Reggae Got Samoan Singer J Boog Out of Compton and Into the Spotlight
Courtesy of the artist
“I had no idea I was going to get into music," says reggae/soul singer J Boog. "I thought I was going to work at the oil refinery my whole life, drinking every damn weekend, living check to check, hanging out with my Tongan homies, doing some music for fun after work. But I never thought I was going to do it fucking professionally.”
“Sorry for cursing all the damn time,” he adds, laughing.
J Boog, given name Jerry Afemata, was born in Long Beach but grew up in Compton. He was raised in a tight-knit Samoan community, where instead of gangster rap and hip-hop, his home radiated with the reggae of Bob Marley, as well as Polynesian music. “We used to bump some cat named Fiji growing up. He was one of the guys we latched onto because he was Polynesian and we were Polynesian. I was always like, hell yeah, this guy is it.“
After a five-year hiatus since his last album, J Boog will release Wash House Ting on Nov. 18. The album has contributions from a mix of Jamaican and European producers such as Jr. Blender, DJ Frost and Gramps Morgan. “We felt like we needed to put something out,” he says of the album, which follows an EP, Rose Petals, released earlier this year. “We only go it done last year and it’s been a long process ... [but] I feel like we made a solid album.”
It has been a long musical journey for J Boog since his start making beats in his garage. By chance, Fiji himself, George Veikoso, discovered him through mutual friends and asked the young singer/producer to come to Hawaii to record with him. J Boog left Compton behind, not realizing he would never come back.
J Boog went from working in an oil refinery in Carson to making music in Hawaii, traveling the world and making music with the likes of legendary producer Don Corleon (Rihanna, Pitbull, Nicki Minaj), who produced his breakout hit “Let’s Do It Again.” All this was thanks to Fiji, who took J Boog under his wing.
“He taught me to write the songs, form hooks, form verses, how to pick and choose melodies," says J Boog. "He taught me how to work in the studio because before I got to Hawaii, I really didn’t know shit." He is also grateful to Fiji for showing him the bigger picture, and how music affects people. “Music gets them out a messed-up day, makes them feel better ... I realized there was a bigger purpose to music than I thought.”
Wash House Ting is an amalgam of different influences, including Boog's frequent tour mates Rebelution and SOJA. “We get together and get music that they’re into. It’s a whole jumble of music that we have been listening to.” The album, he notes, has some R&B flavor, influenced by artists like Mint Condition, Erykah Badu and D'Angelo — but mostly the album is reggae, the genre that remains his biggest influence.
“A lot of Polynesian families listen to reggae," he explains. "It was easy to grasp onto it because it was Caribbean music, but it was like Islander music as well, so it made it easier to latch onto culturally. Growing up at that time, with my brothers, mother, father and sisters, it wasn’t too pretty outside of the walls of the house, and I gravitated to it because a lot reggae music talks about getting out of that negative mindset, and being positive. [It helped me] escape the grim reality of where I was for a little bit and that’s what I loved about it, and that’s what I’m trying to do with my music.”
His favorite reggae artist is Dennis Brown, but he notes that he also likes Gregory Isaacs, Barrington Levy, and some of the new reggae artists, too, like Courtney John and Tarrus Riley.
Of his writing process, he says, “There ain’t no secret to the madness. I really just go by the rhythm — the beat. I choose the beat that hits me; the one that makes me want to write. When I can’t stop writing, that's how I know that beat is for me; those are the ones I need to make a song to.
“The album is about the mood we were in when we wrote it," he adds, speaking for himself and his band. "Gratitude to where we are and how our experiences from the beginning of our journey shaped us. It’s about our struggle to how we got to where we are. We have a great fan base ... hopefully they appreciate what we’ve done."
J Boog's Wash House Ting is available everywhere on Friday, Nov. 18. More info at jboogmusic.com.
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