© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

From Virginia to 'Cowboy Carter,' artist Shaboozey on his journey and new album


Even if you aren't familiar with the rapper Shaboozey, well, you've probably heard his music. His viral song, "A Bar Song (Tipsy)," shot right to the top of the Billboard charts, and he is featured twice on Beyonce's album, "Cowboy Carter."


SHABOOZEY: (Rapping) Lucchese, see the boots - check, check. You can hear when I step - step, step.

SUMMERS: It has been a banner year for him so far, and today he is out with his latest album. It's called "Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going." Shaboozey says it's an eclectic album that's grounded in country.

SHABOOZEY: There's a lot of different sounds in there that just - you know, it's a gumbo of a lot of different American music. So...

SUMMERS: When I spoke with him, Shaboozey told me that his musical journey started in Virginia, and his father, a Nigerian immigrant, was an inspiration.

SHABOOZEY: He washed dishes at, like, Roy Rogers, and, you know - and did a lot of, like - worked on cars and just did as many odd jobs as he could just to get himself through college in Texas. He takes pride in, like, hard work - you can do it if you work hard. So I think those kind of, like - just those morals and just those teachings kind of stuck with me throughout my entire life.

You know, not only does he listen to, you know, traditional, like, Nigerian music, but he was playing me people like Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson and showing me all this stuff. You know, it's definitely something that he listened to and kind of, you know, would show me from time to time.

SUMMERS: I want to ask you about one song specifically because it really, geographically, just draws us into the region - draws us into Virginia. That's the song, "East Of The Massanutten."


SHABOOZEY: (Singing) Just south of Leesburg, where Blue fought with Reb (ph).

SUMMERS: Can you tell us about it?

SHABOOZEY: You know, country music is America's music. But it's cool. You know, you see a lot of, like - there's, like, certain centers - that it's, like, more predominant in those areas. Like, in Nashville - you know, the Blue Ridge, the Appalachian Mountains - like, with, you know, bluegrass coming from there. So, for me, it was like, sometimes I go to these spaces and - you know, I love Nashville, and I love what it has to offer. But I'm like, man, you know, I'm not from here, you know? I wasn't born here. I wasn't raised here. So I was like, where was I born and raised? And what's the story about that journey?

So that's what you said the Massanutten is about - to say, like - the first line is, just south of Leesburg. You know, just south of Leesburg, east of the Massanutten, is a small town called Woodbridge. And in that place is where, you know, I learned that I had to - as much as I loved it and it's a part of me, I had to leave - you know? - in order to get to where I'm at right now. That's what that record's about.


SHABOOZEY: (Singing) So I'll pack me a little duffle, skip the goodbyes and leave, 'cause east of the Massanutten, there's nothing for me.

SUMMERS: You dropped a trailer for this album on Instagram earlier this week and, at first glance, it looks like it could have been pulled right out of some old-timey Western movie, complete with a tumbleweed rolling down an empty street. And...

SHABOOZEY: (Laughter) So sick.

SUMMERS: ...The older white guy - he's got his cowboy hat on, and he's walking past. And he keeps seeing you. You were on flyers. You were in the newspaper. You were on the radio. You were everywhere. Tell us about that concept and what you wanted to show people to bring them into this new music.

SHABOOZEY: Yeah. You know, I think it's - like, there's so many - it's such a layered piece. I watched it over and over and over again, just, like, picking different details. I think, to me, when the concept came, it was just like - you know, there's this man, and he's noticing change. And he's - he doesn't like the change that he's seeing.

And music needs to change, and it needs to progress into different things. So, you know, when you see my name and you see me, you're, like - you're kind of confused. You're a little bit, like - and I think the confusion and the mystique and just how interesting it is is what draws people to it. You got this guy named Shaboozey with the hair, and he's tall. And he's dark-skinned, and he's got this style and this, like, swag about him. Like, it's something that you can't really escape, especially now with this bar song. I - you know, I have friends that call me all the time, and they're like, man - or friends from childhood or whatever - they're like, man, you're everywhere. I mean, I can't stop seeing you.


