After years of successfully twisting, turning, and transforming other artists’ hit tracks into gems, DJ Maj shines up his own set of jewels as MC with BoogiRoot—a head-turning testament not only to Maj’s talent for skillfully laying down rhymes on the studio mic but also for penning complex, literate, miles-deep lyrics. It’s the kind of album that inspires as much (or more) attention to every last word as the beats and melodies themselves.
The instrumentally spare opening track, “Rated R,” hints at what’s to come. After dcTalk’s Michael Tait’s brief tongue-in-cheek intro, Maj cranks up the metaphor knob with a vengeance as he gradually and poetically reveals the meaning behind the album’s core theme: turn it up so all my people can see the secret of the BoogiRoot is the grave empty…
Maj builds on the theme of life and life everlasting with the title track, “BoogiRoot (The Anthem),” a brightly rhythmic tune that finds Maj taking on the role of a party herald to a diverse, worldwide crowd that hasn’t yet found its way to the shindig: the party’s on LA to Queen’s Bridge/Miami Chitown Houston Phoenix/so shake your melon from innocent to felon / and respect the veteran reverend from the pelican / I’m repping for the haters who cannot get in / keeping my hands in the air ‘til they all get it…
“BoogiRoot is a play on words,” Maj explains. “In one sense it’s a kind of ingredient—just like the ginger root or beet root, the Boogiroot is my spice that I’m putting in the culture from a hip-hop perspective. In nature, the root goes to places the rest of the plant or tree can’t go— yet it remains a part of the greater plant body. The nutrient finder and provider. Same truths, same nutrients, different perspective . I feel in my gut that this record has the potential to go places where others haven’t gone—I want to bring spiritual nutrition to culture as a whole. And the boogie part is just me saying that we should all have a good time while we’re getting the message,” he adds with a chuckle.
The album’s first single, “Love (So Beautiful)”—which chronicles a couple’s lifelong love—is a grand example of Maj’s storytelling abilities: they had the same luggage, name tags and all/even signaled for the same sky cap on call/fast forward 40 years through peace and arguments/they still hold hands on that old park bench… The tune is the combination of “several stories,” Maj reveals. “I’m in airports a lot, and I watch people embracing each other in baggage claim—and I wonder what their story is. It’s about finding your loved one—and about finding God’s love, ultimately.”
The construction of Maj’s multilayered lyrical themes was a labor of love. “I’m very picky about my vocal delivery and about word selection,” he notes. “There was a lot of experimentation because I want to communicate the best I can to my audience, regardless of their background.”
Maj ups the ante high in the sky with two tracks that speak to that very audience. “H.A.N.D.S”, a rock ‘n’ rap tune that again features Michael Tait’s vocal prowess, is a subtle shot of evangelism filtered and tempered by Maj’s intelligent poetry: picture a city where mentality’s one cross / and one boss strips it all down to 10 laws / I gave up the wrestling became a resident / deserted earth and left for rest in it…
“It’s a song of surrender—a white flag,” Maj explains. “It’s a cry to those in this world who continue to feel that uncomfortable tug that there’s got to be more to life than what they’re experiencing every day. It’s me saying, ‘I know you’re tired. So why don’t you just give it all away? Starting with your life to God himself—why not just surrender it all so you can get it all back brand new?’”
Another dcTalk album, tobyMac, helps give wings to “Can’t Take It Away.” “It captures what’s in my heart and what’s in Toby’s heart—that nobody can take our peace, our joy,” Maj remarks. “ You can lock us up in jail, but we’ll just go on singing. It’s inspired by Paul and Silas.
“I also want people to think about my references to artists like Mase and Kanye West and Vanity. T here’s something about these people that made them start talking all that Jesus stuff. What made them want to do that? Why would someone like Mase leave all he has?”
“Ballin’ Chains” solidifies Maj’s musical outreach effort: you live then you die then it’s off the planet… I say we take it back to the place / where life is more than chasing groupies and cake…why you standing outside in the pouring rain / let’s do away with the ball and chains…
“In hip-hop culture, ballin’ means that you have all the money and all the girls,” Maj offers, “so again, it’s a play on words. The idea is that we’re killing ourselves just to attain the ball and chain which has the potential to be the very thing that’s dragging us down and killing us anyway.”
But as promised, Maj also injects some fun into the proceedings, and the sheer bravado in the adrenaline-packed “Let’s Go” and “Up All Nite” (the latter featuring vocals from L.A. Symphony) as well as the nostalgic tributes to old-school hip-hop artists captured in “uAppeal” (which lands a coup with famed rapper Special Ed’s vocals) gets the job done. (When he’s not behind the mic on stage or in the studio, Maj does his part promoting positive hip-hop through his syndicated weekly radio show Virtual Frequency.)
DJ Maj doesn’t exit without revealing a bit of himself—the finale, “Gotta Go Now” (featuring guest vocals from new Gotee artist, Liquid) is his tribute to his wife. “I want the whole world to know that I’m thankful for my wife—she’s a champion,” Maj says proudly. “But it’s for everyone who supports spouses who travel and fight for family.”
With his rapping gaining quick appeal after a recent tour with tobyMac, Kutless, and Audio Adrenaline, DJ Maj is confident that BoogiRoot can find fertile soil among music lovers of every stripe. “I really believe that we as humans are searching for purity, in one way or another, and we’re trying to quench that thirst with everything but righteousness…and we keep coming back full circle. I want the BoogiRoot album to lead others to that pure drink of water that people are looking for.
In the end, it’s about living in constant pursuit of true life. Parallel to a picture in an art gallery, one can see BoogiRoot at face value and totally miss its essence. On the other hand, one can discern its core essence as a work of art inspired by the Creator of the universe. The question isn’t necessarily getting to the meaning of BoogiRoot, but what it means to you—so listen and fill in the blanks.