Boaz
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Boaz

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f you haven’t heard of Boaz, now could be a good time to get familiar. The iTunes Music Store is featuring his song as the Single of the Week and you can get it for free. This can be a great opportunity to not only show support for Indie hip hop, but maybe even stir up some commotion in numbers, whether or not you’re familiar with this particular artist yet. - NahRight.com


During the summer, Boaz inked a deal with Rostrum Records. The rapper had been buzzing in his native Pittsburgh and beyond for some time, but he and the local powerhouse finally got on the same page and were ready to put some new flavor to the house that Wiz and Mac helped build. In late September, shortly after the announcement, the MC dropped Bases Loaded, viewed as his most complete work to date, which helped to bring his music to a broader audience. Here, he talks about the project, working with ScHoolboy Q, and how he separates himself from his labelmates. —Adam Fleischer

You dropped Bases Loaded a little while back. What’s the response been like?
The response to Bases Loaded has been amazing, man. People continue to talk about the songs that they was liking. More downloads, more streams.

You were working on it for awhile, right?
It was almost a year in the works, man. We got held up in the process of signing with the company and everything. A few kinks we had to work out before we put the tape out, but it came out right.

Like you said, you recently signed with Rostrum Records. So even though you’ve been at this for a bit, there are probably some new eyes and ears on you now. If this is the first time that someone’s hearing your stuff, what do you think they’ll take from it?
I think they’re gonna get an overall host of musical experience. It’ll probably shocking to a lot of people who was subjugating me to this genre of music or that genre of music. I’m talking about so many different subjects on there. I think they gonna really accept me as being an all around solid artist.

You’ve got a few features on there, like Mac and Wiz, which make sense given the Pittsburgh and Rostrum connection. But how did the ScHoolboy Q joint, “America,” come to life?
I met Q on tour, and we just had an instant connection with each other. It was a real good vibe. We chilled backstage. We smoked something. And I had an idea for this jam; I already had the song done. I was like, ‘Yo, Q, let me play something for you. You’ll be perfect for this.’ Later on that night, I played it for him—this is the same night me and Mac Miller laid the track that we laid—and he was like, ‘Damn, I’ma lay that shit.’ It was so different from what you would usually expect from Q and myself. It was real political. It fit the time.

Where do you feel like you fit in with what the label is doing already?
I actually standout in that sense, ’cause I’m coming from a different angle, bringing a whole ’nother genre of hip-hop to the label. It’s something that you wouldn’t typically see Rostrum do, which makes it interesting. Like, they behind this guy, he’s kinda street, kind of a gangster rapper, but he’s a good lyricist. It’s that missing component that wasn’t there. People thought I was signed to Rostrum long before I was. It just glued together.

What was coming up in Pittsburgh like for you?
Coming up in Pittsburgh was pretty rough. I came up a 1990s baby. It was a time of heavy gang violence. It was a point where gangs were erupting all over the city, so it was a lot of murder, a lot of robbery—shit that the street bring. It’s still going on; it was a lot worse then. I’m not saying that Wiz and Mac don’t talk about those things, ’cause they do. I choose to further elaborate. I’m a little more cut from that cloth. I feel like I’m obligated to do so, coming from that shit. It’s all about uplifting us. This hip-hop, it’s a big part of that. If I could do anything to voice my opinion on the way thing is going and what I can do to change it, then I’ma do that. I’ma put it in the music for sure.

You’re saying things used to be worse. Has the city gotten better, or have you moved away from that life?
Combination of both. As you grow, you separate from those things. It’s not something to glamorize. Most of the people that I know that’s doing that is trying to get away from it. Around the city, you got so much revitalizing going on, on all sides. They tearing down all the impoverished stuff and building up new. It’s rejuvenating.

