Photo/ Daniel Anderson/Lagniappe
NOLA’s Boyfriend returns to Mobile with new tracks to perform during her trademark boudoir set.
Date: Saturday, April 14, 11 p.m.
Venue: The Merry Widow, 51 S. Conception St., www.themerrywidow.net
Three years ago, Crescent City hip-hop diva Boyfriend introduced Mobile to her album “Love Your Boyfriend,” leaving the crowd taken by not only her verbal prowess but also her dramatic live show, which featured the artist wearing curlers and bedroom garb. Since then, Boyfriend’s live show has evolved into a “rap cabaret” featuring the accompaniment of numerous onstage performers. Her latest release, “Next,” features tracks that prove her skills go beyond hip-hop.
While visiting her mother in Nashville, Boyfriend graced Lagniappe with details behind her new album and her ever-growing phenomenon.
Stephen Centanni: We first spoke three years ago. I’ve been watching you since then, and Boyfriend has really blown up on so many different levels. How would you compare life now to then?
Boyfriend: It does feel like a world ago, and when you put it in terms of three years, it doesn’t sound bad at all. For one thing, it’s grown as far as how many people are participating. For the “Love Your Boyfriend” tour, it was me and [a producer]. Now, the Rap Cabaret family includes at any given point 35 to 40 people. I have this collective of different performers who are involved in the show. It’s more of an ensemble, which has sort of changed my roles. Now, things like costuming, props and choreography take up as much of my time as studio sessions and editing. I’d say that’s one of the biggest changes, for the better. I’m a Broadway nerd. It’s more like putting on a musical than a concert, and I love that.
Centanni: On “Love Your Boyfriend,” the complex concept of love flowed through the album. Where do you find your inspiration these days?
Boyfriend: I’ve been writing for other artists a good bit. I really love the variety of that. On one day, I might need to write a country song. Three days later, I might need to write an R&B song. I think the variety component has really influenced my writing.
With the next EP, I wanted to show that I can write in these different styles. “Love Your Boyfriend” was more focused sonically. I’m trying to cast a bit of a wider net, as far as styles of music and appeal. I might write a song that may be a fun-sounding pop song. It doesn’t necessarily have the art niche message attached to it. I’ve got a song called “Beauty Is Pain,” and it has guitar and singing and no cuss words, which my managers are excited about. I can write those different styles and listen to those different styles. I think we’re in a post-genre society where everybody has a Spotify playlist that could go all over the place. More and more, my own Spotify page is starting to reflect some of that variety.
Centanni: I think “Next” is a perfect title for your album because I see the experimentation with “Beauty Is Pain” and “Sleeping On.” What’s it been like experimenting with new musical styles?
Boyfriend: I think it ends up feeling the same. Sometimes, I sit down with a sonic goal in mind like, “I want to write a song that sounds like this.” Then, I want to write a song that feels like it’s getting an emotion out. Once the actual writing part starts, it feels the same. It might be a different motivation.
“Sleeping On” was a cathartic eruption of “Rah!” “Beauty Is Pain” is more intentional. I want to write a song about my aesthetic that talks about the curlers and the boudoir setting and the shaving that I do onstage. I’ve been silently talking about it with visuals, but I wanted to make a song that talks about it.
Centanni: Cindy Wilson from The B-52s appeared on “Fun as Shit.” How did she get involved with that track?
Boyfriend: (The B-52s) actually reached out about doing a show together. She’s been promoting her solo project and was coming through New Orleans. I was going to be out of town, but we were like, “I’d still love to work with you. Do you want to get on this song?”
We knew that we wanted a vocalist, because that beat is based on a looping vocal sample. We thought it would be a really cool type of feature for a vocalist to have where their voice is creating the bed of the track itself. She also sings the track with me. We thought she would be perfect.
The B-52s in general speak a lot to what I’m trying to go for anyway. It’s the curated aesthetic and collective. Plus, Cindy is “Tin roof, rusted,” so she’s legendary. She’s also one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met in my life. She’s like a kindergarten teacher when I’m talking to her. I wanted her to give me a homework assignment and a gold star.
Centanni: How will you be spending the rest of 2018?
Boyfriend: I just released a new song called “Toast.” If you haven’t heard it, check it out. It’s also a different departure from “Next” as well. I’m going to keep dropping singles instead of putting all this energy and focus for another four-song EP or album. I just want to drop little Easter eggs throughout the year. That’s how people consume music.
If somebody releases an album, I’m like, “I’ve got to get around to listening to that.” If somebody releases a single, then I can be like, “Oh yeah! I can listen to that right now!” Also, I think it takes some of the pressure off for a project to have this cohesive through line, sonically and narratively.
The way I am with the storytelling and Broadway background, I want to do a concept album. If it’s going to be an album, then I want to tell a story. If I do singles, then I can keep the variety thing going.
Centanni: What’s the best thing about playing SouthSounds?
Boyfriend: I think I just like Mobile as a whole. I like Alabama, but I don’t consider Mobile part of Alabama. All my family is from Birmingham and north of Birmingham. Mobile is like this little pocket. It has a different vibration and a different frequency. I like that. It feels sort of hidden, like the rest of the country doesn’t know it’s there, in a good way. There’s this old energy, and people are partying and having a good time. There’s Spanish moss and a great energy there that reminds me a little of New Orleans but in a smaller, knowing way, like, “Don’t let our secret out.”