By Mark Braboy
If the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the country of anything, it’s that love still makes a difference. It’s what West Philadelphia’s own Pink Sweat$ has been demonstrating while residing in the capital of country music, Nashville.
Since 2020, the “At My Worst” singer has been giving back to his native city by donating over $30,000 to local organizations that provide food for the homeless. And by his account, part of what motivated him was going through those hard times himself.
“At one point, I got evicted from my home. I've been through a lot, dealing with the music industry, so it's always thinking, like, why were things when I was in those positions that I needed? And trying to do that,” he tells MTV News.
While working on his dreamy and sentimental debut album, Pink Planet, out today (February 12), the man born David Bowden still sees himself as the same as the everyday people affected the most by the pandemic. As a way of paying it forward, he and his partner even pay for the groceries of customers behind them while out shopping. “When I used to be in lines and I used to have like $3 in my account, I used to be hoping like, dang, hoping for this person to turn around and be like, 'Yo, you want me to get that for you?'”
That type of inclusive love is what Pink Sweat$ looks to musically recreate on Pink Planet: a world for all people, regardless of age, gender, background, and sexuality. “I'm making this world for people who don't fit in on earth,” he explains.
MTV News joined Pink Sweat$ during a busy day in Nashville as he spoke to us via Zoom en route to his condo. He talked about his new album, how he became part of a heartwarming proposal around Christmastime, why music about love still matters, and more.
MTV News: You sang at somebody's proposal back in December. Can you tell me the story of how that came about?
Pink Sweat$: There was a gentleman who was working with an artist that I was working with, and I guess his girl, she was listening to my song a lot. And we had never met. But the artist, he found out that she was working with me, and he's like, "Yo, I'm about to propose to my girl. She'd been listening to this song every day, and this can't be a coincidence." And he was just like, "Bro, could you please help me surprise my girl? I want to propose," and he kind of broke down the setup.
And at first, I was kind of on edge because of COVID and everything. Then, it kind of touched my heart, and I'm like, you know what, that's my whole thing. I'm all about love. And at the end of the day, I want to be a part of somebody's memory, and what better time to do it than right now? He chose to propose right now in chaos in the world. To me, that meant something special.
MTV News: Do you see yourself, I guess down the line, getting married to that somebody one day, and do you see yourself settling in Nashville?
Pink Sweat$: Yeah, for sure. And do I see myself settling in Nashville? I don't know. My mentality has always been... I like to travel, so I could see myself getting a house somewhere, but I don't think I'll be there that much. I kind of want to see as much of the world as I can. I want to move to different countries, rally at one point still while I don't have kids, you know what I mean?
MTV News: Where would you want to move?
Pink Sweat$: I would want to move to Thailand for a year or so, just to see what it's like to live in another country, and I got a big fan base in Asia, so I want to kind of just see what places are like, even if it's just for like five, six months or something. And then just move from place to place, you know what I mean? Plus, I never went to college either. Some of my friends, when they went to college, they got to study abroad and things like that, so this is my version of studying abroad.
MTV News: Last year, you performed "At Your Worst" for Lion's Den, and considering how you couldn't tour normally, what did that mean to you?
Pink Sweat$: Just performing in general for an intimate setting, it took me back to when I first stepped onstage as Pink Sweat$. It was butterflies, but it was like a sense of belonging. I felt like I found my place in all of this: music and everything. It just all started to make sense. It always just takes me back to that moment where it's like, yo, this is cool. I have a voice. I always wanted a voice. I always felt like I had a lot to say and music gave me a platform to say it.
MTV News: Another place we hope to get to travel this year is Pink Planet. What's the meaning behind the title?
Pink Sweat$: It’s me tapping into my childhood and a lot of the things, like growing up in the inner city, feeling like you don't have a voice, and just having a broad imagination, and partly, it's escapism. Sometimes the world that we live in isn't always so beautiful. It isn't always so friendly. It isn't always so accepting. So, it's like, I wanted to create a place mentally, via your ears, where you can go there and feel like, "Yo, I'm somewhere else. I just hopped on a flight to the Pink Planet and I feel accepted here. I feel loved. I feel understood."
MTV News: How is this world going to sound compared to what you did on The Prelude tape that you came up with?
Pink Sweat$: The way I explain it is: The whole album together is the journey and the destination. The Prelude was just the journey. You hop on a flight, right? Let's say you've never been to Bora Bora. You hop on a plane to get there. So, the plane ride is The Prelude, but the full album, Pink Planet, that's the arrival. You get to experience the food, the culture, you get to feel like, "Yo, what is Pink Planet about?" You're like, "Oh man, it seems like it's about love. It's about acceptance. It's about big, big dreams. It's about taking that leap of faith, whatever it is in your life and however that connects to you.”
You need love. You need affection. You need to feel those things day to day, both men and women, and nonbinary people. That's what makes people happy. And especially for Black men, it's like, our society, we don't really bask in the idea of love, and it's like happiness doing harm to people. The portrayal, at least. That's not the reality though. Happiness is seeing somebody doing their thing and you're like, "Dang, man. That's so cool. I can't wait til one day I could do that. Or if I never get to do that, I'm happy for you." And I feel like Pink Planet is just all-encompassing.
MTV News: What are your plans for Valentine's Day?
Pink Sweat$: Probably working, man. I never really celebrated my birthday, honestly. As an adult, at least. When you're a kid, it's cute. Girls give you little sweethearts and cards. But as an adult, my birthday gift is a success. It's like, I want to be able to do more things for people, like be able to do stuff for my family. I might take a trip though, but it won't be all my birthday. Probably be like the month after because of the album.
MTV News: Why does music about love and romance matter, during the pandemic?
Pink Sweat$: It's essential. I think for a while in our climate, we've kind of run away from it, where it's like it's all about the coolness. It's all about the swag. Those are stories, and it's a part of something, but at the end of the day, all of the dealers, they cuddled up with a shorty. They in love with somebody. No matter what they say in the song, there's some girl out there, they caught up. No matter your mother, your father, somehow you got here. At the end of the day, whoever you're with, it's important for them to feel a certain way.