Boaz Swings for the Fences

During the summer, Boaz inked a deal with Rostrum Records. The rapper had been buzzing in his native Pittsburgh and beyond for some time, but he and the local powerhouse finally got on the same page and were ready to put some new flavor to the house that Wiz and Mac helped build. In late September, shortly after the announcement, the MC dropped Bases Loaded, viewed as his most complete work to date, which helped to bring his music to a broader audience. Here, he talks about the project, working with ScHoolboy Q, and how he separates himself from his labelmates. —Adam Fleischer

You dropped Bases Loaded a little while back. What’s the response been like?
The response to Bases Loaded has been amazing, man. People continue to talk about the songs that they was liking. More downloads, more streams.

You were working on it for awhile, right?
It was almost a year in the works, man. We got held up in the process of signing with the company and everything. A few kinks we had to work out before we put the tape out, but it came out right.

Like you said, you recently signed with Rostrum Records. So even though you’ve been at this for a bit, there are probably some new eyes and ears on you now. If this is the first time that someone’s hearing your stuff, what do you think they’ll take from it?
I think they’re gonna get an overall host of musical experience. It’ll probably shocking to a lot of people who was subjugating me to this genre of music or that genre of music. I’m talking about so many different subjects on there. I think they gonna really accept me as being an all around solid artist.

You’ve got a few features on there, like Mac and Wiz, which make sense given the Pittsburgh and Rostrum connection. But how did the ScHoolboy Q joint, “America,” come to life?
I met Q on tour, and we just had an instant connection with each other. It was a real good vibe. We chilled backstage. We smoked something. And I had an idea for this jam; I already had the song done. I was like, ‘Yo, Q, let me play something for you. You’ll be perfect for this.’ Later on that night, I played it for him—this is the same night me and Mac Miller laid the track that we laid—and he was like, ‘Damn, I’ma lay that shit.’ It was so different from what you would usually expect from Q and myself. It was real political. It fit the time.

Where do you feel like you fit in with what the label is doing already?
I actually standout in that sense, ’cause I’m coming from a different angle, bringing a whole ’nother genre of hip-hop to the label. It’s something that you wouldn’t typically see Rostrum do, which makes it interesting. Like, they behind this guy, he’s kinda street, kind of a gangster rapper, but he’s a good lyricist. It’s that missing component that wasn’t there. People thought I was signed to Rostrum long before I was. It just glued together.

What was coming up in Pittsburgh like for you?
Coming up in Pittsburgh was pretty rough. I came up a 1990s baby. It was a time of heavy gang violence. It was a point where gangs were erupting all over the city, so it was a lot of murder, a lot of robbery—shit that the street bring. It’s still going on; it was a lot worse then. I’m not saying that Wiz and Mac don’t talk about those things, ’cause they do. I choose to further elaborate. I’m a little more cut from that cloth. I feel like I’m obligated to do so, coming from that shit. It’s all about uplifting us. This hip-hop, it’s a big part of that. If I could do anything to voice my opinion on the way thing is going and what I can do to change it, then I’ma do that. I’ma put it in the music for sure.

You’re saying things used to be worse. Has the city gotten better, or have you moved away from that life?
Combination of both. As you grow, you separate from those things. It’s not something to glamorize. Most of the people that I know that’s doing that is trying to get away from it. Around the city, you got so much revitalizing going on, on all sides. They tearing down all the impoverished stuff and building up new. It’s rejuvenating.

Like we said, you’ve got a bunch of projects under your belt. What makes Bases Loaded fresh?
Experience. Living. Getting to see different things. It’s all about if you’re able to make the music reflect life. It doesn’t so much have to be yours, but you’ve gotta look for inspiration from everywhere. You gotta always be doing fresh shit. People wanna be inspired by you.