Like we said, you’ve got a bunch of projects under your belt. What makes Bases Loaded fresh?
Experience. Living. Getting to see different things. It’s all about if you’re able to make the music reflect life. It doesn’t so much have to be yours, but you’ve gotta look for inspiration from everywhere. You gotta always be doing fresh shit. People wanna be inspired by you. - XXL Magazine


After signing with Rostrum Records in June, Bo immediately went to work, and on September 28, the street-based spitter dropped Bases Loaded, his first project on the super-successful indie label. "I think it was just a definitive moment in my career," Boaz told Mixtape Daily of his deal with Rostrum. "The stars were aligning, and I just wanted that responsibility of taking it to the next level to be on me. Everything around me is just solid. I'm loving the way things are going right now. The bases are loaded."

Boaz sets Bases Loaded off properly by tossing a nod to Pittsburgh's beloved sports nation. "Goin' hard like Roethlisberger in the fourth, but this a blood sport," the hardened MC spits, referencing the Pittsburgh Steelers' star quarterback on the tape's opener, "Prime Time."

While Wiz conquers radio and Mac Miller thrills the college set, Boaz plays to his strengths, speaking directly to the block. On "Gettin' After That Money," he bypasses stocks and bonds and keeps his eye on the more risky drug trade. For all its hustling imagery, the Statik Selektah-produced "9 to 5" is relatable to anyone who gets up to go to work every day. "And these felonies done f---ed with my employment/ But I can't let that f--- with my enjoyment, I can't afford it," he spits on the soul-drenched loop.

Bo links with Taylor Gang's Chevy Woods on "Pimpin'," producers ID Labs on "Love Me for That" and Mac Miller on "Everything," so his hometown is well-represented. Still, while all his Pittsburgh homeys are well-positioned and ready to score, with Bases Loaded, Boaz hits one out of the park.

Joints to Check For
» "Gettin' After That Money" (featuring Wiz Khalifa) - "It really just came about by grindin', bein' on tour, lettin' things manifest and just really having my career come to fruition. Seeing some paper actually rollin' in."

» "Stay Down" - "It just came about. It was one of those fire tracks I got. ... As soon as I heard it, I was like, 'Yeah, I'm about to go in on this.' "
- MTV News


oday he records music in a conventional personal studio -- a sound booth with a microphone, a mixer, turntables, a computer. But local rapper Boaz's introduction to the mic was much less orthodox.

"The first time I recorded something was in my homeboy's grandfather's funeral home," he recalls. "They had one of the karaoke sets, I guess it was for when somebody died and you had family members who wanted to sing. They lived in the funeral home, though, so after services we would sneak down in his granddad's office, take some beats off some instrumental tapes and record. And that's how it started."

Now on the heels of a national tour and preparing for the release of a new full-length, Boaz could be on the verge of the breakout he's been working toward for years. Born Boaz Bey and raised in Larimer, the 26-year-old was an all-city band member at Westinghouse High, playing both clarinet and alto saxophone. He has been performing for audiences as a musician since third grade.

"From how we woke up, went to sleep, throughout the day … everything was referenced through music," he says. "So I figured, why not start making my own, create my own influence? I saw my life evolving into hip hop."

His longtime DJ, DJ Shef, recalls the first song he did with Boaz more than seven years ago.

"We hooked up and did Intent 2 Deliver, the first CD," he says. "[Producer] Sayez was in the Marines at the time, and [Sayez] was back for summer vacation going through my mom's old records and we found the sample for ‘Screams of Pain,' which was the first song on the CD. Sayez flipped the beat that night and a week or two later we went to Soy Sos' studio.

"We couldn't figure out how to get the beat off the disc," he recalls with a laugh, "So Blak Czer came down and loaded the beat up for us."

A Pittsburgh native, Blak Czer has more than 25 years experience in the hip-hop music business. After garnering a reputation as a gifted battle MC from Braddock in the late '80s, Czer signed with Relativity Records and had an album distributed nationally in 1994. In the past decade, he has worked primarily as a music producer, crafting instrumentals for Wiz Khalifa and others.

click to enlarge

Photo by Heather Mull
Boaz and DJ Shef in front of Boaz's alma mater, Westinghouse High School
"What I've learned from [Czer] is that you should certainly stay in the studio, and always be original," Boaz says. "The way to keep longevity is to stay fresh, no matter how old you are."

Since his start in 2003, Boaz has been working to carve out his niche.

