A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie Performs On SiriusXM's The Heat Channel
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Interview: A Boogie Doesn’t Only Want To Rap About Heartbreak Anymore

Two years since the release of his debut album, A Boogie reflects on his come-up and discusses the way fan reception has shaped his artistry leading up to ‘Hoodie SZN.’

A Boogie wit da Hoodie as we know him is dead, the Bronx native reveals as he reclines in a velvet blue armchair, conveying a relaxed and reserved demeanor. “It's no ‘old A Boogie,’” he reaffirms. “It's no coming back to old A Boogie.”

Melodically skipping over beats since 2016, A Boogie — born Artist Julius Dubose — came into the game walking the tightrope between sensitive and street. Sparked by the flame of resentment, Dubose introduced himself to the game in Feb. 2016 with his debut, the heartbreak-ridden mixtape Artist. While his breakout track “My Sh*t” demonstrated his ability to rise from the trenches and deliver a New York anthem, tracks like the fan-favorite “D.T.B.” branded Dubose as a skeptic of love, ultimately establishing the persona that drove his Highbridge come up.

But years after fans fell in love with his original sound, the now 23-year-old finds himself at a crossroad between progression and consistency. “After I came out with Artist, I wanted to try something different,” A Boogie says, reflecting on his decisions to incorporate new instruments, beats, and artists on his June 2018 mixtape, International Artist. Created mainly for experimentation and growth, the Highbridge rapper also looked to expand his empire beyond the realm of New York. “I feel like all my fans saw what I was doing, but they just didn't care” he continues. “They loved how I started so much that they didn't care about the switch up, they just wanted me to be heartbroken.”

Still, Dubose decided to honor his own artistic trajectory while still appeasing his loyal fan base on his latest project, Hoodie SZN, which debuted on June 21. A Boogie goes 18 cuts deep to show fans that he can level-up in a way they’d appreciate and understand. “I don't want to be f**kin' heartbroken no more,” he laughs. “I could use those flows, yeah, but I feel like I updated too much for that. I feel like that A Boogie was amateur, and this A Boogie can do that plus way way more.”

Chopping it up with VIBE, A Boogie discusses perfecting his craft in the limelight, his roots as “Artist,” and broadening his palette on Hoodie SZN.

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VIBE: So there's “Artist” and then there’s A Boogie. How would you categorize the difference between the two?
A Boogie: I would just categorize it between “in your feelings,” which is Artist and “in your bag,” which is A Boogie. A Boogie is when you put your hoodie on and feel street vibes, like “f**k b*tches” sh*t.

You were saying how your fans want heartbreak, but aren’t you in a relationship?
Yeah and even though people go through it in relationships, that's not where I want it to be at right now. But I guess [my fans] put me back in that bag anyway because I'm making my next album right now, Artist 2.0, and I feel like they got me back in that bag. I'm going through some stuff anyway, so I feel like it's that time to just let everything out and give people what they want. No features on Artist 2.0 though. My fans don't even like me doing songs with people, that's the funny part. (Laughs)

Which version of you are we going to see on Hoodie SZN?
Hoodie SZN has both versions, and it's a good reason behind this too. Hoodie SZN got a lot of songs on it, as you can see, and I was going to break them up and have Hoodie SZN just be straight hoodie-on, street vibes while Artist has the love songs, but I feel like that's not me, though. I always have to mix it in and balance it out between the street and the love, so that's why I named my tour A Boogie vs. Artist, because I'm just fighting amongst myself.

That's the upcoming tour, right?
Yeah, it's starting in February. On the low, it's starting in Australia in January, but officially it's starting in February because the [second] Artist tape drops on [Feb. 14], so that's when it begins right there. Everything is changing too. I'm having an update on all my shows, my stage presence, everything…It's going to be crazy.

Hoodie SZN is your longest project to date. How did you decide what would make the cut?
This one is 18 tracks compared to my usual 12 to 13. It’s long, so I wasn't going to drop anything after this for at least half a year so fans can really let the music sink in, but then I thought about it. I said, "Hell no, I'm dropping every quarter…” I got enough music to drop all of that sh*t. I pick and choose what I want to put on what. Instead of just dropping a single, I like putting projects together.

Tory Lanez is like that. I know you guys collab a lot, but he makes a lot of music and he picks and chooses how he wants to put it out, which I think ends up working out really well.
Word. I think we do things the same exact way, that's why it's crazy. We got the same format, but [the difference is] he could work independently. Like if his engineer not there, he could just work by himself. Me, I don't like doing that. I have to just close my eyes and vibe out, I can't go back to the computer. It messes me up.