(Singing) Yeah, yeah - I'm the last of my kind.

SUMMERS: You're having so much success in an industry and in a country genre that has not always been welcoming to Black performers. And I wonder if, just based on your experience with your music, which has really bursted the definition of what genre means - do you think that's changing?

SHABOOZEY: Yeah. I mean, I think it changes. You know, I take, you know, I think to a certain degree, just where my influence is from, and where - you know, I've always come from a place of being an outlier, wherever I'm at. And no matter the city, growing up in my family sometimes, you know, I've always been, like, a black sheep. So I've kind of had to live with that kind of, like, not being accepted. You know, I do think there's - you know, there's conversations and divides that are created that I just feel like - that I feel like, man, music transcends that stuff, so...


SHABOOZEY: And yeah, just from purity and coming from a place of love and understanding of anybody and from any background, with any belief. So it's always love and empathy with me.


SUMMERS: OK. I do have to ask you about the success of "A Bar Song." It has been everywhere this spring. I think a lot of people would call it one of the party anthems of the year.


SHABOOZEY: (Singing) My baby want a Birkin. She's been telling me all night long.

SUMMERS: Did you know immediately that this song had the staying power to become such a huge hit?

SHABOOZEY: You know, you never know as an artist, but it's super exciting to see how it - you know, how it has taken off. I'll say, in the studio, we were definitely having a good time making it. It was one of those songs where you started it, and everyone's just in there having a good time - the writers and the producers. Like, when my producers - and we were sitting there writing the lyrics. And each time we'd come up with a new lyric, we were just like, this is crazy. This is insane. Like, to say a line like, me and Jack Daniels got a history. It's just like - just cool because, you know, Jack Daniels - not only is it a - I mean, it's the name. Jack Daniels could be your cousin - you know what I mean?


SHABOOZEY: It could be your brother. It could be anybody. It could be - it was cool to, like, see how many, like - how clever we could get with the writing. So it was fun in the studio, so we felt like it would be received well outside, too.


SHABOOZEY: (Singing) Everybody at the bar getting tipsy.

SUMMERS: I want to ask you about one more song on this album, and it's called "Finally Over." And in that song, there seems to be this sort of push-pull between what you want and what sells. And you say, all my friends have got careers. Mine just might be over if I sell my soul again for another viral moment. Is that - talk about that song. Is that any part of what you're feeling right now?

SHABOOZEY: Yeah. You know, to me, it's just about understanding that there's, like, a peace with with peace, if that makes sense, you know? People ask if Virginia - ask me about Virginia and what it's about and where it's from. I'm like, oh, it's called the Commonwealth. And, you know, I didn't really know exactly what the Commonwealth meant until I looked it up, but it means, like, rich and prosperous.

And I was just like, man, like, I think that's what "Finally Over" is. It's a Virginia song. It's like, look - there's nothing wrong with kind of just, like, having a simple life and having a career, you know? And that stability that you have from just, like, knowing - you know, life is just - life is what it is, you know?


SHABOOZEY: (Singing) Yeah, yeah. I'm good if it's all over - good if it's all over, all over.

So I think that's kind of what it is. It's just being, like - understanding that I'm like, hey, that other side - if this is all over, and you get to just, like, live - you know what I mean? - on a nice little lot of land - you know what I mean? - with your family and friends and, you know - and just kind of, like, watch the sunset - you know, and go outside and take walks - like, that's just as beautiful and just as amazing as - you know what I mean? - the other side as well.

SUMMERS: We've been talking with Shaboozey. His new album, "Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going," is out now. Thank you so much.

SHABOOZEY: Thank you so much. Have a good day.


SHABOOZEY: (Singing) Yeah, yeah. I'm good if it's all over - good if it's all over. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Tinbete Ermyas
[Copyright 2024 NPR]