in this to pass that down to my children’s children, then I feel like I’m selfish and I’m wasting my time. I should just do something else.”
Read ThisIsRnB’s exclusive interview with Pink Sweat$ as he shares insight about The Prelude and Pink Planet, why he’s not a traditional R&B artist, the biggest misconception about him, his surprising bucket list pick and more.
TIRNB: Your sound reminds me of a new era, old soul. That first track, “Give It To Me,” sounds like the Bee Gees. It’s like a retro soul, disco type sound. I don’t know how to describe it. I love what you’re doing, how you’re creating your own lane.
Pink Sweat$: I’m one of those people where I am pro creative. I’m also on the line of, you know, there’s nothing really new under the sun. There only a certain amount of keys on a piano, it’s only a certain amount of things you can do. So in that aspect, I’m creating my lane for who I am, but I’m also borrowing and being inspired by those before me. And just trying to take it to the next level in a different form. Like me, I wear pink, I don’t have a six-pack — I’m me.
TIRNB: You’re a sexy teddy bear, huh?
P$: Yeah, you feel me; we out here. Black people come in all different sizes, shapes, emotional levels. So I just want to be a part of showing my side. People can look at a song, a commercial, whatever, and be like, ‘Dang, that guy reminds me of myself. I might not be the exact same size as him.’ I don’t fit in with what people say is the status quo of an R&B star.
The teddy bear thing is just something that I embrace. When I was younger, I was always the kid people felt like I shouldn’t be doing any of this stuff I’m doing. I was cool to the degree where people knew who I was. A lot of people are jealous, they don’t understand like, ‘He doesn’t have a thick skin, why he so comfortable in his skin? He got this stomach, he’s happy, he’s bubbly, girls like him. He always seems like he’s on the up and up mentally, I don’t get it.’ So for me, it was just one of those things where I had to embrace that side of me. I would battle growing up where I was like, cool, I know these girls like me, but I still want love from everybody. For me, I feel like I’m creating this space [for] when people encounter me, they’ll let their guard down.
TIRNB: Let’s talk about the creative process of Pink Planet. I love how it just flows like a storybook. You’re singing, songwriting and playing instruments as well.
P$: So with instrumentation, I like to set the premise that I’m not a purist when it comes to being a musician at everything that I do. When it comes to being a producer, I just have the ability to get the job done. I have footage of me making “17,” like 3 or 4 years ago. I have footage of me playing the guitar, playing the drums, but I don’t play guitar. I just know I have a gift that I can understand things for the time that I need to get it done. So it’s like, you’ll see me playing the guitar, but I can’t play that right now, like the same way. I don’t have the skill-set, but I have the feeling and the natural God-given talents that allow me to produce and make music with instruments. It’s complicated to explain but it’s something to see because it’s different.
TIRNB: The past year has been a whirlwind as far as you coming into the public eye. YouTube’s “Artist on the Rise,” Apple’s Artist “Up Next,” BET’s Amplified Artist, Pandora’s “Artist to Know,” and a nomination for Best New Artist at the 2019 Soul Train Awards. Describe some of the emotions and thoughts you’ve gone through, or are going through with all of these accolades.
P$: I feel grateful in the sense that I got to transition my life. I was a pure creator, but I only wanted to make music. Now I can contribute back to my culture at the right time. I just feel super grateful that I was able to do that because a lot of people don’t get to come from behind the scenes and execute a vision to their liking. So for me being able to do that and knowing that I had this specific goal and vision for Black music, very particularly, it’s like, alright, now that I’m getting these accolades, it’s given me more fuel and power to feel like, ooh, okay, we’re getting close.
I want to create value again for the Black artist and the Black singer because a lot of times, a lot of the light goes to the rappers, as it should. I’m not one of those who hate; I don’t hate anything. I’ve made all the music on my album. I wrote every single lyric and I produced on every track. Every track is me playing something. So it’s like, there has to be a system of protection and giving towards those things because we’ve got to preserve them. It’s like an endangered species. We’ve got to protect this animal or this thing because it’s going extinct.
Sometimes you be going through some shit and then you put on the right song and that shit just makes you feel better. You’ve got to protect those people. You’ve got to protect those things that are allowing it to happen. When are you going to drop another album? How are you going to drop another album? You don’t have any money. You don’t have any resources. Protect and fund these things. Be intentional about your efforts.
