10 Years Later: How Boyz N Da Hood Went From Being the N.W.A of the South to a Footnote in Rap History
The early 2000s were a very fruitful time for southern hip-hop. While the West and East Coasts dominated the hip-hop landscape throughout the '80s and the '90s, artists below the Mason-Dixon line had been quietly plying their trade on the independent side of things, including conglomerates like Rap-A-Lot, Suave House, No Limit and Cash Money.
They took their home-cooked brand of swagger and distinct melodies from their respective locales to the masses, making folks that were initially dismissive start paying attention to the South. Before long, what started as a few catchy records that caught on nationally turned into a groundswell of new acts emerging from the south releasing hit singles that dominated radio and the Billboard charts.
By that juncture, it was clear that these country boys were not to be taken lightly and everyone was clamoring to latch on to this new wave and get a piece of the action and energy that was permeating throughout the South. One of these individuals was Sean " P. Diddy" Combs, who has always had a knack for infiltrating various movements, genres and anything that results in publicity or financial gain. His Making the Band experiment may have been a commercial dud as far as record sales were concerned, but the man formerly known as Puffy had a pretty strong track record for breaking rap and R&B talent, with the likes of Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, the Notorious B.I.G. and Ma$e having received their big breaks in the industry under his wing.
So when it was announced that Diddy would be working with a new rap group out of Atlanta, Georgia named Boyz N Da Hood, rap fans' interests were piqued and big things were expected from this relatively unknown group. Comprised of solo artists Jody Breeze, Young Jeezy, Big Duke and Big Gee, the team was brought together by Russell "Block" Spencer, a rap talent scout and the co-founder of Block Entertainment.
Block got his start in the industry with the aforementioned Suave House Records before working with legends like Tupac and 8 Ball & MJG. He eventually teamed up with rising producer Jazze Pha, forming ShoNuff Entertainment, which helped break R&B star Ciara. Deciding to take a page from the book of RZA and mold the four soloists into a group and use their collective success to further their individual careers, Block began to shop the group's music to various record labels, touting them as Atlanta's version of N.W.A.
Listen to Boyz N Da Hood's "Trap N----z"
Statements like that, along with Boyz N Da Hood's plethora of talent, helped them gain a buzz and had people pondering who these new jacks were. But Block explained that the comparison was more of a homage to Eazy-E's vision and approach to putting his group and Compton on the map, stating, "I watched how Eazy-E put together N.W.A and I wanted to do some s--- that n----s from the hood could hear and understand. I took the idea to Puffy and he liked what I had to offer and we signed a deal together."
Ultimately linking up with the man who introduced us to the shiny suit, Boyz N Da Hood looked to be well on their way to being the second coming of the Hot Boyz, a supergroup out of the South that were destined to place their stamp on the rap game in a major way. Young Jeezy, who also had a solo deal in place with Def Jam, was considered one of the hottest rookies in the rap game at the time and would also make a big splash of his own with his debut album that year, not to mention that Jody Breeze was also considered a prized prospect on his own, giving the group two potential stars off the rip.
Big Duke and Big Gee may have lacked the fanfare of Jody Breeze and Jeezy, but they were respected. Big Gee's solo project, Mechanicsville U.S.A., with Greg Street garnered a considerate amount of buzz and he had previously worked with notable names like Bryan Michael Cox, Birdman and Jazze Pha. Match that with the allure of a cosign by Diddy and the N.W.A parallels and Boyz N Da Hood looked to be on their way to fame and prosperity, especially after their well-received song, "Dem Boyz," hit radio and video countdowns. All of the talk was indeed warranted.
But when their debut self-titled album was released on June 21, 2005 and the smoke cleared, platinum plaques weren't being given out to Boyz N Da Hood. Instead, they were met with the harsh reality that nothing is a sure bet. Their first LP had failed to make much noise and was deemed a commercial failure. Stalling out at just north of 400,000 units sold, the album was an afterthought by the time fall hit, which is a shame because it's actually a solid effort.