He said he records in his house, but you record in the studio. When you recorded features, did you work in the studio with everyone?
Not everyone. Only person I wasn't in the studio with was Tyga. I never even met Tyga before. That just got put together, but everybody else I met before, and we’re real good.

You have two cuts on the album with newer artists — "Demons and Angels" with JuiceWRLD and then "Swervin" with Tekashi 6ix9ine. What is your take on hip-hop's freshman class and why have you decided to invest in them?
Man, Tekashi, that's the bro right there. I f**ked with his vibe from the jump. I met him in London. We’re in a whole other country and two New York n****s link up and it started a whole new thing out there. We went to a show together and that was the first show we did. That's when I was like “Damn, this n***a is lit.” I didn’t know he was that lit too.

Why'd you decide to make "Look Back At It" the single?
Nah I wasn't gonna make it the single because it took so long (to clear the sample of Michael Jackson’s “You Rock My World”), but to me that song was so special, that it was just a personal thing that I had to make it the single. Besides that, the fans have been waiting on that sh*t for forever too, so like I said, it's for my day ones so it's only right that I give that to them first. They get treated first.

You have two MJ songs sampled, and you’re wearing a Michael Jackson pin. How would you say he influenced your artistry?
In every way. Even though I can't dance, that's like the one thing I wished I could do growing up. I used act like I was MJ, doing the moonwalk, tip toes, leg kick all that. (Laughs) He was just being him and that sh*t was amazing. I saw this whole movie, it was like a five-hour movie of him? [Ed. note: A Boogie may be referring to Moonwalker, Michael Jackson's anthology film from 1988.] It came out a minute ago, cause I was like probably 15 when I first saw that. It wasn't even a documentary, that's why I liked it. It was like a movie movie and it explained everything from when he was a little kid, and then when his mouse died he made that song "Ben" and then he had his first show and all the shows at Apollo. And he wrote that one song, what's the name of that sh*t. (Laughs) When he was like "I treated you bad."

That's a Jackson 5 song, it was "Who's Loving You."
Yeah, "Who's Loving You." That was my favorite song when I was younger, that's top five still in my books when it comes to Michael Jackson and that song "You Rock My World" and "Remember The Time" was my top two, so I had to put that in there.

On B4 Hoodie SZN you had "3 Min Convo" where you get introspective about your life. But then you hit us with “4 Min Convo" on Hoodie SZN. What was the inspiration behind the names of the tracks, and why did you decide to make a follow-up?
“3 Min Convo” was a very personal song for me because it was actually made off of a phone call with my friend that's in the feds, V-12. I said his name in the song too. When I hung up, the phone said [the conversation lasted for] three minutes and I just started thinking about him and my other friends that's in jail. When I thought about it, I thought that “3 Min Convo” was a perfect name for the song before I even made it. But speaking of phone calls, on “4 Min Convo” I start by talking about "I woke up to like 99 missed calls,” and how I was on a jail call when someone [else] called me. People think I’m ignoring them and so [the song] is about my lifestyle and everything I've been through. It’s basically just me venting and talking with a melody.

So “4 Min Convo” wasn't based off a phone call?
No, “3 Min Convo.” “4 Min Convo” is just a follow up. When I dropped “3 Min Convo,” I basically treated it like a throwaway, so instead of bringing it back and having fans ask why I did that when they already heard it, I made a brand new one that, in my opinion, is better. I may only be saying that because it's newer than the other one though. I’ll let the fans decide.

Would you say it's your most personal track on the album?
Yes, but throughout the whole album, it's a lot of different vibes. It's mood swings.
For the first three vibes, it's just me. The first one is the intro and I'm talking some heartbreak sh*t, plus street sh*t on that one. They’re going to feel that one from me. That's from the heart right there.

"Beasty," I feel like that's more for the streets, where they can say "Oh sh*t, he was hype on this one." On “I Did It,” I'm back on. You could say that's a little bit of old A Boogie right there. On track four we start getting into the features, but then I take them back to me on “Love, Drugs & Sex.” “Skeezers,” is like a confessional, but it's also a catchy song. Then on “Savage,” I'm just talking about how I always thought my last bi**h would be my last bi**h (Laughs). For the middle of the album, it slows down and turns more into talking to the females. It creeps in there with the JuiceWRLD track, but I really get into it on “Come Closer” with Queen Naija. I like that one a lot. We were in the studio in Atlanta cooking that one up, and we really took our time and plotted that song out.

