[Originally published in the Boston Herald on May 20, 2011]
For Cambridge rapper Millyz, two years have brought both triumph and tragedy.
In 2009, the enterprising emcee released his debut street album, “Whiteboy Like Me,” and turned a budding fan base into a cult following. When recording the follow-up “Whiteboy Like Me 2,” available for free download on Friday at datpiff.com and newenglandhiphop.com, the 25-year-old looked to capitalize on the success of the original while pushing beyond its street-oriented scope.
“’Whiteboy Like Me’ was 18 songs and raw emotion too, and I wanted to duplicate that,” said Millyz (real name Myles Lockwood). “I wanted to recreate that, but even bigger and better.”
On the verge of what was supposed to be the record’s release in early March, Millyz threw a party that became one of the city’s most packed and passionate displays of support for a local rapper. But just minutes after the let-out, his best friend, rising rap artist Roc Dukati (born Jamie Lee), was shot to death. It was the second time in 10 years that Millyz had lost his best friend. And for a second, he contemplated giving up music altogether.
“Music is the only positive thing that I’ve had in my life, that kept me from the streets and all the fu–ed up s–t that goes on,” said Millyz. “So music being the most positive thing, how could the most negative thing in the world happen at my party that was thrown on the strength of my music? … So it made me feel like I didn’t want to do music for a second. But I shook myself out of that. I think (Roc) shook me out of that. ‘Cause music is still the most positive thing I got going to this day.”
Millyz picked himself up and put the finishing touches on his album. He recorded one final song, “Right Here,” in which he alludes to the loss — “My homie Roc died at my party, never felt so alone/but I feel him in the room while I’m writing this song” — and released a video for the Roc-assisted single “Out All Night,” in which a Ducati motorcycle symbolizes the presence of his late comrade. And as he marks the completion of his sophomore release, Millyz struggles with the fact that Roc will never hear the album his advice helped to shape.
“While I was in the process of recording this CD, he was like, ‘Yo, whatever you do man, just make sure you keep giving people your life, because that’s why the fans are gonna stick with you. You can make a nice song and it’ll be on the radio, but if they don’t know who you are as a person, they’re not gonna keep following you. They’re just gonna know that one song, they’re not gonna check for you anymore,’” Millyz said. “Roc really had got me grounded with that, because I was trying to get the club records and the aggressive records and he was like, ‘Nah man, you gotta keep making insightful records, because that’s why the people fell in love with you in the first place.’”
If “Whiteboy Like Me” amassed a tribe of local followers and scattered fans across the globe, the sequel should officially bring the buzz national. The album’s quality and versatility rivals that of any industry release, with a mix of club-ready records, street anthems and struggle sagas including the standout “Every Breath” featuring Boston r & b heavyweight Masspike Miles; contributions also come from Hub music elite including Cyrus DeShield, Lisa Bello and Smoke Bulga, Roc’s older brother.
Just in case fans thought they had Millyz pigeonholed, he switches it up with the rave-ready “Drink Water,” which should get some fists pumping. And on a bittersweet and ultimately ironic note, “Am I Dreamin’” pays homage to the best friend he lost 10 years ago.
“That took me 10 years to process those emotions and actually be at the point where I could get it out there in a song,” Millyz said. “So this loss’ll never go away. I know that. I got a good understanding. This’ll never go away. It’s there forever. You know? This’ll f–k me up if I make it to 70. I’ll have Alzheimer’s and still remember this. But it also gives me a responsibility to keep going with the music. ‘Cause you know, Roc’s the type, he’ll be lookin’ from heaven like ‘Yo man, you weak man. You weak as hell right now. Like, what are you doing? Go!’”