"You expect certain things from certain musicians," he says. "You listen to Marvin Gaye and you think about love. You might listen to The Gap Band and you wanna party. You listen to Tupac, you wanna kill somebody. I want people to listen to my music and realize the struggle, the hustle and the perseverance."

Earlier this year, that hustle earned Boaz an opportunity to appear on his first national tour, the 2011 Smoker's Club Tour with Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y and Smoke DZA.

"It was a hell of a learning experience, about knowing that you're not gonna be a rock star while you're on the road," Boaz says. "It's hard work: no sleep, have to be in shape. You could be on stage for 30 minutes every day. You gotta keep some fresh shit on the brain to keep the crowd entertained."

The tour also featured fellow Pittsburgh hip-hop artist Mac Miller. Boaz "has always been everyone's number one," says the 19-year-old Miller. "If you wanna know what it's like in Pittsburgh, just listen to Bo. He's such a great representation of our city."

The two MCs first collaborated on record in 2009, on the song "5 O'Clock." Miller also features on the soon-to-be-released single "Around the World" from Boaz's recent The Transition mixtape. At first glance, it's an odd match: Miller, a Point Breeze native, has a demographic drawn from high schools and colleges, while Boaz's core audience is more accustomed to the street lifestyle portrayed in his music.

"I think that's the beauty of hip hop: It's become such a welcoming genre to all people," Miller says. "These are two different people, two different stories, and two different lives. It's all about two different worlds colliding just for the sake of making good music."

"It's a way of both of us diversifying, and crossing lanes to make us more marketable to the opposing audience," Boaz says. "Music is a universal language. … It was a beautiful way for both of us to cross the avenue."

Blak Czer is confident that Boaz has the lyrical talent to take it to the next level, and approach the kind of success that Miller and Wiz Khalifa are finding.

"Boaz is like Nas, but more street. He got that knowledge of someone like Nas," Blak Czer says. "He's gonna go far. … He just needs that strong radio single."

With six solo mixtapes, an album and several projects as a member of local rap crew The Govament under his belt, Boaz remains modest.

"I never had any type of brand-new shit," he says of his childhood. "All of it was hand-me-downs, until I was able to buy my own shit. We came up in humble surroundings and learned to make the best of what we had. I trust that's made me more sufficient to handle bigger business if it comes. And trust me: If it does come, I'll still be able to handle myself the right way."

Boaz sits at Time Bomb Spot, the hip-hop gear store in Shadyside; behind him is displayed a collage featuring early mixtape covers and news articles related to him. Boaz is appreciative of the support from Time Bomb's founder and owner, Brian Brick (known as "Brick Diggler").

"Brick has played a major role in my career. Everywhere I go I hear, ‘This fuckin' guy Brick Diggler screams you everywhere,'" Boaz says. "He's always repped me since I met him."

"Boaz is the truth! And he's gonna save hip hop," Brick adds emphatically.

The next album, Audio-Biography 2, is set to be released by year's end, and Boaz has big plans.

"I'm trusting [I'll] get more recognition," he says. "I'm trusting that it will inspire people to want to have me in their town performing live for them. I'm trusting that it will allow me to afford a means for my family. I'm hoping to have a lengthy career -- I'm not just looking to come up with a smash hit and cash out on y'all. I wanna ride this out and have the best career I can." - Pittsburgh City Paper


Wiz and Mac Miller keep us lifted, and fellow Pittsburgh rapper Boaz brings us back to earth with thought-provoking lyrics. He’s usually lyrical and deep, but he can also make songs like “Around the World” (with Mac Miller) that keep the fun going and the subject matter light. Give a listen to Boaz’s latest street-album The Transition, and follow along as he helps lead the burgeoning Pittsburgh rap scene. - Complex Magazine


Discography

2005 "Intent to Deliver" mixtape
2007 "The Phenomenal" mixtape
2008 "Monumental Music" mixtape
2008 "The Manuscript" mixtape
2009 "Audio Biography" Album
2010 "Selling a Dream" mixtape
2011 "The Transition" mixtape
2012 "Bases Loaded" mixtape

Photos

Bio

There’s something about rappers whose birth names double as their stage names. It reveals a level of personal comfort and authenticity that’s often hard to find in today’s rap world of movie characters and nonstop parties.

