Boyz N Da Hood
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 niggas 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 niggas that's gon' bounce around the club and go crazy and any nigga that's even thinking about money or wants something, I'm gon' motivate them to get it….We got some shit that you can just ride to, some shit where you 'bout to go do something crazy, and some shit 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 shit that niggas 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 nigga in the hood and a lotta young niggas 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 nigga 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."