Would you say “4 Min Convo” is most important to the project, or did something go down while you were recording one of those other tracks that make it hold a higher significance?
I went through a lot of little things throughout making this album, but it definitely is “4 Min Convo” when it comes to talking personal stuff. That's why I put that as the last song, so people could just sit there and listen to it.

You think it makes a difference being able to be in the studio with someone and vibing out versus having it set up?
It makes a difference sometimes, but that sometimes is very important. (Laughs) Me and the person could be in the studio and the vibe could be amazing and we can make a whole bunch of songs to be able to choose from, like with me and Thugger. Me and Thugger could make nine songs in a day and then choose which songs we like the most and think is gonna do something. With other people, it's like, we pick one song and we hope it's the one. (Laughs) That's why I say sometimes, because it just depends.

Stream Hoodie SZN below.

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Beyonce, Jay-Z and Blue Ivy Carter attends the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City.
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An Ode To Jay-Z, The Ultimate Rap Dad

Rap, throughout its history, has always referenced parenthood in some form. Most often, it was to extol single mothers for their goodness while deadbeat fathers were berated and called out for going ghost. In recent years, as the social media landscape has blown open the avenues of communication, famous rap dads, in particular, have become increasingly transparent about their lives as family men. Where years ago there seemed to be endless bars mourning the demise of the father, artists are now using their platform to balance the scales. They’re showing themselves to be present and intentional.

Few albums make me think more about the concept of parenthood, and legacy, than Jay-Z’s 13th studio album, 4:44. It’s a stark and blistering work of memoir, heavy on confession and self-examination. When 4:44 finally dropped, I, like many others, was filled with wonder. How was it that Jay had managed to so fluidly deconstruct everything I’d been wrestling with for the last few years? Though the specifics of our experiences differed greatly, the central ideas dissected on 4:44, especially those concerning fatherhood and family life, had been swimming around my brain for some time.

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Hip-hop saved my life. And it was fatherhood that set it on fire. This bears explaining.

What hip-hop has done for me, is what it has done for millions of fatherless and heart-wounded kids—it provided, at the very least, the shading of a better life. If it wasn’t for hip-hop, and the value I ascribed to it, it would be impossible to know just how far I’d have settled into the more lamentable aspects of my environment. Forasmuch of a goon as I was growing up, something always kept me from becoming too emotionally invested in harsh crime. I dabbled in mischief like an amateur chef knowing he would only go so far. I saw in hip-hop, in the art of it, something worth pursuing with tenacity; something like a healthy distraction. So I committed to finding my lane.

Though there were brief stints dedicated to developing my modest graffiti skills and footwork, it was the words that flowed and came without struggle. The school cyphers sharpened my wits and compelled me to feed my vocabulary daily. Only my wordplay could save me from getting ripped to shreds in a lunchroom battle. I read books and scoured the dictionary for ammunition, I listened to stand-up comics who fearlessly engaged the crowd and proved quick on the draw. It seemed fruitless to know a billion words if I couldn’t convert them into brutal attacks. I had to break the competition down and render them defenseless, stammering for a rebuttal. There could be no confusion as to my superiority. So instead of joining the stickup kids or depositing all of my energy into intramural sports, I put my soul and mind into the task of taking down all manner of wack MCs. That’s why I say that hip-hop saved me.

But fatherhood was its own saving grace. It showed me that the world did not revolve, nor would it ever revolve, around my passions. Fatherhood put an extra battery behind my back as a creative, sure. But it’s more about being a consistent presence at home than chasing any dream.

***

As an artist and writer, I cannot so much as think about fatherhood without considering some of the material that deals with feelings comparable to those I felt after I became a father. Songs that contextualize very specific emotions over the drums.

In his 2012 track “Glory,” Jay-Z, someone who had long been vocal about his strained relationship with his father, reflects on the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy, his first child with wife Beyoncé. Produced by the Neptunes, “Glory” was released on January 9, just two days after Blue was born. From start to finish, it carries a sort of gleeful melancholy that resonates on multiple levels. While it is, in essence, a comment on the exuberant joy attached with welcoming a child, “Glory” is also a note on death and mourning.

Before Blue came along and flipped the script, Beyoncé had suffered a miscarriage. The pain the couple experienced left them fearful of not being able to conceive. The dual purpose of “Glory” is made clear from the outset, and with blazing transparency. “False alarms and false starts,” offers Jay, laying the groundwork for what immediately follows: “All made better by the sound of your heart.” The second half of the couplet establishes what was, as we come to learn, the most pivotal moment in the rap mogul’s life up until then. The moment where all is made right, where the sting of loss is eclipsed by the possibility of new birth. Jay continues in this mode, shining light on the redeeming gift that is Blue and, also, how the child is a composite of her mother and father, yet more still.

The opening bars of the following verse are equally striking as Jay, addressing Blue, touches on the death of his father from liver failure. Jay is signaling here, leading us somewhere but with the intent to shift gears. Instead of dwelling on his father’s shortcomings like one might expect him to, Jay breaks left, resolving that deep down his father was a good man. What begins as an indictment of a cheat who walked out on his obligations, ends with a declaration of forgiveness and generosity. But Jay soon directs the focus back to his blessing and how hard it is not to spoil her rotten as she is the child of his destiny. It becomes apparent that this is a man at his most self-actualized. A few more welcome digressions and “Glory” closes the same way that it begins, with the final line of the hook: “My greatest creation was you.” This points to something that I, too, came to know as fact. That no matter what I do, and regardless of what I might attain—power, wealth, the esteem of my peers—nothing is quite comparable to the happiness and the terror that comes with siring a child. “Glory” succeeds as it casts aside any traces of bluster and bravado, making room for Jay to unearth lessons that were hard-won yet central to his maturation. And what is the purpose of making art if not to bust open your soul and watch it spill over? Shout out to the rap dads raising babies and doing the work to shift the narrative.

Juan Vidal is a writer, critic, and author of Rap Dad: A Story of Family and the Subculture That Shaped a Generation.

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Mike Coppola

The Cast Of 'SHAFT' Talk Family Traditions, Power And The Film's Legacy

Back in 1971, Richard Roundtree became the face of the legendary crime/blaxploitation film SHAFT. His influence in the role paved the way for a new generation of black detectives filled with a gluttonous amount of swag, clever one-liners, and action-packed scenes. Samuel L. Jackson followed suit in the franchise’s 2000 installment as he took over the streets of Uptown Manhattan and Harlem filling in for Roundtree’s original character.

Fast forward to 2019, and SHAFT’s legacy has risen to higher heights, incorporating Roundtree and Jackson together with an extension of their detective prowess. Director Tim Story created a familial driven movie centered around three different generations of SHAFT men. Roundtree plays the grandfather; Jackson plays the dad—and Jessie T. Usher plays the son. All three embark on a mission that’s laced with dirty politics, Islamophobia, and highflying action in efforts to solve a seemingly homicidal death.

The dynamics between all three are hilarious and dotted with lessons learned from past paternal influences. On a recent sunny Friday afternoon at Harlem's Red Rooster, the trio shared some of the traditions and virtues the paternal figures in real life have taught them. Most of the influence passed down to them was centered on working hard.

“People say to me, ‘Why do you work so much?’” Jackson said. “Well, all the grown people went to work every day when I got up. I figured that’s what we’re supposed to be doing—get up, pay a bill, and take care of everything that’s supposed to be taken care of.”

“For my family, it was cleanliness and masculinity,” Usher added. “The guys in my family were always well put together, very responsible especially my dad.”

In spite of the SHAFT men's power, the film's story wouldn’t be what it is without Regina Hall and Alexandra Shipp’s characters. They both play strong women caught in the middle of the mayhem created by the men they care about. Both are conscious of the power they exhibit as black women off and on screen, yet are aware of the dichotomy of how that strength is perceived in the world.

“It’s very interesting because I think a lot of times as powerful black women we are seen as angry black women,” Shipp says. “So it’s hard to have that voice and that opinion because a lot of times when we voice it; it becomes a negative rather than a positive. In order to hold that power, it has to be poised. It has to be with grace, I think there is strength in a strong but graceful black woman.”

“People have an idea of what strength is and how you do it and sometimes it’s the subtleties,” Regina adds. “Sometimes our influence is so powerful and it doesn’t always have to be loud I think a lot of times how we navigate is with conviction and patience.”

VIBE chatted with the cast of SHAFT about holding power, their red flags when it comes to dating, and why the SHAFT legacy continues to live on. Watch the interviews below.

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Sony Music

Meet Zhavia, The Musician Who Refuses To Be Boxed In

If you haven’t heard of Zhavia before, that will likely change very, very soon.

The 18-year-old Columbia Records signee is readying her first major EP 17, which is scheduled for June 14. A native of the Golden State, Zhavia catapulted to national consciousness after making it to the top four of the inaugural season of FOX’s singing competition, The Four, which features Diddy and DJ Khaled as judges. Since then, she continues to rise and tantalize audiences with her powerful, chill-inducing vocals.

