Boulevards, “Hurtown, USA”
Groove!, the last album from Boulevards (a.k.a. Raleigh, North Carolina, native Jamil Rashad), was a funky all-night dance party. His newest, Hurtown, USA, could be chronicling the ups and downs of a relationship that blossomed at that party. It’s a little more relaxed and a lot more personal.
The album follows the roller-coaster of a will-they/won’t-they/what-are-they-doing scenario. On the first track, “Donezo,” Rashad is proclaiming a relationship “through, exterminated, donezo, out.” (At least one notable real-life breakup preceded Hurtown, USA. Rashad parted ways with Captured Tracks, the Brooklyn label where Groove! found a home, and decided to tackle the release of Hurtown, USA on his own.) By “Strawberry Patch,” there’s been a reconciliation—or there’s someone new—and it includes lyrics that would make Prince blush.
On much of the album, Rashad is joined by fellow Raleigh musician Laura Reed. Her powerful voice is one of the album’s highlights, and she especially shines on “Somebody,” when she and Rashad ask each other, “Don’t you wanna meet somebody? / Don’t you wanna love somebody? / I could be that somebody.” Nothing on the record is as immediately catchy as what’s on Groove!, which had popping bass lines and hooks to spare. But Rashad’s standards are high, and he continues to expertly demonstrate what he’s learned from his spiritual parents—among them Rick James and Earth, Wind & Fire—and his actual father, a DJ well versed in Philly soul, funk, and jazz.
Whether the songs are about the ups and downs of a single relationship or of several doesn’t matter. We’ve all lived in Hurtown, USA, and this album is reason enough to go back. If Groove! was a Boulevards record, this one feels much more like a Jamil Rashad record. In Rashad’s own words, “Welcome to Hurtown, USA, where heartbreaks collide. Enjoy.” And you will.