Take for instance the title track, on which Jody Breeze quickly establishes that his hype is far from manufactured. "I'm that young cat that will cock back, send shots at a / N---- wit my baretta, cause I'm bout whatever," he raps, laying down a solid opening verse to set the album off. His Boyz N Da Hood comrades also come equipped with dope verses and immediately put listeners on notice that they're all capable of catching wreck and no weak links are present in this brotherhood.
The debut single, "Dem Boyz," showcases Jeezy and Jody Breeze's upside as solo artists as both burn down the booth with impressive lyrics and quickly set themselves apart as the main draws of the group. But that doesn't mean that Big Duke or Big Gee don't do their part. Duke shines on the LP's second single, the Jazze Pha-produced "Felonies." "I came a long way from peddlin' rocks / Block recognized the gangsta and he up my stock / Showed me the recipe and other grams I copped / Home ain't a home with outta arm & hammer box," he rhymes in in his laid-back southern drawl.
A pre-fame Rick Ross makes an appearance on the track "Bitches & Bizness" (although not credited) and while he sounds less seasoned than the boss we're familiar with today, he still gives an indication of greatness with bars like "My n-----s get slizzard, I'm smoking and chillin' in Pradas / F--- a 9 to 5, we gon' just do what we gotta / I'm in the Chevy thang, everything running is proper / Don't come too close cause I'm subject to uh uh my chopper." Jody Breeze also shows out on this cut, as does Jeezy, who would eventually have a long-running beef with Rick Ross down the line as both emerged as titans in the rap game.
Listen to Boyz N Da Hood's "Bitches & Bizness"
One of Boyz N Da Hood's best songs on the album is the Drumma Boy-produced cut, "Trap N----z," which features Jody Breeze and Young Jeezy playing the role of two drug dealers going back and forth with each other over drug prices and street politics. The effort comes off as the Atlanta version of Jay Z's "Coming of Age" with Jeezy playing the role of Hov and Jody as Bleek.
Then Boyz N Da Hood serve up a dose of introspect with the soulful number, "Happy Jamz," which is a pleasant departure from anything else featured on the album, sonically and for content. Big Gee and Duke turn in powerful performances and prove their worth as credible MCs and far from glorified bench players. The trap tunes continue with "P---- M.F.'s," which finds Trick Daddy providing a verse and the hook while Jeezy and Breeze anchor the track with bars of their own.
After all of the talk of narcotics sales, choppers, and holding down the hood, Boyz N Da Hood slow down the vibe with the saccharine tune, “Keep It Hood 2Nite" which should have been left on the cutting room floor. It doesn't stick to the cohesiveness of the project and lacks quality control, as it ends the album on a lesser note than anticipated after listening to the previous firepower. This is a shame because the group or the LP never got its just due.
During his time with the group, Young Jeezy was accused of putting his duties as a group member on the back-burner to focus his time and efforts on his third solo album, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, which was released roughly a month after Boyz N Da Hood. He went on to have a breakout career with millions of records sold and become a lauded figure in hip-hop.
Other group members weren't as fortunate. Jody Breeze's career would never take off like that of Jeezy's. He had a number of false starts in the game and dealt with record label limbo. He had potential as an artist, with his name getting thrown in the debates that he, not Young Jeezy at the time, had the most impressive performances on the album.
Big Gee and Big Duke didn't fare any better, failing to make much noise after the group's sophomore album, Back Up N Da Chevy. Jeezy -- who had left the group due to growing dissension between himself and his group mates -- was replaced by Gorilla Zoe. That LP arrived in 2007, and fell considerably short of the mild success of its predecessor, debuting at No. 51 on the Billboard 200 and selling a paltry 15,700 copies in its first week of release.
Things would only get worse for the group after Gorilla Zoe broke out with his own hit, "Hood N----" and flew the coop as well, signaling the end of Boyz N Da Hood as we knew it, making them little more than a footnote in Atlanta rap history. Looking back 10 years later, despite a rough patch here and there -- most notably the ill-advised Eazy-E resurrection, "Gangstas" -- Boyz N Da Hood was an album that never truly got the credit it deserved and stands as a favorable, if obscure, relic of southern rap.
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