The singer-songwriter—who tells VIBE she’s hopeful that her forthcoming EP will be “inspiring” to her ever-growing fanbase—dropped the project’s latest single “17” on May 31. Produced by hip-hop hitmaker Hit-Boy and co-written by RØMANS, Zhavia explains that the retrospective song is more personal than her previously-released tracks, such as the trap-tickled “100 Ways” and “Candlelight,” the stand-out single that showcases the vocal prowess of the petite blonde ingenue.

"’17’ is a song that I wrote about my life story, and how I got to where I am right now,” she says. The track details hardships such as a lack of resources to thrive in her childhood home and staying in a motel in order to accomplish her musical goals. “I just wanted it to be something that [fans] can relate to, whatever it is that they're going through.”

“I saw it in my dreams, I knew that life would change for me,” she croons on the new single. “This is reality, look at me now.”

Zhavia’s humble beginnings start in Norwalk, Calif., as a daughter of two musicians who introduced her to numerous genres. In fact, her mother was a member of a metal band called Xenoterra, and Zhavia’s impressively-versatile vocal range could be attributed to this Chex Mix bag of sonic stylings.

“From doo-wop to punk to R&B, metal, rock...” she says, listing of the types of music she was brought up on, which helped her in honing a unique style. Her own tunes feature an R&B and hip-hop flair and sprinkles touches of other genres throughout, in order for her to remain true to her roots.

“I feel like for the most part, [my music will] always have that R&B feel to it, but I'm always gonna have a lot of different vibes for people to pick and choose what they like,” she explains.

Zhavia's urban-tinged musical affinity was palpable during her time on The Four, where she put her spin on hits such as French Montana and Swae Lee’s “Unforgettable” and Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” Although she was unanimously selected by the show’s four celebrity judges to advance after a stellar first-round performance of Khalid’s “Location,” she admits she initially wasn’t planning to compete.

“When I was younger, I had wanted to go on a [singing] show, but I had made up my mind. ‘I'm gonna try to do it myself,’” she chuckles. “But, the people that were having auditions, they happened to be at the studio that I was recording at when I was making my own songs. My manager told me, 'Just go sing for them.'”

After showing off her impressive pipes, she was convinced to join the show, and was further influenced to compete after discovering that The Four appeared to focus on R&B and hip-hop-leaning artists.

“I was like, 'Okay, that sounds like me, they'll probably accept the style of music that I do,'” she continues. “I feel like on other singing shows, it's a little more pop, or towards the pop genre. Also, the panel that they had [DJ Khaled, Diddy, Meghan Trainor and Charlie Walk] seemed really relevant, and I could tell it was legit. I figured I'd just try it out, and it led me to where I am now.”

Since placing fourth on the show, Zhavia has proven that her star power was built to last longer than 15 minutes. Other than her forthcoming EP’s release, her gifts have found her among the company of some big names. She can be heard on the soundtrack for Deadpool 2 in the song “Welcome To The Party” with Diplo, French Montana and Lil Pump. Recently, moviegoers were treated to her rendition of the Disney classic “A Whole New World” with Zayn Malik, for the live-action version of Aladdin, which plays during the film’s end credits.

“I think it's been amazing, and it's definitely a lot of exposure that comes in a unique way,” she says of working on big projects with even bigger industry names. She continues by stating that she’s had a blast “putting her own twist” on songs she didn’t pen and doing material “totally different from what [she] would normally do.”

The pressures of Hollywood and the entertainment industry could be difficult on anyone, however, young stars under the U.S. legal age in the limelight may find themselves succumbing to various pressures, temptations and burnout. For Zhavia, she makes sure to keep a level head and a positive attitude in order to persevere in the industry as she matures.

“I feel like it's not that hard to stay focused, because I've wanted to do this my whole life,” she says affirmatively. “It's what I live for. For me, one of my number one priorities besides my family is music. I don't really go out, I don't party, I don't do none of that. I just work! [Laughs] I think for me, it's just focusing on myself and what I wanna do, and what I wanna get done.” She’s also hoping to keep surprising people throughout her career by coming up with genre-bending songs that show off her style, personality and abilities. Let her do her, and watch her as she goes.

“I'm not gonna be put in a box to do just one type of music or one style of song,” Zhavia affirms. “I don't want people to get used to one thing, you know? That's kind of a hard thing to express to the world. I feel like it comes with me coming up with more music, and to keep creating music for people to listen to and get to know me.”

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