If music is a universal language, Jerry “J Boog” Afemata has mastered that language through reggae. Born in Long Beach, California and raised in Compton as the youngest of eight, J Boog worked to make his sound a collaboration of family influence and personal freedom. With the help of reggae artist Fiji in 2005, J Boog produced his debut album Hear Me Roar. Joining up with Wash House Music Inc, he worked with reggae family legend Ambassador Gramps Morgan of Morgan Heritage, island producer and artist Don Corelone, and international reggae star Yami Bolo to put out his Billboard charts topper Backyard Boogie in 2011. He won Best New Entertainer at 2012’s International Reggae and Music Awards. He continues to produce singles that make their way to the top charts for reggae and put out his latest EP Live Up in 2014.
Ten years after his start, BandWagon Magazine caught up with the humble Samoan artist during his east coast tour.
BandWagon: Why did you chose reggae?
J Boog: We’ve always listened to reggae growing up in the house. I don’t know, it was good music. I think at the time that was something I could listen to and relate to, what we were going through as far as hard struggles. Love and family. We definitely had a strong bond as a family and a lot of the reggae music we listened to pretty much said all of that. It was easy on the ears, too, for our parents and we could turn it up as loud as we wanted (laughs).
BandWagon: What do you think makes good music?
J Boog: Something that can switch your mood up from negative to positive right when you hear the first lick. Anything that can bring my mood out of a shitty one to a more happy one (laughs), that can make my day more productive and more happy, that’s good music to me.
Do you think being a reggae artist sets up some sort of expectation as to what your lyrics should be about?
For me there’s really no expectation of I’m trying to be better than the next song, we just write. That’s really the media and people that judge that. We just do music, create and see what happens. We just sing from the heart.
On your Live Up EP, “Break Us Apart” has a pretty clear call to action. Was there any sort of inspiration or push for political activism in that, or am I just reading too far in to it?
That was just a lot of shit we saw on the news that just wasn’t right. There were a whole lot of shootings. That was just something on my mind that I had to get off and that’s what came out.
In your bio it repeatedly mentions your Samoan heritage. How has that influenced your music?
I don’t totally write music for the young people or for the old people and I think from our parents giving us teachings in the early ages, we really respect our elders. We don’t want to put anything out there that would disrespect them. That’s the influence it has on my music now. I want something that everybody can feel rather than just a certain group of people.
Have you noticed a change in your music or style since your first album in 2007?
Definitely there was a change in the sound and the music, but the message is still the same. I think we actually got better. It’s a whole growing and learning experience for us… Whatever comes out is still us, but probably in a more relevant sound to what people are used.
When you say we, do you mean Wash House Music, your friends? Your entourage?
Sorry, yeah. I mean I don’t totally speak about me like I do everything, because it’s a team effort. And for me to say me, it’s not me it’s we, you know what I mean? I represent all of us.
You mention a philosophy that music is universal, how have you experienced that in touring to countries around the world that don’t necessarily speak English?
It’s funny because everybody would totally understand a song in parts of Europe but don’t speak a lick of English and the songs sometimes aren’t totally in English, they’re in Patois lyrics or in a different type of slang, but they understand it and they get the feeling of it and they sing the lyrics and we’re like wow… they really just appreciate everything (we’ve) done for the music. It’s pretty crazy.
Where’s your favorite place that you’ve performed?
I think everywhere (laughs). Being on the road is a blessing. I love seeing new places because there’s new experiences, new emotions and there’s new feelings towards music to write. But I think that my favorite place is Hawaii still and the west coast, California. It’s got to be.
In one of your videos, “Let It Blaze” which is an awesome song all about smoking ganja, but I noticed that you personally don’t smoke at all in the video and I was wondering if you would like to comment on your position for or against marijuana?
I’m for it. I don’t smoke it like how I used to. I pretty much don’t smoke at all right now. But I was never against it I choose not to do it. It’s been like five years and I’ll go off and on if I’m really struggling with lyrics then I’ll smoke to catch a vibe and get in the mood… I don’t see anything wrong with it.
Was there ever a time when you worried about making ends meat and how does it feel now to be living your dreams?
I mean that’s always a worry as far as musicianship goes, but it kind of worked out for us. At first we didn’t really do it for that, we did it for the message–love. Everything’s coming along with it and we really appreciate all that music is doing for us right now… We’re just thankful for the gift of music.