Don’t Tell Me to Make R&B Because I’m Black: Gay Singer Vincint on Carving a Path in Pop

"Since I was like five, I listened to Celine Dion 'til I couldn't anymore."

“Go for it. You don’t know what’s going to happen unless you give it your all. If you try and you fail, that’s fine, but don’t let opportunities slip away because you’re afraid that it may not work out.” Words to live by from singer-songwriter Vincint whose latest song, “Mine,” is about just that.

The vocal powerhouse made his way to the national stage when he became a finalist on The Four, after leaving American Idol during Hollywood week to take the opportunity. A year later, the pop singer has stepped out and released some impressive bops of his own that continue to wow his growing fanbase.

Black and openly gay, Vincint is creating and making space for himself and others in spaces he would otherwise be denied or told he couldn’t succeed in. A force to be reckoned with, Vincint doesn’t find himself inhibited by what others believe he can’t or shouldn’t do. The singer sat down with NewNowNext to talk about his songwriting, ambitions, and his plans for the future.

“Mine” is an absolute bop. Where did you draw the inspiration from?

There wasn’t a person in particular. I have just noticed that time and time again through friends that they sort of let opportunities that involve being in love and being with someone slip away from them out of fear by not going for it. I wanted to put that in song for where I can say: “Okay, don’t let that person walk away because the timing may be bad or you may be rejected. Just tell them that you want them to be yours and that’s it.”

You write all your own songs. Do you always write from a place that’s observational or introspective? Maybe both?

I think it’s very much a bit of both. I can’t write a song that I can’t relate to. I’ve had moments in my life where “Mine” definitely relates to me, but I’m so observational with my friends and people around me that I take a lot of what I see and use that. My friends probably don’t love that so much, because I’m writing about their lives, but it’s never derogatory. It’s always in a positive way.

As a songwriter, what was the first time that you heard songwriting that really wowed you?

It had to be when I heard the song “When It Don’t Come Easy” by Patty Griffin. It’s one of the most beautiful love songs. She talks about how when everything else doesn’t seem like it’s working out, I will be there. I thought it was one of the most elegant ways to say “I love you and won’t give up on you.” It will make you cry. Brace yourself.

Have you always felt comfortable writing music that is completely expressive of your sexuality and who you are?

Always. The thing about me is, that I’m a little strange in the sense that it never dawned on me that who I was or that being an outsider was strange. I just thought who I was was fine. Of course we all live in a world where we are constantly being told that who we are is wrong and the way we live is bad. I just brush it off my shoulder because I think it’s bullshit. I don’t want to let other people’s opinions of who I am and the way I live my life to disrupt what I do and the way that I create my art.

As far as creativity goes and creating art in ways that people would say isn’t for you, what would you want other people interested in it to know?

I would want to say to anyone and especially younger queer black boys who want to be pop stars, you can write whatever you want to. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is or what you look like. You can make whatever you want to. There’s no box. You don’t need to listen to people telling you otherwise. You’ll sleep better living that way, and people will respect you for it.

What gift has living that way given you?

It’s given me freedom. It has given me the opportunity to be honest with myself and to do what I like. I was told for the longest time that I had to make R&B music because I’m black. And I was like, “I don’t like R&B, I don’t wanna make R&B. I wanna make pop music.” Since I was like five, I listened to Celine Dion ’til I couldn’t anymore. I listened to Robyn and Madonna and Bjork. That’s who I love to listen to and, for me, it gave me such a freedom to understand what I wanted and who I wanted to be. As long as it was authentic, that’s all that mattered.

It gave me confidence, like body armor, to navigate the [LGBTQ] community. Being black and gay, we’re like a sub-level of the community, but what I understand is that I don’t have to feel that way just because people try and treat me that way.

I love a no-nonsense girl. What’s next for you?

Right now, I’m recording my EP. It’s scheduled to come out in February. I’ve already recorded about 19 songs, so some cuts are gonna need to be made. I’m very excited. We’re doing the EP, videos, and the whole works.

Phillip Henry is a writer, comedian, advocate, and performer in New York City. His writing can be seen in various publications including Teen Vogue, OUT and Mic. He hosts a weekly LGBTQ comedy variety show The Tea Party in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan.