While chatting with Pink Sweat$ about his latest album Pink Moon, he compares falling in love to both winning the lottery and “walking on a tightrope with sharks at the bottom” while the sun shines brightly above, with the responsibility inherent in the act proving to be a powerful gift and a source of both stress and fear. The eight-track follow-up to his 2021 debut Pink Planet revolves around the Philadelphia native’s own understanding of love, which is a shuffle between peace and chaos, emotional intimacy and physical desire.
“The way the project starts off is very physical,” he says. “‘Pink Moon’ is talking about sexual desires, things that you want to do with somebody, because that's our human instinct. But what happens after that? A lot of times you fall in love, you start feeling like, ‘Dang, I really like them.’ So then you get ‘Midnight River,’ which is like, ‘Tell me it’s love, you’re not just craving my touch.’” Later, the album dives into the metaphysics of love where every muscle movement or blink of an eye feels like a transcendent connection. “It's such an experience to have when you really dive deep into a person and who they are. You want to know why they smile the way they smile. I want to know what pain, what happiness is behind that.”
Since 2018, Pink Sweat$ has been carving out his own route in modern R&B, which is influenced by his upbringing learning music in the church and his gravitation toward compositions that emphasize his sleek vocals. His sound is soft, meditative almost, but it’s his voice that allows for him to transport us to his alternate world. And although he gave us an escape with his own world-building debut album, he’s only getting started—Pink Moon is just another component of his universe.
I love the title of Pink Moon and that concept. I assume it's part of the same universe as Pink Planet.
Pink Planet is creating the universe that we all are gonna hopefully come visit and live in. I had to start creating things around this planet. Throughout time, I'll dive into the details of the cities. I'm starting to build the world musically where it feels like real life. When you step out of your home, you have certain areas where you live that might play a lot of hip-hop; they might play a lot of house music. You might go to another area and you're like, “Yo, this is the pop club.” They’re playing everything that's hot.
“I’m not just a voice, I'm not singing these random words, I'm not getting emailed beats—I'm making these beats. It's actually me putting my DNA into everything that I'm doing.”
Pink Planet didn't have any features on it except for the Kehlani remix of “At My Worst,” and this project is 80 percent collaborations.
It was intentional. I realized that to build any world, you need people—people to come in and see the vision of what you're doing. For so long, I honestly wanted to leave my print on what I discovered. In the space of R&B and pop, I have my own unique vibe going, and I wanted to solidify myself as an artist before I started to incorporate too many outside ideas. That way, when people see me for the first time it might be through a Kehlani feature, but then when they actually go and click on my catalog they feel late to the party.
Pink Moon is mostly about your own understanding and definition of love. What I admire about the project is that it really touches on physical desire as well as emotional intimacy, and then even having love for your enemies in a way. How did you structure your definition of love to fit the music?
I'm a naturally creative person. I’m not just a voice, I'm not singing these random words, I'm not getting emailed beats—I'm making these beats. It's actually me putting my DNA into everything that I'm doing. So when I think about love, I'm actually living. I feel like life is a big contradiction: Love is both peace and chaos; you're constantly at war with yourself while simultaneously at peace. And the words don't always do it justice. Life becomes really hard for most of us because we're trying to pinpoint, “What is love?” Love is everything, baby. It’s chaos and it’s peace. It’s doubt and it’s confidence. It's a constant growing and sharpening of yourself and others around you. I wanted this project to articulate that.
It’s kind of what you said about the physicality part of it and emotional intelligence. One, because a lot of guys—and not just guys, but I'm speaking from a heterosexual male perspective—don't really get that all the time. We don't learn that the physicality…there’s a limit on that. When you first meet somebody, y'all got a physical connection. But at what point does it become spiritual? At what point do you actually care about this person's soul, their heart, about their well-being on this planet? It's highly important to engage in both.
“Life becomes really hard for most of us because we're trying to pinpoint, ‘What is love?’ Love is everything, baby. It’s chaos and it’s peace. It’s doubt and it’s confidence. It's a constant growing and sharpening of yourself and others around you. I wanted this project to articulate that.”
Is that self-awareness and empathy an innate quality, or is that something you had to learn through your own experiences?
I had to learn that through my own experience. It’s both though—self-awareness and learning. Growing up, there’s so many things that are being taught to you subliminally. People are saying things to you that make you feel like, “This is who I'm supposed to be.” And I realized over time that I’m my mother's desire, and I’m my father's failures: My mom is unconsciously trying to develop me into the man that she wished my dad was, and my dad is always trying to polish me to skip over his failures. I realized that my dad, when I was growing up, didn't have a lot of emotional intelligence and wasn't super well off financially, either. So I found myself always feeling very guilty if I didn't have money because my mom wanted me to be a provider. She wanted to be able to depend on me, as if I was my dad. And my father was trying to raise me hard, because he wanted me to not make the same mistakes as him.
So when all of this ties in, how it gets to the love portion, it’s deep. Because a lot of us treat our partners the way that we saw our parents treating each other—or we run all the way opposite. It's not usually a healthy balance, because we don't know how to balance. Over time you find that balance. I had to sit down and understand that my parents weren't wrong. They're trying to make a better system out of what they created. They created a child, and they're trying to weed out all the bad things that they see in themselves. But in turn, it takes me to do the soul-searching to understand how to be a better person on this planet and not take those things that they were trying to teach me as negative.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Spiritual.” I was really struck by the lyric: “Don't know what love feels like / But I hope it's not a lie.” It's really interesting that you chose to close the album with that song.
I had to end it that way because I didn't want to leave people on a cliffhanger as far as how you actually feel when you’re in love. Especially if you come from a broken home. My parents are divorced, so I always struggled with how it creates a war internally because these technically are two sides of you. Hypothetically, if your mom's like, “Your dad's a piece of shit,” that's like saying I'm a piece of shit because y'all two pieces of shit got together and made me. Sometimes parents don’t think, they react. They're not thinking consciously about what’s happening in the soul of a child. You can't say things like that. Being with my fianceé now, we both learned a lot about the actual spirituality behind two bodies connecting.
You become vulnerable. Honestly, that was a phrase that I used a lot when my girl was like, “I really don't know what love is, for real.” Even with my parents, I had to develop and understand what love was with them. I always felt like I was an inconvenience to the world. My parents had no plans for me, and these are the first people you see when you’re born. If they don’t have any plans for me, well, damn, what’s the world gonna have for me? With my girl, she accepts me in all of those phases and vice versa. We argue, we have disagreements. But at the end of all that, it’s acceptance. This is the person that I choose to love. So whatever the things that come with that, hell or heaven, I'mma rock with you, because this is what I'm supposed to do. FL