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Fashions New Favorite R&B Artist

 The Canadian R&B artist Alex Fleming, who records under the moniker Black Atlass, has quietly made a place for himself in the fashion world — at just 22. Already, his voice has featured prominently in both a Saint Laurent campaign and Action Bronson track, and his stony visage (not unlike a young Jean-Paul Belmondo) appeared front-row at a Dior Homme show in Paris. He was first approached as a teenager by the Louis Vuitton team, who asked to use his song “Paris” for an ad when he was still in high school. “It was just really inspiring and exciting — the first of anything of that kind that had happened,” Fleming says. “Having those elements come about at the beginning of my career really opened my eyes to this whole other creative world.” Fleming’s fascination with fashion has come to saturate his aesthetic, including his videos, which have been directed by big-name photographers such as Kenneth Cappello and Yoann Lemoine (a.k.a. Woodkid), with whom Fleming has toured. “I want to keep growing and blending together with everything else that I do,” he says.

Black Atlass’s upcoming full-length album, “Haunted Paradise,” set to drop this summer via Fool’s Gold, draws on Fleming’s first experiences in Los Angeles, as well as a trip he took to Jamaica with his girlfriend last Christmas. “You’re trying to make it in this really beautiful place,” he says. “But there are so many darker things going on behind the scenes.” Self-produced, the album explores a Southern California that is both sinister and sensuous, with material that recalls Bret Easton Ellis’s prep-school anhedonia and Drake’s cheerless Calabasas bangers. As Fleming puts it, the album is “the story of the struggle between the hidden vices that a place so beautiful can hold, and trying to maintain a pureness on your journey through that place.”

“Island Love,” which can be heard here for the first time, is full of contradictions — both party and comedown, all at once. “You start to see the struggles of different people that move to this really beautiful place,” he says, describing his album as telling the imagined stories of fellow Los Angeles strivers. For the album’s sound, Black Atlass drew heavily on ’90s alt rock, as well as the pop and R&B that was found on his first EP. “I started getting a lot more into ’90s acoustic rock like Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Radiohead,” Fleming says. “It was sort of mixing those elements with something a bit more upbeat and a bit more, I guess, island-heavy — that’s sort of where that Jamaican influence came through.”

Later this year, Fleming is also set to star in another campaign for one of fashion’s biggest names, though he’s not ready to reveal who just yet. It’s another instance of Fleming having it both ways — or every way — and that’s the point. “I’ve always wanted,” he says, “to be somewhat of a Renaissance artist.”

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