Jamil Rashad, who performs as Boulevards, is ending 2020 with a bang and it could not have come at a better time for him.
The EP is his first release for the New West Records imprint Normaltown Records. It is his first time working with Blake Rhein, guitarist for the midwestern soul revival outfit Durand Jones & the Indications. It is his first exposure to American Songwriter and its audience as well.
Simply put, this EP earns the exclamation point at the end of its title.
Brother! is a more explicitly political record than anything he’s done in the past, but that’s mainly because being a Black man in America has become intrinsically and inescapably politicized.
“I can only write about my experiences, and that’s what I told Blake I wanted to write
about on this record,” he said. :You can’t ignore what you see on the news, what you see on social media, but I have to write about it from my own experience.”
Boulevards makes sure to stay true to his influences — mainly 60s and 70s soul and funk, inspired by his father — but pushes heavier brand that is all his own filled with killer guitar licks, gospel-esque organ usage, and a message that is timely but not preachy.
“The Brother! EP is the middle child of Boulevards,” he said. “A stepping stone for me as an artist. A change moving forward. But showcasing present styles of my own and what to look forward to on further LP’s. There will forever be evolution.”
1. Brother! : When writing this song, it struck a nerve. A good nerve though. Growing up, I’d always hear my father communicate with other men saying “hey brother” and “my brother.” It was a form of communicating brotherhood and friendship. When writing songs, I always feel like I’m talking to myself or my younger self. Reflecting on working at a job you dislike, making someone else money and not getting the credit you deserve, promotion and just being valued for doing the work. There was a sense of me feeling not being valued in my life for the work either I was doing at my job or even in the music industry. That feeling of being stuck, always chasing but getting no results. ‘Hey brother, hold your head up, you’re a winner.” I used to tell myself that all the time.
2: Shook: I’m not a political expert nor try to be. I just write about my own experiences and what I see other friends go through. It’s about being black in America currently. How everytime I leave my house, I have to calculate every move I make. Having that fear of will I get harassed by a white officer or white person for just walking through a white neighborhood minding my own business. Or seeing a white woman hide her purse seeing me walking down the street. I couldn’t stay silent about this, even though it’s been happening for years. But it has taken a number of events, not only for white america to see, but black america as well. No matter how much work we have to do, black people will always be fearful of getting killed by white police officers. It’s time to have these uncomfortable conversations.
3. Luv N Pain: a song about luv n pain. Reflecting on how sweet love can be and how painful it can be at times. Sometimes you can have no feeling of self when heartbreak and setbacks take place. Things don’t seem to matter much anymore. This was the first song me and Blake Rhein from Durand Jones & The indications wrote together. As soon as I heard the drum machine and wah on guitar, I knew the feeling it gave me. That’s what’s so magical about music these days. Luv n pain is about being remorseful for all the suffering you have caused someone in a relationship and thinking about what you could have done better. That person is my heaven and hell. My everything.
4. Losmahway: This joint is pretty much self explanatory. It’s about losing one self to another one and to life. Feeling so trapped and stuck in your mistakes and pain. Being that tornado in your life that tears everything up in sight. Losing my way to the toxic behavior I have bestowed upon myself in addiction and alcoholism. “Spend enough down time to look inside” is the first line. I felt we all had some time during this pandemic to look inside ourselves and reflect on the things we’ve done to ourselves, but also the people who love us dearly. It felt right for this to be the closing track, keep the listener wanting more and become dazed in a spiral of thought and reflection.
If you dig it, pre-order it!