There is no greater motivator than being told you can’t do something. Brooklyn rapper Jay Boogie knows this struggle well, as an emcee who is challenging the deeply embedded norms of his complex and layered identity.
As a queer, femme rapper from East New York, Boogie battles perception on a daily basis, almost glad to welcome confrontation. “I view myself as a contender in any sport or art that I put my heart into,” he says from his hotel room in Berlin, “so people’s phobia will never be my demise. Acceptance is not on my agenda. Once I’m accepted, I won’t have anything to fight for. I’m raising awareness.”
After rocking the mic for four years, with an album behind him and currently on tour in Europe, Jay Boogie dropped a fresh mixtape this week called Jesus Loves Me Too, a rebuke of religious figures who have dismissed him and his artistry by extension of their homophobia. JLMT is a series of no-holds-barred affirmations to twerk to in the mirror. Standout tracks “Featherweight” and “Happy” are proof positive of Boogie’s unshakeable self-contentment; on “Happy,” he warns, “You don’t beef with the faggot from Brooklyn.” Other highlights include the asymmetrical percussion in “No Shits” – which is aching for a remix – and “1000,” a track that feels like Boogie’s ultimate statement on keeping it real as he proclaims. “Live your truth and get your loot/come correct and the fun will commence.”
Though he mostly writes and performs in English, Boogie is exceedingly proud of his Latinx background, calling Dominican Republic and Colombia as much home as Brooklyn. Boogie pays tribute to his roots on “Malandrina,” a devilishly seductive track where he juggles Dominican, Mexican, and Boricua slang with the agility of a seasoned lyrical acrobat (it also serves as a wink at New York’s unique cultural milieu). But the young rapper’s message is more than just about queerness, Latinidad, or religion, instead trying to find a balanced intersection for his different identities. “This project is the epiphany that made all those things connect for me,” he says reveling in the newfound emotional clarity. “It’s a clapback to contrary belief,” he adds.
Boogie takes the religious themes of Jesus Loves Me Too to their logical extreme, gracing the cover as a hybrid thug-church lady, with “Cristo Viene” tattooed on his face in lieu of eyebrows. While simultaneously shocking and ‘yas’ worthy, many of Boogie’s distinct stylistic choices, both physical and internalized, lyrical and rhythmic, are derived from his time in the ballroom scene. As he puts it, “Ballroom was my gang, my sorority, my afterschool program, my sport. I made memories in ballroom that help me interact with adversity today. What pushed me to rap was simply my heart, but ballroom taught me a good amount of ferociousness, aesthetic and a vernacular that is very present in my artistry today.”
Jesus Loves Me Too is now available as a free download here.