Finding His Groove

Raleigh funk artist, Jamil Rashad (aka Boulevards) finds a more mature voice on his second album, but never forgets where he came from.

Love for music came at an early age for Jamil Rashad, aka Boulevards. Growing up, his father served as a DJ for WSHA, the Shaw University radio station, and would bring Jamil countless records from artists both classic and cutting edge. It wasn’t until he was a teenager that Boulevards seriously considered entering the music industry himself.

“I always knew I wanted to express myself, I just wasn’t sure what form that would take,” Rashad says. Drawing and visual art were his first loves, and he continued pursuing both throughout his education. A graduate of Ligon Middle School and Southeast Raleigh High School, Rashad graduated from UNC-
Charlotte with an arts degree.

“When I was around 16 I started really thinking about music as my craft. I would lock myself in my room for eight to nine hours a day writing poetry and spoken word that led into a little rapping and producing my own beats,” he says.

He fell in love with every aspect of music and found inspiration in artists from Rick James to AKON and from Christopher Cross to Miles Davis.

His first album, “Groove!” was released in 2016. It’s a fun dance album that received wide praise, including a review from AllMusic for “bringing back fun, funky music with a soulful vibe.” He is currently recording his second album, which will be released later this year. He describes it as more ‘personal’—“It still makes you move, still makes you dance, but I guess there’s some maturation in the song writing process.”

His early success has him traveling the country, but staying in touch with the streets where he comes from is of utmost importance to the man called Boulevards. “You should never lose sight of where you come from. Raleigh is my safe place, my sanctuary. I come here to focus and be at peace.”

Though his love for his hometown comes first and foremost because of his personal connection (and Bojangles,) he says adamantly that no matter who you are, “Raleigh is the place to be!”

“The Raleigh Music scene is growing. I would say it has its own music scene,” he says. “You hear about the LA scene, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville all the time, but Raleigh has a lot of creativity and so many interesting acts coming out of here. It’s booming right now. I think there is a big opportunity for artists from Raleigh to be game-changers.”

One such artist that Boulevards points to is BJ Barham from American Aquarium. “The way he takes the bulls by the horns and does things himself, I think that’s inspiring,” he adds.

And though the city is growing and the opportunities for local acts to make a name for themselves is increasing, Rashad insists that the way to follow your dream hasn’t changed from when he was a middle schooler at Ligon.

“You just need to keep focus,” Rashad says. He credits much of his focus to his father. “I don’t want to say my dad was hard on me, but he taught me about perfection. He said, ‘No matter what you want to do, if you want to succeed and be good at anything, you need to study your craft and own your craft!”

Reflecting on those who encouraged him on his path, Rashad mentions his coaches. He ran track and cross-country from middle school to college and though his coaches obviously helped him compete, their impact was so much greater. “They encouraged me to be better,” he says. “Whether it was in music, in arts, going to college and graduating, they encouraged me to be great and to keep my focus.”

It is that kind of mentality that has allowed Boulevards to stay grounded, approachable and humble even as his dreams are coming true.

“The music isn’t everything,” he says. “Obviously, it’s a big part of my life, but to me, what’s really important is growing as a man and learning. We’re all a work in progress and that’s something I always work on remembering, that I want to grow as a man and continue being a student of life.”

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