But Boaz Bey, known more commonly as simply Boaz, allows his records to reflect his reality. And like so many real people with real names, his grind has been real—a steady and consistent trek to earn his current stature.

“I’m not trying to give a mixed message,” the 27-year-old says. “I’m trying to give both sides to the story. I’m not just glorifying what happens out here. We try to give you both ends of the reality of it—going to jail, getting shot. All that shit is real.”

Coming up in the neighborhood of Larimer on Pittsburgh’s east side, he saw that street life from an early age. But there was an equally informative driving force guiding his actions, too.

“My brother and all his friends used to be up in his room going over every instrumental,” he says of some of his earliest musical memories, from the mid-1990s when he wasn’t even a teenager. “When they would leave, me and my homies would go in the room and start doing our thing on some karaoke type hooking the mic up to the boombox.”

In high school, he linked with another local kid looking to start a record label, and put together an EP, as well as the single “It’s Alright.” The cut wound up gaining major momentum, and was picked up by the local radio station, WAMO; it went on to win a battle of the beats contest eight weeks in a row on its way to retirement. “That’s what really gave me that inspiration like, ‘Damn, I can really do this shit at a notable level,’” Bo says.

From there, in 2003, he made his first mixtape, Intent to Deliver, and then linked up with a local crew called The Govament. The group saw some success thanks to a string of CDs hosted by the influential DJ Kay Slay in the mid-2000s, but legal troubles for some of the members derailed any potential.

The savvy street kid witnessed what was going on around him and made a conscious decision. “I had to realize that there was no balance there—it was either this, or that,” he says of the relationship between the streets and music. “You can’t do both the lifestyles. It’s impossible. When you commit yourself to doing something positive, you really can’t even surround yourself with that shit cause it’s so influential. I had begun to see my homies get locked up about shit that was avoidable. That was a wake up call to me in saying, ‘Yo, this music is close. You just gotta work hard and commit yourself.’ That’s when I really committed myself to that and said, ‘Fuck that shit.’ I had enough of seeing my homies going to jail, my folks getting shot. It was a real tough time in the city. We needed a change.”

To help spark that change, Bo dropped The Phenomenal in 2007, which helped him stand alone. “That’s when people really started solidifying me as a nice solo artist from the town,” he says.

Things went a step further the following year, when he dropped Monumental Music, which got him local support as well as national features like a write up in XXL. “It was just a point in my life where I felt grown,” he recalls. “That was a real shift in my career as far as solidifying myself as a heavy hitter in Pittsburgh.”

The nonstop build continued with The Audio Biography in 2009, which was distributed through iTunes and made ripples on independent albums charts. The free fodder for fans returned with 2010’s Selling A Dream and 2011’s The Transition. The consistency helped secure a spot on The Smoker’s Club Tour in 2011. “That was a hell of a learning experience,” Boaz says. “When you’re aspiring to do things, you really be in a rush. Like, ‘Yo, I wanna get in the game, I wanna do shows, I wanna be on BET.’ But that shit really takes patience and a lot of artist development.”

Another step in artist development came in 2012, when Boaz officially inked with Rostrum Records, with whom he had been loosely affiliated, as a buzzing Pittsburgh rapper, for some time. “We’ve always had a relationship,” he says. “I had spoke with [Rostrum founder] Benjy [Grinberg] years back about doing this shit. With the powerhouse Rostrum was becoming, from the city, the relationship we had established already—it just made perfect sense for me to deal with these people. They know me. It was a perfect fit. I know he wants to see my career go nowhere but the right way. Failure ain’t an option with us. That’s going to come to show in the future success.”

That road begins in the summer 2012 with the Under The Influence of Music Tour, where Boaz, alongside Wiz Khalia, Mac Miller, and Kendrick Lamar, will be performing in front of thousands of fans nightly across the country. And then there’s the upcoming free album Bases Loaded, where Boaz is poised to use his new spotlight and backing to become the next in a line of independently flourishing Rostrum rappers.

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