The New Boyz: Redefining West Coast Hip-Hop
The New Boyz are doing what most thought was impossible…Making California known for something other than the birth place of “Gangsta Rap.” Spearheading the “Jerking Movement,” 17-year olds Ben J and Legacy have captivated teens and clubs across the country. Hip-Hop Wired recently caught up with the dynamic duo as they discuss their movement and influence on Hip-Hop culture and helping bring peace throughout L.A.’s gang ridden streets. If you thought they were just about a dance…then maybe you’re the jerk.
HipHopWired: L.A. is traditionally known for gangsta music. How did ya’ll decide to come out and break that mode because it’s almost like ya’ll are putting a new atmosphere out there that gangsta rap is not the only thing that LA is known for from a Hip-Hop perspective?
Legacy: It’s like we were making this music no matter what, we grew up on the gangster music and all that but we was doing us. We were keeping it 100 because if we ain’t living that, we ain’t gonna rap about it. I’m not gonna rap about a gun that can’t fit into my skinny jeans. We pretty much rapping about stuff we live, stuff that’s relevant. We’re being ourselves and we just happen to be from LA. But we’re not looking at it like it’s all gangsta music. We just looking at it like we’re artists and we’re just being ourselves.
HipHopWired: Cali has had a few dance things popping off over the last few years whether it was the hyphy movement going on in the Bay or the crumping and clowning movements. Everybody thought the hyphy craze was gonna explode and come across the country but for some reason it didn’t take off. How were ya’ll able to bring “jerking” mainstream.
Legacy: It’s a big difference between hyphy and jerking. Hyphy was a dance. It was a feeling that we were doing on the West Coast but it was just a dance. With jerking, you got a whole lot more than just a dance. Jerking has its own style which is brand new so that boosted it by itself. A lot of people want to be different so they want to join the style. So that element, that style of dress caught on too because it was so different. Then, jerking has its own slang. Everybody is making their own beats and doing their own thing. And jerking ain’t just the jerk.
Ben J: It’s a bunch of different stuff to the dance too so its just so many different things you can do with it. It may look hard but when you finally get it, it’s so addicting. You do not want to stop, that’s all you do in the clubs. And then with the lingo, I just called somebody “Brody” today and he looked at me like “Brody?” And then I heard him in the background practicing it like “Brody, Brody, Brody.” Trying to make it sound good so that was kind of funny to me. But jerking is basically a whole new movement, it’s way more than a dance.
HipHopWired: Basically ya’ll are creating new styles and I think that’s what keeps the essence of Hip-Hop alive. You can’t be doing the same thing you did 10 years ago because the culture isn’t gonna move. So ten years from now when its some new kids doing something it’s almost like we can have a legacy. We can look back 50 years and say we were here. We did this, we did that and I think a lot of times people miss that because they are so quick to criticize the younger people coming up.
Ben J: You can’t remake Run-DMC. You can’t remake these veteran artists that have already been in the game and did what they did. You need new stuff. You can’t just keep remaking the songs that they already did, it’s not gonna be hot because it’s not original. Evolution is gonna come. That’s why when people be like, “Ya’ll killing Hip-Hop,” we’re like man, come on dog. People scared of change.
HipHopWired: Let’s dig into the album a little bit, Skinny Jeans and a Mic. What’s the whole concept behind that title and where are ya’ll going with that?
Legacy: It’s the New Boyz. When people think of the New Boyz, they think of skinny jeans. It pretty much describes us to the fullest. We got the skinny jeans but we also can spit. We got bars for days and people don’t realize that. So you can say the skinny jeans represent the whole jerking movement, the beats and whatever else. The mic represents Hip-Hop and us being the new leaders to take it forward. So our music is all that combined. We got the dope beats but at the same time we talk about real stuff too. So we’re getting off too and it’s not all just about rapping about a dance. We’ve got way more than “You’re A Jerk.”
HipHopWired: So have ya’ll picked up any endorsement deals? What’s next for the New Boyz outside of the music… any movies or anything going on or TV shows? What’s good from that aspect?
Ben J: We got three movies coming out. We got one about us that’s like 8 Mile or Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ but it’s about the New Boyz and it’s called American Kidz. Then we got one based on LA. It’s got elements of Crash, The Wire and Menace To Society and that’s called 818. Then we got the Jerking documentary which is based on how jerking came about and where it came from and where is it leading to and how is the movement going. We trying to get our own juice in 7-11 and the gas stations. We want our own clothing line because everybody likes the way we dress so we got to put that out there. And we just talked to the creator of the Jamie Foxx Show and the Martin Lawrence Show and he wanted to do a sitcom on us, so that too.
HipHopWired: That’s what it is right there. But let’s switch gears for a minute. I want to talk about the little incident you had with Soulja Boy. I’m not even gonna go into the details or anything… that’s not the focus of the question. But the question is when ya’ll initially responded, it was like don’t get the skinny jeans and the tight shirts confused because we are from the streets of L.A. Don’t think I’m soft just because of what I’m wearing. Can ya’ll elaborate on that a little bit more and I’m not talking about as far as Soulja Boy, I mean just people not taking the appearance for being soft and running with it.
