Not since Matisyahu has an American created a buzz in reggae music. J Boog (Jerry Afemata) brings an authentic Jamaican reggae sound to his music. I caught up with Boog, whose Feb. 5 show at Sound Wave is sold out -- and discussed his stage name, music and upcoming projects.
Gwendolyn Jackson: How did you get the nickname J Boog?
J Boog: I actually got my nickname from my cousin, because when I was young, I really couldn't sit still, always had to be places, always wanted to get out. I used to get my boogie on, I can't really dance or nothing -- I can two-step, but that's about it; I can skank [laughs].
SD: How old are you and what month were you born?
JB: I’m 27-years-old. I turned 27 last year, and I was born in September.
SD: Is this your first time performing in San Diego?
JB: This is actually the second time we been -- out there a couple of years back at the 4th & B.
SD: How did you come to be working with Tribe of Kings? They are one of my favorite sounds here in San Diego.
JB: Nice! They're actually good friends with our friends. They hold a sound here in the Bay Area, they’re called Jah Warrior Shelter Hi-Fi. [Tribe of Kings] actually linked up with them. It's been going pretty good ever since.
SD: You were born in the Los Angeles area; you lived up in Compton. How did you survive that?
JB: [Pause and sigh] Good family, good family.
SD: What is your nationality?
JB: It's Samoan. I was born here in the States. I'm actually the youngest child of seven. I'm the baby of the family [laughs].
SD: Where do you reside mostly when you're not touring?
JB: I'm either in San Francisco or I'm in Hawaii -- Oahu, the North Shore.
SD: Tell me about your relationship with the island reggae artist Fiji.
JB: Fiji's actually ... that's the teacher for me. He had to put me up on game on everything, you know? He worked with me in the studio and helped build the sound that we have today. He's a mentor of mine. We just became good friends throughout the years, and we still are to this day. Fiji paved the way for artists just like myself to come up in the world. He's pounded down a lot of doors, man. Give it up for that dude; he's the man. I grew up on his music, all my life. He's like the Michael Jackson for the Polynesian people [laughs].
SD: Would you classify yourself as Jawaiian?
JB: Whether it's Jawaiian, reggae, island reggae -- it's all music, you know. Good vibes and good feelings.
SD: What reggae artists would you say you're mostly influenced by?
JB: Bob Marley, Beres Hammond, Gregory Isaacs, Garnett Silk, Dennis Brown -- just a whole lot of names. Glen Washington. I don't know -- I love feel-good music. A little Richie Spice.
SD: I've read that your voice is often compared to Glen Washington's. Your thoughts?
JB: [Laughs] I got a call from one of my friends and he said in Antigua they were announcing the song as a Glen Washington song. He had to go into the radio station to fix that, because it was coming from us. They said we sound like a younger Glen Washington. It was an honor. I'm humbled by that -- it's crazy.
SD: Is lovers-rock reggae more your style?
JB: Lovers rock is most of the songs that I come up with. I just love that groove and that feel, that one drop -- I don't know.
SD: Would you consider yourself a romantic type of guy?
JB: [Huge laughter] I guess you can call it -- or put it -- that way. I'm over here with red cheeks now, girl. I am a little shy.
SD: When you're writing, are you pulling your songwriting skills from actual experiences?
JB: Some of them are from actual experiences, and some of them are just from the instrumental of the beat, the feeling that I get and what I think that fits there. That's how we do most of our writing. Sometimes I won't do a song in one day -- I have to come back to it. I just, I don't know, be in a supermarket buying some groceries, and I hear a melody, then I put in my phone. And if it happens to fit on that track, then it's good. I don't know -- it's weird.
SD: I know you’ve done collaborations with Richie Spice, but Gramps Morgan?
JB: Gramps! Yep he's the one who took us out to Jamaica and got us all the links. He was talking about "put us a list together, brother. I got you." Then everything happened. It was a cool feeling being down in Jamaica. Big Up to Gramps!
SD: Your music sounds like authentic Jamaican reggae.
JB: Wow! [truly surprised at my comment]
SD: What projects are you currently working on?
JB: We're actually finishing up our album. We're done with it. It should be coming out in a couple of months, real soon. We actually have another single with Petah Morgan. Petah's been with us for a while. That dude is ... Petah Morgan is the man! He's our dog right there [laughs].
SD: When should we expect the album to be dropping, and what is the name of the album?
JB: The name of the album is going to be Back Yard Boogie and will be hopefully dropping this summer, but hopefully sooner than summer.
SD: Are you currently on tour or just picking up show dates?
JB: We're setting up a tour for later on this year. We actually got a tour in New Zealand coming up after Vegas next week. We're going to be gone for about a month and come back, and we might be doing a Cali tour. Hopefully everything goes good and we're just going to be sticking to it.