Funk may be the only pop music trend of the last 40 years to not experience a mainstream retro revival, but Jamil Rashad, AKA Boulevards, lays down enough groove on his new album Hurtown, USA to make up for the apparent lack of funk in the modern generation. Channeling the smoky sounds of Prince, Rick James, and Earth, Wind and Fire, Boulevards captures the vibes of the funk era with such genuine authenticity, you’d never believe his roots go back to playing in local punk rock bands. We caught up with Boulevards to talk funk, punk, and his love for his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina
What was the recording process like for Hurtown, USA? What other musicians and producers played important roles in the recording of the album?
The writing and recording process for Hurtown was long. I wanted to get a lot of things off my chest. I had a lot of unfinished songs, poetry that I was trying to find the right time in my life to release. Adam Rich aka Rollergirl, Derek Wise aka Secret Attraction, Isaac Galvez, and Neon Indian were the producers that I wanted work with for this record. They have a great sense of emotion to their production. I was going through a lot of emotional turmoil and I thought it would be a great fit. We spent a lot of time building everything from scratch. I did a lot of rewrites and demos. We were able to bring along Laura Reed for the female vocal side of things and her vocals fit perfectly for the record.
What was the most memorable or important aspect of the recording process? Were there any significant breakthroughs or magic moments that helped realize the final product?
The most memorable aspect of record was bringing on Laura Reed. I’ve always wanted that Rick James and Teena Marie vibe, Rene and Angela, Yarbrough and Peoples vibe. I wanted the record to tell a story with a boy and girl heartbroken. Her style of singing fit perfectly. She understands the funk. I knew she toured with George Clinton so having her involved was probably the most breakthrough moment. Seeing all the songs come together was magical.
You seems to be closely connected to your local music scene, working with a number of artists from your area. Does your hometown of Raleigh, NC inspire your music in any other way?
My hometown does inspire me. It’s where I’m from, born and raised. I have a song called Nu Burn Ave which is about self-reflecting on this road that stretches from my house all the way downtown. Raleigh has so much soul. I’m a southern man, it will always inspire me.
Being an R&B radio DJ, your father played a major role in getting you into the sounds that influence your music today, but it seems like his influence has a more overarching impact on the album, from its overall flow to the mock radio call outs heard on the album. Can you speak to that in a little more detail?
Yea my father’s style plays a big part, I used to always go to the radio station when I was a kid and see how he works on the air. I thought it was cool to be behind the scenes and he would let me turn some knobs while I would sit on his lap. He just retired last year, so I thought it would be fitting to pay homage to him.
How does your background in the Raleigh punk and metal scene inform your work with Boulevards? Do you ever work with any former band mates or other musicians from the scene?
I still love punk and hardcore. It’s close to my heart. I haven’t spoken with any of the bandmates except one guy who was in it. He does all my tattoo work. I was able to see him a few months ago when I was going to an Earth, Wind and Fire concert. We were able to catch up and talk about the glory days. The punk aspect inspires me mostly on stage just bringing that type of energy. Punk funk, ya dig.
What non-musical influences informed the writing and recording of Hurtown, USA?
Eddie Murphy, a lot of old-school VHS documentaries. Old school vintage fashion magazines.
What are your thoughts on the modern pop music landscape? Where does your brand of exuberant retro-funk stand in an industry dominated by sterile, dime-a-dozen electro-pop artists?
My thoughts on pop music is that there are a lot of artist who copy each other and have the same sound. It’s nothing new and fresh which is ok because that what kids like and that’s what generates money. I’m about bringing something cool and authentic to pop music. To me, funk is the original dance music. You can’t escape nor fight the funk. You also see a lot of artists trying to use funk elements in their songs but it doesn’t sound authentic at all. But there is a lot of good pop music out there that I love.
What does the future hold for Boulevards?
I don’t know what the future holds, I’m just taking things day by day. I will tour and keep bringing my own funk.
You can stream the album in full down below, and pick up the LP when it drops on December 8th!