Jamil Rashad is a Raleigh, NC-based funk and soul artist and JOVM mainstay, who writes, records and performs under the name Boulevards. Rashad, who is the son of a renowned local radio DJ, grew up in musical household in which a passionate interest in music was fostered and encouraged: a young Rashad listened to a wide variety o music including soul, jazz, blues, R&B and funk.
When the Raleigh-based JOVM mainstay was a teenager, he became a self-confessed “scene kid,” getting involved in the city’s local punk, hardcore and metal scenes, which interestingly enough wound up influencing his own production work much later on. After attending art school and playing in a series of local bands, the Raleigh-based JOVM mainstay wound up returning to teh the sounds that first won his heart and imagination — funk and soul. And with Boulevards, Rashad began writing material that he once described as “party funk jams for the heart and soul to make you move,” eventually developing a national profile for a sound that some have compared to Dam-Funk, Escort, Mark Ronson, with the release of 2016’s Groove! and last year’s YADIG!
Rashad’s forthcoming effort, the Blake Rhein-produced Brother! EP is slated for a December 18, 2020 release through New West Records imprint Normaltown Records. The four song EP derives its title from the familiar greeting spoken among Black men. For Rashad, the word brother is a sort of spoken handshake, a verbal high five for the listener. “Growing up, I would see my father interacting with other African American men, using that word as a greeting. ‘What’s up, brother? Brother, let me talk to you.’ That’s what they said a lot in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but you don’t hear it as much now. It’s such a great word.” The EP’s material is the culmination of several years of writing, playing, touring and recording with the effort thematically touching upon race and America’s moral reckoning, heartbreak and self-inflicted suffering. And as a result, the four song EP is the most explicitly political batch of material of his growing catalog.
Perhaps because our current sociopolitical moment mirrors that of the late 60s and early 70s, the EP’s material, as you’ll hear on its second single, EP title track “Brother!” is indebted to the music he heard growing up: early Parliament Funkadelic, Sly and The Family Stone, Rick James, Curtis Mayfield, Shuggie Otis and a lengthy list of others.
“My dad put me on to that music, and I’ve always been attracted to those artists. That’s who I was inspired by, but I wanted to make it my own, make it Boulevards,” Rashad says. Centered around a soulful and slow-burning strut and some fuzzy, psychedelic and blues-tinged guitar work, “Brother!” is a cry of desperation about a society and world that seem determined to frustrate, humiliate and destroy you. And the only escape is through booze, drugs and sex.
“The song is about working and hustling every day and not being satisfied with the end result, whether it’s working for yourself or 9-5 corporations. Spending the hours, time, not getting a raise, losing a job, putting a smile on your face at a job you dislike, feeling stuck in life, making money and spending money to support bad habits,” Rashad says in press notes. “The only thing that makes you feel any kind of release is the bottom of the bottle.”