Found footage of furious straight men opened Jay Boogie's live show at Teatro Latea in the Lower East Side. They were fixated on anal sex to the point of sick obsession, gathered in groups to preach about the "foul, shameful" lives of homosexuals. Spliced together as a supercut, the clips were more hilarious than upsetting, as queer audience members hollered with pride, much like a joyous church assembly on any given Sunday in Brooklyn.
This warm, communal energy was fitting, as Jamal Lewis slowly emerged under the spotlight to sing an acapella rendition of "Jesus Loves Me." The video continued playing, but her soulful bellows overpowered the loud, pointed tone of fearful heterosexual men. "Yes, Jesus Loves me/ For the bible tells me so," she assured the audience, introducing Boogie to the stage with a full live band to perform tracks off his new album, Jesus Loves Me Too.
Teatro Latea was staged like an intimate church, decorated with candles and limited seating filled mostly by Boogie's closest friends, family and longtime collaborators. He was the night's official preacher, but his gospel was less about vanity and more about humble self-assurance, which he emphasizes on JLMT songs like "Happy" and "No Shits." Although we were all there to see Boogie live, he was there to make us leave loving ourselves more than when we'd arrived--and he was successful.
"I'm nothing but a hood rat with a little bit of dignity and good home training skills, so you don't have to take me too seriously," Boogie said, dressed in custom Telfar and thigh-high boots. "I'm just a scapegoat for my community, and I want to make sure that people can live through me safely. So that's why I build spaces like this [where] people like you can conglomerate."
Where Boogie typically raps with a live DJ, this set saw the New York artist performing against thrashing drums and grizzly rock guitars. The production wasn't polished, but its edges made for a more raw, personal experience tinged with the triumphant glory of a local gospel group. Beyond his latest material, Boogie threw it back to highlights off My H.O.E. and Allure, including his sexy, break-through single, "Body," which sounded more celebratory than ever with live instrumentation.
Watch Jesus Loves Me Too live, below, and revisit our conversation with Jay Boogie, here.