They're everywhere. Every block. Every city. From Atlanta's notorious Zone 3 to Chicago's coldest ghetto to the very heart of Compton. You might see them hustling in the trap or ballin' in the clubs or just plain ol' chillin' on the block and having a good time. But it's when they put it down musically that the rest of the world gets an up close and personal view of what it's like to be Boyz N Da Hood.
Comprised of Duke, Big Gee, Jeezy and Jody Breeze, Boyz In Da Hood is a collaboration of four of the grimiest, truest rappers to ever come from the ATL. These dirty south ambassadors convey the realities of their 'hood in a way that is so authentic, so undeniably real, that it commands a level of respect from the streets and the industry alike.
"There ain't no sound out there like that right now," says Duke. "That's why people refer to us as the NWA of the south because it's gangsta all the way around. It's not gangsta rap over RnB tracks with RnB singing hooks."
Gee adds, "To me it represents gutter life, people coming from the ghetto striving, trying to have something, getting in where they can."
When it comes to rap skills, few can hold a candle to these Boyz. "Every one of us can rap for real," Duke offers. "We're not just some dudes from the south out here hoopin' and hollerin' on records, doing the crunk stuff. We really can rap. Each one of us got our own sound. Each one of us got our own flow pattern and all of us real ni---s that just came together." And each of them, says Jeezy, speaks to a different segment of the masses: "Duke got the OG's," he explains. "They gon' listen to him. Big Gee got all the killers - everybody that wants to do anything wild, he's got 'em. Jody's got all the little wild ni---s that's gon' bounce around the club and go crazy and any ni--- that's even thinking about money or wants something, I'm gon' motivate them to get it....We got some sh-- that you can just ride to, some sh-- where you 'bout to go do something crazy, and some sh-- you might wanna go to the club and get your ball on. Our chemistry is just crazy."
So crazy is the chemistry amongst these Boyz that the very first song they ever recorded together, an electrifying joint called "Dem Boyz," ended up being their first single. "When we did it we knew the chemistry was gonna come together," says Duke. "We knew we had chemistry. We knew we sound good together. Everything else just seems like it fell into place."
Duke said the group came together about a year ago after he met Boyz In Da Hood founder Block. "I had the idea for three years," says Block. "It was like I watched how Eazy E put together NWA and I wanted to do some sh-- that ni---s from the hood could hear and understand."
For Block, putting the group together had nothing to do with what was hot in the industry at the time, nothing to do with an 'industry look' or style. It had everything to do, however, with finding true hood brothers with a knack for keeping it real. "If you break the hood down, there's always an OG in the hood, always a hustler in the hood, always the edge-hanging, grimy ni--- in the hood and a lotta young ni---s in the hood so this was what was happening everyday and it really just came together like that. I didn't follow no industry guidelines. The hood taught me a lot and I kinda stick to those rules because that's all I know. I stick to the basic g-code."
Once the members were put in place, the Boyz started recording. "By the time we finished 15 songs, we had damn near a bidding war," Duke recalls. But it was a timely call to an-initially-reluctant P. Diddy that really set things in motion. "Block was good friends with Puff's girlfriend. After she heard our stuff she called Puff and asked him if he was looking to sign anybody. He said, 'not really.' She let him hear our stuff and three days later we were meeting with him."
Duke said P. Diddy totally grasped the Boyz In Da Hood sound and was more than happy to allow them to stick with their own musical direction.
"He been on the same page we been on from the rip. When we went up there and met with Diddy I just didn't want our sound tampered with and he was cool with that. We had 20-plus songs done so he heard an album and he was like, 'I want the sound y'all gave me.' and we've only done like two or three more songs since we've been signed."
Gee and Breeze agree that the P. Diddy connection was solid from day one. "As long as he didn't wanna put us in some shiny suits and all I was with him," Gee jokes. "He's a musical genius so I was really ready to roll with whatever he was talking about except that - the suits and the jumpsuits and all the dancers." "Puff been in this for a minute," says Breeze. "He knows the difference between Da Band and Boyz N Da Hood so I wasn't worried about that. What I was worried about was just making sure we're doing what we need to do, we're sticking with what we got."
