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Boulevards

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Jamil Rashad, who performs under the name Boulevards, loves the word brother. For him it’s a greeting, a spoken handshake, a verbal high five with his 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.” That word inspired a new song simply called “Brother!” a slow-motion funk groove with the gravity of the blues, the ebullience of gospel, and the socially conscious sentiments of Sly Stone singing “Stand!” or James Brown saying it loud, “I’m black and I’m proud.” It’s a song that draws on pop history but speaks to our troubled present. “It’s smooth,” says the Raleigh, North Carolina, artist, “but it’s rough around the edges. Smooth but raw—that’s what Boulevards is.”
The songs they created draw on the albums Rashad heard growing up. His father was a radio DJ at 88.9 WSHA in Raleigh, which meant there were always records spinning at home: early Funkadelic, Sly Stone, Rick James, Curtis Mayfield, and Shuggie Otis, among others. “My dad put me on to that music, and I’ve always been attracted to those artists. Not just the sounds, but the styles—how those Black men dressed, how they presented themselves onstage, how they posed in photos, the whole aesthetic. That’s who I was inspired by, but I wanted to make it my own, make it Boulevards.”

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