The odds were depressingly high that Boaz would never make it out of the violence and despair that surrounded him growing up in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Larimer. “Damn near everybody I did music with is in the penitentiary or dead,” he says. “Pittsburgh is one of those places where, if you can make it here, if you can be respected in these streets—you can do it anywhere. It’s that cutthroat.”

Though Bo is getting ready to release his Rostrum Records debut album, he’s been putting in work for years. After winning a battle of the beats contest on local radio as a teenager, he dropped his first mixtape in 2005, and continued to feed the streets with a steady stream of projects all the way through 2012’s acclaimed Bases Loaded.

That same year, he signed to Rostrum and headed out on the national Under the Influence of Music Tour along with Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller and Kendrick Lamar, performing at 20,000+ person venues. He followed that up with a spot on The Smoker’s Club Tour in 2013.

The unrelenting grind has earned the respect of fans, media, and peers. He’s been featured in major outlets, such as MTV, BET, Complex, Vibe, XXL and NahRight, and worked with Wiz, Mac, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Sean Price and Freeway, among others.

But now, it’s strictly about Boaz. For the last year, the father of three has been hard at work on the new album, due in the summer of 2014. He’s built excitement already, with records like “How We Law (feat. Junior Reid)” and “Like This,” produced by !llmind. He also worked with Grammy-winning producer Jim Jonsin on the project.

“I think they gonna realize just how much substance the music got, and bringing it to that broader light,” he says of the project. “I don’t think it’s a matter of people knowing who I am at this point. It’s just a matter of separating myself, and really going into that bracket of being a top-tier musician.”

“Being that leader from my community, and tryna show something different, it’s real important.”