Ben J: Everybody got the places where they came from. We all been in the streets, we all had our incidents, we all grew up and made different choices. I’m from Compton and Legacy is from Inglewood. I lived in every different part of LA to experience so many different things so just because I want to change my style doesn’t mean I can’t go there. You can take someone out the hood but you can’t take the hood out of them. But I’mma New Boy and I got so much stuff to worry about other than the little stuff. We moved on from that but we’re not soft at all.
HipHopWired: On a more serious angle, you two are from Inglewood and Compton and ya’ll got a high gang activity out there. With the various colors that ya’ll wear, how were ya’ll able to break that trend of somebody can only wear red and blue. Because it seems like ya’ll are mixing it up and some of the younger generations can wear that stuff anywhere now. Is that dying down out in LA where you gotta watch what colors you wear?
Legacy: That’s the cool thing about the jerking movement because there’s a big decrease in the gangs all that type of stuff. People are stopping their past just to pursue this “jerking” thing. Whether it’s like the dancing, the music, the producing, all that. They just being themselves and they’re not scared. Before to be considered the cool kid, you had to be a gangbanger or you had to be a part of something like that. But now it’s like the creative kids are the cool kids now. The people trying to be different, doing something new. So that’s the cool thing about the jerking movement.
Ben J: Then, where we come from, we got all the girls liking us. And when the other dudes see that’s what’s pulling the girls now, they’re like, “I gotta get up on that.”
HipHopWired: Coming from Compton and Inglewood, were ya’ll in a gang related environment and if so, how did ya’ll escape that stuff?
Legacy: I moved from Inglewood when I was like 7 or 8 years old. I moved to Vegas then Reno Valley so I was everywhere (which kept me out of that life).
Ben J: And just to keep it 100, my life was involved in that because I had family members and older cousins that were in the gangs and stuff and was trying to get me with them. I used to hang with the homies on the block but that wasn’t important to me like that. That was just something on the backburner. I escaped because I like rapping and I liked playing football so my parents moved me to a different city which was Victorville. I met Legacy then I just kept on rapping. I wasn’t into the gangs like that so I knew that wasn’t going to make me no money. This not going to take me anywhere, I got a family too.
HipHopWired: Getting back into the album, what’s the vibe of Skinny Jeans And A Mic. Educate those that have a preconceived notion of the New Boyz and your sound.
Legacy: I produced half of it. We got a bunch of local producers on the album. People we used to mess with before we got signed and all that because that’s the reason why we got signed, making music like that. So we didn’t want to just abandon them and forget about it and go super mainstream and turn different. We wanted to stay true to ourselves cause that’s what got us the fans in the first place.
Ben J: Also I want to let people know that “You’re A Jerk” is the least lyrical song we got. We got up-tempo tracks for people in the clubs. We got R&B tracks for the ladies, we got tracks to bob your head if you’re just riding in the car. We got funny tracks like, “Dang, he said that, that’s funny as heck” and we got our jerk tracks because we can’t just abandon our jerking. We make all types of music, it’s just not jerking.
HipHopWired: A lot of old school rappers are quick to say that the new generation doesn’t respect the past. But if you take a closer look, you guys actually pay homage whether it’s the Mohawks, rope chains or box fades. Can you speak a little bit on the appreciation of the old school and how the retro style came into effect?
Legacy: That’s where it started. The whole skinny jeans and everything, it all started because people tried to bring the 80s back.
Ben J: At our school, we had “Crazy Week.” We had “80’s Day.” Everybody came in their colorful colors and skinny jeans, and that’s what we thought was 80’s. So that’s what we came in as and me and Legacy was like this is dope, I want to wear this every day. It wasn’t just us thinking that, a lot of people thought about the same thing around where we came from. We respect the 80s, even though I’m a 90s baby, I respect the 80s a lot because their style was dope. It was crazy and we like that. But then again, we just contribute to it. We add on to it and make it new, make it 2009 and 2010 and every other year that’s about to come.
HipHopWired: So the New Boyz have definitely made a mark on the game in the short time you’ve been on? Where do ya’ll plan on taking Hip-Hop and what’s the most important impact you feel you’ve made on the culture so far?
Legacy: Pretty much right now what we’re doing is we’re making it cool to be yourself. You don’t got to go in and front like you hard. If you lived that life that’s fa sho, but if not, just do you. No matter what you is. Like Asher Roth. He kept it 100. He came from the suburbs and he admits it on the track, you know, you don’t gotta front. So we making it cool to just be yourself.
Ben J: We came into this game to stay. Longevity is the key and this is where we want to be. This is our new home. We got more songs coming at everybody. Our fans are a big inspiration to us so we can’t just let our fans down. We staying, we staying…