“Immeasurable, un-fuck-wit-able, caring, Intelligent, and compassionate”—a few adjectives LeBaron Ahmon, formally known as Baron Amato, feels describes him best. A man of many talents, the self-published poet switches hats between actor, musician, writer, and production gawd. The Mobil, Alabama native, now a New Orleans resident, attributes his upbringing to molding who he is, but it was the colorful culture of NOLA that nurtured his creative talent, and provided him with a budding career.
I was briefly introduced to LeBaron during the Urban World Film Fest after party. Through the blinding darkness, loud music, and intoxicated bodies bumping against each other freely, I was led over to a slim man, who happened to be dancing without a care in the world. The rising actor was in New York attending the festival as talent; he was starring in a short film alongside actress Rutina Wesley, which is a big damn deal; the film was directed by his kinfolk, Cierra Glaude. As I observed him, drink in hand, he leaned in to introduce himself, followed by the embrace of a hug, as if we were old friends. In that moment, I was experiencing the physical manifestation of black boy joy; a canny grin plastered on his face like the world belonged to him. “What’s your Instagram?” I strained to hear, as he strained to speak over the booming music in the bar. So there I was, smiling awkwardly at a stranger, passing him my phone for his info, the whole time thinking his name was Brandon.
He disappeared into the crowd, and I thought nothing more of our encounter. After exchanging a few Instagram message, we found ourselves making loose plans to hang out. “Let’s meet up”, is practically social vomit during small talk; a convenient reason to exit a conversation, but this time it lead to an unexpected give-and-take of iron sharpening energy for another black creator’s vision; that vision was mines. This was the beginning of finding out more about the mellow mannered Nola resident. As we stood in line, I listened to his warm voice that carried great energy exclaim that Girls Trip was the best project he had worked on thus far in his production career. I took in his detailed stories like vitamins, fueling my own journey as an aspiring writer-filmmaker. I glanced over his face, and there was a hint of delight hiding under his composed demeanor, like a kid disclosing a juicy secret about where the cookies were hiding. He was hard to read, which intrigued me more, but I felt connected. Because I thoroughly enjoy getting to know people and ask questions, I was all ears to any gems he would divulge.
Upon his departure, he handed me a blue book filled with original poems; a parting gift if you will, as I had given him my Afrovocative pins in exchange for the pleasant conversation with a new stranger-turned-respected-peer. In the short hour, I could imagine the depths that he could go on, and off screen as a creator. Much like his character in Last Looks, Ahmon shows range in a subtle way, carrying most of his character in his body language, which came second nature.
I read through his book of Poems, Indigo Pages, fully captivated by his play on words, leading me to do my research, and find out more about the man behind the pen. After months of following his social media, and small talk about music, It was evident LeBaron embodies a wisdom, depth, talent and hard work that will give industry old heads a run for their money. His debut EP, Au Natural, showcases his musical ear and skillful word play, while letting us know his artistry can’t be measured. He channels a B.D.E. aggressive flow on Big Chief Baron, but smoothly transitions to more chill love filled records, and conscientious tracks such as I’ll Be Around, Mood, and Amaterasu.If The Dungeon Family were to birth a new generation of artist, LeBaron certainly fits the bill; given he likens his sound to one of his favorite artist, Cee-lo Green. Since his move to New Orleans in 2012, he has grown his craft tremendously. Ahmon expresses, “Moving to New Orleans has made me blacker… I describe it to my other friends as New Orleans has made me a butterfly in a sense.”
The 29-year-old musician recently completed a three city East Coast tour between Philly, New York, and the DMV. While it isn’t clear when Ahmon will be releasing his next musical project, he certainly is working, and continues to develop his artistry, on and off the screen. You can listen to Au Natural or find out more about Lebaron at https://www.baronahmon.com
How has growing up in Mobil, Alabama shaped you as a creator?
It didn’t really shape me as a creator, growing up in Mobile, but more as person. I have a very tough, uh, tough skin – my mom told me when I started in this industry that I would need that, and it has been proven to be very true. Also, there’s not a lot of outlets, or options. I find in bigger cities people have opportunities to sell that creativity. I only had the opportunity to just create, create, and create, so I find it’s made me a potent creator, if nothing else.
What inspired indigo pages? I’m a writer. I’m a poet at the foundation of my art. That is what I am gifted as, what has been given to me. Indigo pages is a collection of poetry since I discovered that I was a poet, when I was about 18.
What do you want your audience to take away from your poetry and music?
Truth; an innate truth, something that speaks to all humans… sincerity, and compassion.
How has acting progressed you as an artist and writer?
So I say poetry is the foundation of what I do. It’s my natural gift, I say that and it really is. I’ve been acting since I was in the third grade, so, it comes before music, acting does for me. I’ve been acting for much longer than I’ve been writing songs. Acting helps communicate the music, very well, communicate lyrics very well. But outside of that, I think acting is like my foundation for most things. When I perform, should I say not for everything, but when I’m performing, I definitely lean on my acting training.
Who are some of your musical influences?
My biggest music influence, and you’ll probably never guess this, but Cee-lo Green. He’s the greatest rapper to ever live, that’s what I believe, and Marvin Gaye. Those are my two favorite artist.
How long did it take you to produce Au Natural?
