The New Funkadelic Revival: An Interview With Boulevards' Jamil Rashad On Bringing Funk Back To The People

“Funk is the DNA for hip hop,” George Clinton once said in a television interview, when asked why his music had such staying power. It’s true, funk music is the double helix of sorts for the hip hop that rose from the streets to the top of the record label chain and to a sort of a blanketed commerciality that makes the rap music of today seem very watered down. This is where Boulevards comes in – not only are they bringing back the downhome funkiness of hip hop, they are also making funk music for the 21st century, which is amazing. The best part is that it’s being made from scratch. Today, Boulevards is releasing a self titled EP with four beautifully produced tracks that are awash with tectonic plate shifting beats and a driving, panther-like sexuality. It’s the kind of music that elicits the kind of dancing that might get you arrested. Boulevards is essentially a one man band – North Carolina native Jamil Rashad – son of a jazz radio DJ who grew up listening to the kind of music that would shape his future musical endeavors: jazz, blues, R&B and, of course, funk. Rashad also went to art school and has an affinity for punk and hardcore music. Autre got a chance to ask Rashad a few questions, about his upbringing, his musical taste and about bringing funk back to the people.  

OLIVER KUPPER: I know your father was a jazz radio DJ, do you remember any specific musical artists that you were really inspired by growing up?

JAMIL RASHAD: When I was younger, a lot of the artists were Earth Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang, Prince, Rick James, Miles Davis, James Brown and Con Funk Shun – a lot of Philly soul as well since my father grew up in Philly.

OK: When did you realize that you wanted to make music…was there a specific moment or did everything lead up to it?

JR: I mean I was 16, maybe 12, I used to write poetry. Those poetry lines turned into raps. I used to freestyle with kids in the bathroom and back of class. So in that moment I knew I wanted to do something with music, I just didn't know how.

OK: You gravitate a lot towards funk music…what is it about funk that moves you so much?

JR: Funk music is special. I love the complexity but simpleness about it. The style, the songwriting and how it crosses over to mainstream. I enjoy the syncopation of the instrumentation, the bass lines and some slap bass. But when It comes down to it, it's the grooves that I love so much and the way it makes me feel personally when I'm on the dance floor. My parents, your parents had funk music when they were growing up for their generation. Now I'm going to bring that feeling back for this generation. People want the funk.

OK: It seems sort of incongruous that you got into punk and hardcore…was that a phase or do you still have a little bit of that punk ethos?

JR: It wasn't a phase, I still listen to some hardcore bands and punk bands. I guess I always enjoyed the energy of their live shows and their instrumentation of music as well. It has always interested me and still does.

OK: What was the scene like in North Carolina….was it a strong hipster scene or cool kid scene?

JR: Raleigh is my home. Its not about being hip or cool. We are just us. We enjoy music, we enjoy live music, we enjoy new things, we enjoy being us and that's what makes Raleigh a special place. So much talent there. So many great things happening.

"My parents, your parents had funk music when they were growing up for their generation. Now Im going to bring that feeling back for this generation. People want the funk."

OK: Let’s talk about your personal fashion sense for a moment, because it's amazing…how would you describe your style?

JR: My style is simple. I'm about just being comfortable. That's really it. My father growing up was a big influence.

OK: Jumping back to your music…your new album is coming out, how would you describe this record?

JR: The EP is cool. I released the songs on my own label, Dontfunkwithme Records. Just have some jams I worked on with some of my favorite producers, Taste Nasa, Isaac Galvez and Rollergirl. They understand the funk. But it's a taste for what's to come in 2016 and beyond. I just want to create infectious jams for the dance floor.

OK: Listening to the track Honesty, it seems like you add a little fade out at the end that encourages DJs to mix it into their rotation, do you see people dancing the night away to your music?

JR: Thank you for that!! I've always wanted people to dance and feel good when they listen to my music. That's all I want. That's why I create the jams, so you can dance the night away with your friends, family and significant other.

OK: What’s next? 

JR: What's next? Just working on new music!! Creating the best music I can create to my ability.

Click here to download the digital edition of Boulevards' self-titled EP here - and the physical version here. Boulevards will also be making a few exciting live appearances in New York in November - more here. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper