Back in my early days rooted in the Boston hip-hop scene—sometime between fall 2011 and spring 2012—I stumbled across a local rapper named Avenue. It was in a cypher on YouTube featuring five Boston artists, and in my eyes, he was the definitive standout. Avenue's rhymes were raw and confident, delivered with the self-assurance of a veteran but the hunger of a new kid on the block, and it was clear through just the brief set of bars that there were entire stories to be told behind each of them, and that his intrinsic understanding of street life could serve as the backbone of a fruitful career.
After a bit of digging, I uncovered some of Avenue's early music and found it to be just as compelling as his cypher performance. I reached out to him for a project I was working on at the time, and from just one conversation, the music came all the way to life, and my first impressions of the rapper—wise, eloquent and slick-tongued—were confirmed. Within a year of that meeting, he released his debut mixtape Words Speak Life, which established a solid foundation locally, and following a short hiatus that came with the birth of his son in 2014, Avenue returned with his second full-length project, The Chandelier View.
His presence in Boston has been unwavering for years, but with a new album set to release next month, all signs are pointing to a newly poised, refocused Avenue making a splash well beyond the city. The first single off Mass Ave & Lenox entitled "Party's Over (Ringing Off)," dropped in October with accompanying visuals, and both the song and video find Ave right back where he started, "in the hood like I ain't never leaving," offering an unfiltered view of the South End streets where he grew up and the not always pretty life that comes along with it.
Today, we are premiering the album's second single "Nobody" featuring Smoke DZA and Boston's Deon Chase, a frequent collaborator of Avenue's. Get familiar with Avenue below, and look out for Mass Ave & Lenox in December.
What's been the biggest change from your approach in the past? You've been at it for a few years, but there seems to be a whole new energy now, what's the difference?
This time around I'm just being more patient. I feel like before I rushed the rollouts and piecing things together, and I wasn't paying as much attention to details as I should have been. I was still fairly new and learning. I think I'm at a point now where after doing it for a little while, I've found a sound that I'm very, very comfortable with, that I feel like I've perfected. My wordplay—I feel like I've just gotten stronger. I've gotten better and I've worked for that. Long studio sessions, writing—I wanted to be real descriptive this time around. I wanted to create something that makes you feel like you're walking around this city, like you can smell it and feel it.
Why did you decide to start with "Party's Over," and what's special to you about it?
The content, the beat, everything. The way that the tape is laid out, there's a point where there's more of a party vibe, and then it ends, and there's regular everyday shit when you live in the hood. No matter what you do you try to enjoy yourself, but at any given time something could go bad. But once I heard the beat, it struck a specific emotion with me. I had been gone for a while and I felt like I had to answer people's questions, and this was the perfect reintroduction. Compared to The Chandelier View, this is way more aggressive and direct, the beats are harder, they knock.
I wanted to create something that makes you feel like you're walking around this city, like you can smell it and feel it.
Talk about Mass Ave & Lenox a bit. How would you explain the meaning of that title to someone that doesn't know anything about Boston?
Mass Ave and Lenox are two streets, where I grew up at located in the South End Lower Roxbury section of Boston. You know, growing up in the south end it's the best of both worlds. There's million dollar brownstones, but within the mix is poverty, low income housing, Section 8. With Mass Ave and Lenox specifically, we wanted to create something that represented home, I wanted to make it something that was also personal to me. So a lot of these stories are very personal, very direct, they're all real, it's all based on true events. I'm speaking about situations with my friends, things that I've been through—just this past March my neighborhood was raided, so a lot of this came from emotions from that. And I was at a point where I'm like, how much longer can I get lucky? I put everything into this. And most importantly, I haven't been able to move around as much because of the baby, so I've been almost forced to do things from home. So that's another thing behind the title, I'm doing it from home, from the backyard.
You talked about finding your sound, a bit about harder beats, but overall from the whole project what can people expect to get from it?
Storytelling. Storytelling, man. Front to back, you'll feel this a lot. I feel like a lot of the songs are very vivid and direct. If you close your eyes, you can see it.
There are so many different stories of Boston emerging now. To sum it up, what is your Boston story and what are people going to learn from you?
I think people are automatically gonna get somebody that's been through a lot, and regardless of it just kept pushing through. I think a lot of people are going to identify with the content and recognize and appreciate that I went through it, and that I went back and studied the lifestyle and the genre from way before my time to get here.