Featuring production by hip hop mainstays Jazze Pha, Frank Nitti and DJ Toomp, Boyz In Da Hood, the group's self-titled debut cd, covers every inch of the unpredictable terrain of the ''hood. It's real music that packs a real punch. Says Breeze, "All the music is street, gutter and grimy. The name really speaks for itself. We're just here to bring it to life." Gee adds, "I think everybody can comprehend our music but I think mainly it's for people who went through what we went through right off the bat." Breeze concurs. "It's a whole lotta people who won't be able to understand us straight off that bat. A lotta people haven't been through what we've been through but for all the people going through what we're going through, it's easier for us to get to them than it is to get to somebody that doesn't know what we're talking about."
That being the case, the Boyz have learned that reality is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. "For the longest we had a hard time getting our records played because of the content," says Jeezy. "Sometimes in the industry they say they want real but when you give them real, they can't handle it. But it's not my job to prove to a ni--- if I'm real or not because everything I ever said I meant it and everything I ever said I had, I got it and Puff knows that. When Puff met me I was driving a Ferrari. It's different because it's so real...It's like being a poet. If you recite your poetry and you don't say nothing that can relate to the audience, how they gon' applaud you? I didn't get nothing from that. It sounded good but it didn't touch me. I still got my same problems."
While the lead single, "Dem Boyz," has a gritty, underground feel, The Boyz settle down a bit on "Keep It In Da Hood," a song Duke describes as "kinda laid back." "It just lets you know there are some good days in the' hood too. Everything ain't always bad in the 'hood."
Also in that 'day in the hood' vein is the song "Slizzered." "That's talking about 'my granny up knocking at my bedroom door but I'm still slizzered from the night before...It's basically talking about a day in the 'hood or what we did the night before," explains Duke. "Something different from being in the trap, gettin' money."
Duke says another favorite is "Felony," which he describes, quite simply as "just a jammin' record" that showcases the skills of his crew. "I just love how everybody comes in on that," he explains.
Gee said his favorites are 'Happy Jams,' 'No Talking' and 'Don't Put Your Hands on Me.' "I like 'Happy Jams' because that's more about my personal life," he explains. "I really did put my heart into that song. 'No talking' and 'Don't Put Your Hands On Me' reflect the frustration that we went through with street living and everything. That's why I can relate to those songs a little more because that's how I feel."
While Boyz In Da Hood certainly wins big props as a group, Duke stresses that each member can most definitely hold it down on his own. In fact, he reveals, Boyz is more a collaboration of four solo artists than it is an actual group. "We were never really a group," he says. "We came together for this project."
But whether they're doing their thing together or individually, Duke says lessons will be learned, messages will be heard, and truths about real life in the 'hood will be revealed through their music. "What you hear on this Boyz N Da Hood album is what you're gonna hear on the second, third, fourth and fifth one," Duke explains. "But you'll be able to tell more about us individually on our solo albums.... You'll hear about more than just the everyday 'hood stuff. You'll hear about what we're doing to get up out the 'hood, what we can do to better the 'hood and better other people's chances to get up outta there and let them see that what we're doing ain't something that nobody else can't do if you got a good plan and a real team around you and talent don't hurt."
But even when the day comes that Duke, Big Gee, Jeezy and Jody Breeze splinter off to do solo projects, Boyz N Da Hood will remain in tact. Says Breeze "The name is big itself so all of what we do or what we can do is gonna tell us where we're gonna be." Gee adds, "I see us like the generals of a hundred million members. We're just starting the movement."
Duke agrees, "We're gonna keep giving the streets something they want. We wanna be them ni---s that they want to represent them. It's not just about me, Gee, Jody Breeze and Jeezy. It's about boys in the 'hood everywhere. So if you're a boy in the 'hood we want you to relate to us and feel like you're a part of what we're doing. That's what it's all about. Boyz N Da Hood is a movement. Even three, four or five years from now when we branch off again it's gonna open that door for other Boyz N Da Hood to come in there."
Adds Block, "It's just like NWA. I kinda grabbed the baton from Dre and kinda ran with it. Boyz N Da Hood players are gonna change - all of them except me. But they won't change as fast as two or three albums. Years later, Duke's son may come up with a group. Years from now it's gon' be some little ni--- who's gon' look back at what we're doing today and get the baton from me because we're making history right now."
--- from the official Boyz N Da Hood website