TIRNB: “Not Alright” is apropos for the recent re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Were there already plans to include it on The Prelude? Explain when you say, “Smokin’ on my own/Mama said go getcha life together/Got taps all on my phone/Guess it’s time for me to face the weather.”
P$: I already had that song. The thing about me is, when you’re always present or when you make an effort to be present, you don’t ever have to play catch up. I know my existence on this planet and I understand the struggles and fights that I’ve had. I like to live in the moment and when I wrote that song, I was just speaking on my growth in my journey. Like from how I was raised, to the experiences I’ve had and that was just a byproduct. I was thinking about being young. I always felt like I had to be a man too early so, I paint the picture that it feels like I’m alone sometimes.
It’s like ‘smoking on my own;’ smoking is typically a social thing. You can with your homies, you pass the thing. When you’re smoking on your own, that paints a picture that he’s by himself, something could be wrong. Something could be right, but we don’t really know why is he by himself. Then ‘my mama said, I got to get my life together.’ My mom literally told me that, she kicked me out the crib, pretty much. Like yo, you a boy. Like you got to get your life together. I felt a little helpless because I’m 19 in age. … I’m really not prepared for this life. I’m also feeling like I’m not a bad kid.
‘Taps on my phone.’ That was more like a social line where it’s like a lot of times people complain about their lives, but you’re on your phone all the time. Your phone is literally a tap. Like you say something too many times too loud right now you with your friends, and you go on your phone, all of a sudden that shit is marketing to you. Now you’re on your phone even anymore because now you’re digging it. You’re about to buy some Nikes and then while you’re buying the Nikes, you said something about a product, so then they sold that to you. So now you look up, it’s 19 hours later and you’re like, dang, I haven’t accomplished anything.
Then, the ‘face the weather’ part ties it all in that sense because it’s like my mom saying, I got to get my life together. Then the taps on my phone, these are both things that are on different sides of the spectrum. One of the things I can control, one of these things I can’t. At the end of the day, I still got to go outside and face all of these things, regardless. It’s like the weatherman says it’s going to rain. It’s not your fault it’s going rain, but you still got to face it. Do I have an umbrella? No. Oh, I still got to get to work. I still got to get from point A to B. You can’t run from life because it’s coming for you regardless. My thing was just trying to put that out there message wise. Especially being Black in America, some things we didn’t cause, but I believe that regardless, I have to win. I don’t care what you put in front of me, I don’t care what systemic pressures, I’m never going to deny that they exist, but they won’t stop me.
TIRNB: Is there any ideal window of when the rest of Pink Planet will drop?
P$: I want people to dissect this [The Prelude]. I will say it is done already. It’s completely done and I just want people to be able to dissect what I do because I’m not necessarily one thing. As far as an artist, I’m a creator, I’m a writer first. So at the end of the day, I write all genres and I incorporate different things into each song that I create. So like how you said, how it reminds you of a lot of these past artists, but at the same time, I’m competing to go as big as possible. So it’s like with the art that I’m trying to create, I’m not aiming to stay in the space of R&B the category.
TIRNB: Tell us something about you that will surprise people, what’s on your bucket list?
P$: I always had this dream of renting a big ass RV and taking all my friends and like half a million dollars of my own money. Just traveling through America and going to impoverished neighborhoods and directly helping people, like a giving tour. Then go on the road and literally stop in Compton and Philly and Chicago, Detroit, all these places where people would talk bad and down on.
I want to go there and I want to go to the local grocery stores and I want to watch people stand in line. I want to say ‘Today, you’re good, here’s something to go home with” I just want to do that; it is in my heart to do. I want to do that so badly. It seems like a lot of times it’s so easy when you start getting money to just give to a foundation that they may have on a list. A lot of times these foundations don’t be doing right. People don’t like to talk about it, but at the end of the day, it’s facts. There should be no American hunger, all the money that people be donating.
TIRNB: What is the biggest misconception about you as a creative?
P$: I feel like people are used to a certain thing and they don’t know where to put me because it’s like, yo, he literally can do anything at a high level, but he’s Black. The world is not used to that.
The Prelude is available now on all digital streaming platforms, and watch ‘Icy’ below.