Au Naturalwas long, man, oh my god! It took longer than it needed to. Just like Indigo Pages it just a compilation of music that I had become satisfied with, enough to share it with people; it’s not even like a coherent thought, ya know? It’s just what I felt comfortable enough to share, so it took about two years to make, because I taught myself how to mix my own music in the process. You can tell through that mix that I taught myself.
What did recording Au Natural teach you about yourself, and music?
Recording Au natural kinda taught me that I can do anything, honestly. I never thought I’d be into mixing music, but I really enjoy. I really love it. I like it a lot, the nuance of sound. It taught me that people really want to hear my voice. I felt like after I listened to it objectively, recently, it feels like a film score. The whole thing feels like a huge score to some parallel existence.
You have two interludes titled Message from the Elders, why was it important to include those tracks?
Message from the elders was really important because the message was lost, it’s coming back now, but the message has been lost and been gone in music. The message he says in that, “You don’t get to sing a song if you have nothing to say.” I feel like that’s very relevant and valid. If you need to sing a song, you need to have something to say behind it.
What is one of the most memorable messages an elder has imparted on you?
My granddad use to have a saying, ‘Be particular’. I tell people that and they ask what does particular mean. If you think about it, particular means it means be careful, mindful, be sharing. Just be particular; that’s the biggest message my elders have left with me, one of my elders.
Where do you feel like your sound fits on the spectrum of music?
In the spectrum of music, I actually don’t know where I fit. I’m completely confused with that. That’s is what I’ve been trying to figure out. That’s why I haven’t put out any new music recently, because I don’t know where the F—K I go.
While listening to Au Natural, it put me in the mindset of 3 Stacks. Are you ever compared to a specific artist? If so, who?
Yes, I’m compared to 3 stacks, often enough. I do listen to him, and study him.
Your top 5 albums?
My top five albums—I study Cee-Lo a lot. So top five has to be: I’ll go #1 Cee-lo Green and his perfect imperfections, because that got me through a lot of life illnesses. Marvin Gaye What’s going on. I like Common, Like Water for Chocolate. I’ll even throw Anderson .Paak modern day in there, Malibu. My fifth, geez, I’ll just go with the first album I ever got, Carlos Santana, Supernatural. My mama bought me that for Christmas one year, when I was like twelve. That was the first album I ever owned.
How do you prepare for a role? Any rituals, or unique methods?
When I prepare for a role, well before I started studying other film actors, I used the standard Stanislavski method, that’s what I was taught. I take the given circumstances, and I expand on them. I create a story for the actor, or the role I mean. I think about the relationships between the role and the other people in the film. I create stories and build memories for this person. Often times I meditate. I sit and go over these thoughts. I went through a situation in life where I was losing control of my mind. I was literally losing my mind, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to control it again. I learned that you do have control over your mind at all times. I learned that mediating isn’t about not thinking, it’s about allowing those thoughts to exist, and being okay with those thoughts. And that helps me to get into a the mode of a specific character by thinking the thoughts this character would think over, and over again.
What is your favorite piece from Indigo Pages? Why?
Carmel or better. It’s just sexy. I just like it. It’s real sexy.
What came first acting, poetry or music?
Acting came first. Acting was the very first thing. A lot of people think it’s new because I just started in the film industry, but no! My very first role I played Garret Morgan, the guy who invented the stop light. I will never forget, I had on a nice little suit and I was killing my lines. I was killing them on stage, they was loving it. Then I use to do a lot of church plays. I made the entire church cry one day when I delivered the news that Jesus was dead. I always knew that this was my thing. My mom always knew it too. And when your mom tells you what you’re going to do, what your destined for, she knows. I strayed away from it for a bit, because my high school had a terrible theatre program, even though we were a performing arts high school. I took it, [and] I got into TV production, which got me into the film side of things.
If music was a woman, how would you describe her?
I just read something I posted on Facebook. It’s not my words, it’s Rudy Francisco, but it’s the best way to describe it. He said, “God is that you, or does she just have your curves?”
Favorite record on Au Natural? Why?
WEBLK, We Black Radio. It’s so me. The screaming in the background, the lyrics and the rawness of it. And I’m singing for the first… it’s just so me. It so raw, and I’m singing for the first time. That’s my favorite. The message in it, too, is just deep. I think it’s slept on, but whatever.
What was your experience like moving to New Orleans?
Moving to New Orleans, I feel like has made me blacker, in a sense. The way the people here move, operate, and love themselves. I don’t know – It’s a different culture that’s not celebrated anywhere else in America, and they celebrate it loud and brilliantly. I describe it to my other friends as New Orleans has made me a butterfly.
Which project have you worked on that’s impacted you the most?
Girls Trip! When I worked on Girls Trip, I had never seen so many black people in charge in my life. Just stylish, intellectual, functioning… doing what I love to do. Girls Trip is the biggest thing that has impacted me. Getting to meet the tastemakers of modern day black America… it’s really huge.
What’s your biggest struggle as a creator? How do you deal with it?
My biggest struggle is finishing shit! I don’t finish anything. I start some great shit, and I get discouraged. I discourage myself about my ideas, and I don’t keep up with them. I deal with it by finding the things I like most, and finishing them; applying the 80/20 rule: becoming 80% satisfied with something I’m doing, and letting it go, because I’ll never be 100%.