Roxbury's Prophet: Rap Phenom, Moufy Rhymes with Gitty Eloquence and Tender Rage

To cite the Urban Dictionary again, the first definition for Boston is, “A city that really feels like a town full of business people during the day and college kids at night.” Not to sound like a snob, but this is my impression exactly, although I only moved here recently. Having lived for many years in Michigan and Washington, I think that Boston’s music scene pales in comparison to what Seattle and Detroit have to offer, and that yelling, “New England represent!” is sort of ridiculous. However, there most definitely is a music scene, and a hip-hop scene within it that is gaining more and more attention as unique talents like Moufy rise to the top.

For those of you who don’t already know, Moufy, aka Jeffrey Fortunato of Roxbury, is one of the city’s most promising young hip-hop talents. After watching the video for “Twist It and Light It,” I couldn’t help but think that the combination of his long, angular face with Ray-Ban sunglasses channeled a young Ray Charles. Moufy’s bouncy, charismatic energy and frequent shout-outs to the city make Boston seem like a vibrant, exciting place to be. Beantown, baby! Apparently “throwing threes” is a hand sign that means you’re from Boston, and Moufy wants everyone in the audience to take pride in their hometown.

I listened to “Boston Lights,” Moufy’s most successful project to date, apparently the most downloaded hip-hop mixtape from Boston by an unsigned artist, ever. It consists of 24 tracks, almost all great and some excellent. Moufy comes across as confident and mature, lyrically creative and with a clear, authoritative delivery. He doesn’t speak too fast to be understood, just fast enough so you have a split second to get the double meaning of his clever line before he delivers the next one. Most of his subject matter is standard hip-hop fare, i.e. partying, drinking, sex, smoking pot, shouting the praises of Boston and Roxbury, and shameless self-promotion. Within that framework, however, he manages to convey his unique sense of humor and his wide-ranging creativity. Regarding sex: “Junk in the trunk? I’ll wax that car!” Speculating on his oh-so-bright future: “Now I’m moving forward like I was built in Michigan.” (Lovely Detroit reference — he means about 90 mph!) To get the full effect, head to moufy.com and listen to the whole thing.

His main draw is his “crossover appeal” — that is, people who really live in the ‘hood will know that he’s telling the truth about stress and hopelessness, and upper-middle-class suburbanites can relate to his rhymes about paying parking tickets and watching Sportscenter. How did this happen? Moufy actually did grow up in Roxbury, in the Orchard Park housing projects, the son of a single mother. Twenty-five years ago, the Orchard Park projects were the epicenter of Boston’s crack epidemic. According to Moufy, the influence of the drug trade in the late ’80s can still be felt in Roxbury. Just listen to the song “Cry A Tear,” if you want to know how things are going in the ghetto these days. “Cops on the corners, waiting for us to slip up/Swear to God, it’s like we just got off the slave ship…” And consider these lyrics from the middle of “Boston Lights:”

“From the bottom of my soul, Boston I thank you
The memories were great but to be honest some were painful
I swear there were nights when I just didn’t understand you
You took some of my friends and I’m thinking, ‘How can you?’
But the truth is that you raised me, yeah you really raised me
The hard times didn’t break it, so it’s safe to say it made me…”

Poverty, crime, hopelessness and the terrible stress of surviving are still part of the lifestyle for many people living in Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester. Drug dealing must still be continuing as usual, otherwise why would Moufy write songs about friends who had been killed? Nobody who works 9 to 5 needs to carry a gun, except for the police. Anybody who wants to make a living by moving crack and heroin through the projects practically has to carry a gun, to keep from being robbed or to defend the territory that they use to do business. Homicide or life in prison are taken into the equation as “the cost of doing business.” Young people see the path that they’re on, and it becomes a choice. Which would you rather do, get a substandard education because your local high school sucks and live in exhausting poverty for the rest of your life because you can’t afford college? Or start making $5,000 a week immediately, no training required, only you’re almost certainly going to shoot somebody or get shot at any moment? And another generation of young black men either doesn’t make it to the age of 23, or spends their whole lives in prison. It’s hell as usual in the poorer neighborhoods of the city, and nothing has been done to help, years later. But Moufy himself managed to escape, by applying and getting accepted to Buckingham Browne and Nichols on a full scholarship.

BBN is a day school in Cambridge that was founded in the late 1800s, for which the average tuition is $34,000 a year. Moufy found himself in a state of culture shock, having rich-kid classmates from Newton and Cambridge in an educational environment that was far more structured than anything he’d ever experienced. As he adjusted socially, he began to relate to the kinds of problems that his new friends were having, even though he still went home to the projects every night. As a result, his lyrics have a kind of mosaic quality, with rhymes about SAT scores and studying for classes sprinkled into his party anthems. Young people from all sides of the city can relate, and Moufy comes off as an exceptionally well-rounded, very local type of guy. This juxtaposition also makes for a well-balanced album. He moves from a pure club banger such as “Like A G6” to the meditative instrumental of “Miss Newton,” a
song about an upper-class teenage suicide. Then back to “Lights Low,” about trying to make it out of poverty, with the line, ”The system is designed to make us stay here.” Again, I’m reminded of another great artist that went before him; in this case, I’m thinking of Grandmaster Flash and “The Message”, one of the finest crossover songs that communicated the agonies of ghetto life to the clueless white middle class. Moufy is doing well to carry on this tradition. We still have a long way to go.

If you’re curious about this exciting new local talent, head to DatPiff.com and download Moufy’s latest offering, “The Preparation.” It’s 13 tracks long and includes producers such as The Renegades, Mike Mula and Almari Beats, to name a few, and guest musicians such as Slaine and Terminology. It looks to be another popular album, and another milestone on Moufy’s way to hip-hop stardom.

-Alison Clark

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