I was late to the party on discovering the Van Buren Boys/Records, a collective and record label based out of Brockton, Massachusetts. But it was a refreshing discovery that led to a waterfall of talented artists, infectious chemistry, and pristine presentation. You could easily take a ride in that waterfall by jumping around their YouTube channels going from watching an infectious, car ride anthem with Lord Felix’s “Nothing,” hear Saint Lyor tackle a melodic piano and 808s with an arsenal of vocal flows and melodies on “Gossip”, or catch a Van Buren Boys track that has the whole group rapping backstage of a venue in Cambridge with “Live @ The Oberon.” No matter what route you go, the chemistry is apparent (solo work or group work, the entire group shows up) and the quality is consistent and high quality. Jiles is one of the founders of Van Buren Boys/Records and he recently released a phenomenal EP titled It’s Not Much, But It’s Mine? that showcases his unique, gritty vocal style over hard-hitting, dark production, as well as a window into who he is. I spoke with him about his EP, his collaborators and the Massachusetts rap scene, and Van Buren.
Ryan: How have you been holding up during COVID? Has it affected your creativity or any other facets of yourself as an artist?
Jiles: Nah, it hasn’t affected it one bit. I’ve been cooling it during COVID. I’ve had more time than ever. Just been writing more and just honestly relaxing. Feels somewhat good not having a set schedule day to day.
What inspired the title of your newest EP, It’s Not Much, But It’s Mine?
All my life I always loved that phrase. It resonated with me in so many ways, but with COVID happening and people losing their lives or jobs, it really struck something with me emotionally. So I felt now more than ever was the best time to call the project that.
The project is very concise at 11 minutes. Was this intentional or did it just end up that way? Was there more to the project at some point before?
I knew I was going to drop an EP because it’s been a year prior to my last release and I felt like I owed my fans new music. I’m really concise with my music, so I had several records that I took off the project because it didn’t fit the sound I wanted to go. I’m gon’ put those songs on the deluxe.
You have a really unique style that works perfectly with your choice of gritty production. Where do you draw these influences artistically for these sounds?
Prior to Fuck Jiles, my first project, I didn’t release a record for over a year and that was because I wanted to work on my skills, find my flow, work cadences out and stuff like that. I’ve just been a fan of music so long that I know what works for me. I wouldn’t say I have an influence I just know what I like.
How do you choose your production? Who did you work with on this project?
I just know my sound honestly, so I always tap in with Ricky Felix. He’s VB. Him, tee-waTT, and M.ali did “Stones.” The other two producers, Damian and NiklãvZ, I found online and they just had that gritty hard sound I needed.
What are your thoughts about Massachusetts rap and the music community right now?
Mass scene is doing great right now. I feel like artist are taking music more serious then ever out here. So many dope artists who just need a bigger platform and infrastructure to showcase there talents on a national level.
Who are some of those artists you mention that are doing great things in Mass?
Man there’s so many artist to name, but a couple artist outside of VB I’ve been listening to are Big Super, Garrett, $ean Wire, Kadeem, BoriRock. Just to name a few.
How has Brockton influenced you as a person and an artist?
My raps are Brockton. I’m telling my stories growing up in Brockton. It’s literally my biggest influence.
Have you lived in Brockton your whole life? And what about Brockton makes it your biggest influence?
Brockton born and raised! I mean, shit, it’s all I know, you know ? I rap what I know and this all I know. I can tell you thousands of stories of Brockton. My music always been about my story and my life and Brockton is the setting.
It seems like the Van Buren Boys are full steam ahead and not stopping. Can you tell me a little bit about you and your collective/label and when you guys started this?
We’re best friends who love music. Me and a homie came up with the name, but besides that everyone is as equal as the next person in VB. We started VB Records like 2017, and since then, many artists have came and went and I think that was just faith because now we got the right people in it and there’s no turning back.
What’s next for VB? Like short term as in any new members joining and long term as in where do you see VB in a few years from now?
As far as rappers, I think we good on that. But if we were to get a rapper, it’ll prolly be a woman. Def more producers. We’re always looking for more producers. Short term, just more music from everyone to finish of this year. Long term, just expanding the brand nationally and globally.
The members of VB seem to collaborate often and you’ve guys released a handful of singles and videos. Will we get a compilation album eventually?
VB project is something everyone is asking for and we’re aware. But there’s five rappers with five different visions and personalities. We easily have twenty records in the vault though, so it can be done. It’s going to happen. Trust me. It’s just a matter of when and having everyone fully invested in it.
You said on Twitter that you’re already working on your next project. Do you have a goal in mind when making new music and anything you’ve learned from your last two projects that will influence your next one?
The goal is to always make a better project than the last. This next project, I’m pulling the layers on topics I’ve discussed in the past and going more in depth. Letting you inside my feelings. I’m excited for this next project. Biggest takeaway is I can always do better. These last two projects are dope, but I know I get better by the months, so I can’t leave any stones unturned with this one.
Lastly, I’ve noticed you’re a Celtics fan. How far do you think they can go in the bubble?
Our starting five is as good as any team in the bubble, but our second unit and bigs are suspect at best. We can come out the east easily, but we’d need to cut our rotation to 7 or 8 guys and have Hayward play with the second unit more.