Few artists in today's music landscape stand out quite like Shaboozey. The Virginia native, whose parents are of Nigerian descent, is a genre-fluid artist who combines musical styles that emerge from hip-hop, Afrobeats, jazz, Americana, rock, country, and Western. With influences that range from Fela, Bob Dylan, Lead Belly, and Johnny Cash, Shaboozey is a multihyphenate who transcends all definitions and restrictions
Shaboozey burst on the scene with his hugely popular single, “Jeff Gordon,” which was released in 2014. His debut album Lady Wrangler dropped in 2018 and he followed up with his trap-country fusion sophomore effort Cowboys Live Forever.
In October 2022, Shaboozey released his latest project Cowboys Live Forever, Outlaws Never Die, which garnered 125 million streams and counting. His music has received major co-signs from the ikes of Timbaland, Shaquille O’Neal, and Diplo. The album is a showcase of his succinct ability to use his music to address issues that he’s passionate about such as gender equality on “Tall Boy.” Unquestionably, Shaboozey is forging his musical identity on his terms.
Speaking with BET.com for #Unboxed Vol. 30, Shaboozey shared the mission and purpose behind his music.
“I'm trying to make music that reflects where I come from, you know, what I mean, in the stories that I have in mind because I'm a storyteller,” Shaboozey said. “So making music that reflects my background, loving old trucks and open space. I’m just being free honestly.”
After years of honing his skills as a rapper/singer/songwriter and releasing several projects, Shaboozey earned national recognition when he appeared on Duckworth’s “Start a Riot” which was featured on the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack. Shaboozey recalled creating the song and how it felt to be a part of such an acclaimed film.
“That was crazy. I had this vibe going back to when I did “Jeff Gordon” and I was in my screamo bag when I used to scream a lot on songs [Laughs]. They wanted a high-energy record for the album so my boy Duckworth hit me up and was like, “Man, I think, you know, we really want you on this record.” So I went in there, cut it, they loved it,” Shaboozey remembered.
“At first, I only did the hook and they were like, “Whoever this dude is, we need him to add some more to the song. Then I ended up adding a second verse and the song blew up,” he continued. “The song was huge and I felt like there was no other song on the album that was like it. It's just somebody raging and screaming as you know, with so much energy. So that was a big moment. Man. That's a big one. That was a big moment.”
On Cowboys Live Forever, Outlaws Never Die, Shaboozey made his most personal and creative statement of his burgeoning career so far. Categorized as a “melting pot of sounds,” the LP is a love letter to Virginia and captures the essence of his versatility as an artist.
“On Cowboys, I was just trying to make something that was organic, raw, and was a good blend between country and hip hop. I think the genres have a lot of similar narratives,” Shaboozey said. “There are a lot of connections with contemporary hip hop and the old outlaw music from the 1800s in the wild, wild west. I wanted to show the cross themes between the two sounds and the two worlds.”
“If you look at old cowboy movies, it's groups of guys getting together to fight for what they believe in or they’re just trying to survive. So I wanted to talk about how there is no difference between then and now which is crazy to think about,” he shared.
Almost a year to the date of the release of Cowboys, Shaboozey is back with new music in the form of “Let It Burn” which has quickly become a viral hit approaching one million views on YouTube and experiencing phenomenal growth on DSPs. Shaboozey described his latest track as his way of empowering people “that they can make it through anything.”
“As far as how the song came, it just hit me out of nowhere. There's a line in the song that says ‘Praying to God, to please pull me out but God says that the test is not done yet.’ “It’s saying that hard times and the challenges that we’re facing are temporary. You have to keep preserving and don't let fear hold you back.”
“Let It Burn” was not only influenced by his home state which he loves so much, but he also collaborated with artists from Virginia to bring the song to life.
“For the most part, I'm inspired by Virginia so there's definitely some Virginia references in the song. Sonically, I'm pulled on some Virginia artists as well. I tried something new and it’s working,” Shaboozey said. “A lot of people are showing me love, especially from hip-hop producers who are hitting me up about the song. It’s interesting because you can tell everybody just wants to hear something different.”
In addition to being an artist, Shaboozey also loves to share the wisdom that he’s learned from the entertainment business with upcoming artists. For an artist to achieve longevity, Shaboozey, noted that they must follow their own path and communicate their truths in their music.
“What I would tell new artists is that the tools are in you already. You don’t have to look outside for something. That’s what I try to do. I write my songs for me. I didn't sell my soul or do anything like that. I just had ideas and trusted my gut,” Shaboozey said. “Just be you. If you're in tune with yourself, the universe we'll give you ideas and tell you when to act on certain things that just feel right. So as an artist, doing what feels good to you would be the biggest thing I would share.”
“What cuts through is when people are not afraid to be themselves. We want to hear your perspective on things,” he continued. That's kind of the biggest thing to take away from it. It’s hard to be like other people. It’s easier to be yourself.”