Boogie: A Rapper of Consequence (Pitchfork Interview)
Read the full interview at Pitchfork
When out-of-towners picture Los Angeles, a good number of them are actually thinking of Burbank—the idyllic suburb a dozen miles northwest of L.A. proper, suspended in time and dotted with movie studios. From here, the downtown skyline seem like a mirage, and you can can walk for blocks without hearing a sound. But if you know which side streets to take—and listen closely for the rolling hi-hats and low end pulsing through garage-door paneling—you can find one of the best young rappers in the country.
Until recently, Boogie was living an hour south of this tranquil locale, in Long Beach, a city that's wracked in places by gun violence and gangs. The MC, born Anthony Dixson, was introduced to that world during his adolescence, when a friend at the Compton church he attended revealed his Blood ties and encouraged Boogie to join. At this point, though, the 26-year-old father appreciates the little things about his new home: “The best part so far is that I was able to take my kid trick-or-treating without hearing gunshots.”
Inside, most rooms are bare, but the bedroom has been fashioned into a makeshift studio, with a closet serving as an isolation booth; discarded plastic bottles and scrapped pieces of loose-leaf paper are strewn around. Sitting beside Boogie is Keyel, the producer who helmed his new single “Out My Way (Bitter Raps 2)” and who’s presiding over today’s recording session.
On one wall is a whiteboard with the tentative tracklist for Thirst 48 Pt. 2, Boogie’s forthcoming mixtape. It’ll be his first effort since signing to Interscope last year and it could be a departure from his previous work in one very important way: its release date. His first two solo efforts, Thirst 48 and The Reach, dropped on his 6-year-old son Darius’ birthday, June 24—in 2014 and 2015 respectively—as a nod to the little man who serves as his biggest inspiration. But this time, the heightened buzz for his latest tape might overshadow everything else on the calendar.
It’s just one of the ways in which the rapper’s life is beginning to change. It’s late March, and Boogie is fresh off the plane from Austin, where his SXSW experience was starkly different from last year’s. “Getting stopped was crazy to me,” he says. “It’s not like it was a lot, but even the 10 people recognizing me was huge. Last time, I was seeing other celebrities and probably thinking about stopping them to get a picture. And now, my Uber driver asked to take my picture.”
Boogie went from local favorite to national curiosity with the release of last spring’s “Oh My.” The song showcases the MC’s array of flows and voices, and made its way onto commercial radio playlists almost immediately. It confirmed what those in Southern California already knew: that Boogie has an innate ability to inject grit and paranoia into party music, or to bring joy and optimism to the grimmest situation. On “Change,” the closing song from The Reach, he details sitting at his friend’s funeral, his mind racing with anger and hope for the future—emotions at odds with one another, but stemming from the same place. It’s a running theme: Boogie is quick to point out the perils of gang life but is also able to speak from a place of authority because he refuses to disown his peers.
Today he’s dressed in a clean white T-shirt and a Chicago Cubs hat, pulled low. He’s much more measured and reserved than on record, but he projects a quiet confidence. When asked about his plans for the rest of the year, he breaks out in an unmistakable grin.
Pitchfork: You grew up in Long Beach and Compton, how have those places changed in the last few years?
Boogie: I wouldn’t even say they’ve changed a lot—it’s still bad everywhere. But there are more rappers now who are actually using the platform to talk about it; Kendrick opened the door for people like me and Vince [Staples] to speak up instead of just glorifying the ignorant stuff. For a long time, since N.W.A, I felt like people were quiet about what was going on.
Pitchfork: When did you know “Oh My” was going to get so big?
B: When [producer] Jahlil [Beats] sent me the beat, I was still staying with my mom. I was in my bedroom with my kid and I started humming the melody—and he just started dancing to it. That was when I knew it was going to be a hit. I saw him dancing, and I recorded to it.
Pitchfork: What does your son like to listen to?
B: He likes turnt-up music. He loved “Oh My” because it’s super catchy, but he likes Drake more than he likes me for sure. [laughs]
Pitchfork: It seems easy for you to switch between party music and stuff that’s somber and more concerned with the consequences.
B: I was raised just by my mom, so I think that’s why I’m in touch with my sensitive side. But when she sent me away to this church in Compton, and I went outside, I had to have thick skin and be tough. That made me who I am today.
Pitchfork: How does Thirst 48 Pt. 2 differ from part one?
B: It’s just natural growth. We’re in here working every day and we’re getting better. For a while after I got my deal, I got out of my feelings sometimes—I was thinking I was too tough. I had to refocus. Now I feel like I’m in a way better place, and I touched back into my vulnerable side. I’m back to showing my flaws. That’s what got me to where I am in the first place.
Pitchfork: What helped you refocus?
B: When I get too big-headed I’ve got people around me who let me know. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, because we’re like family, and that’s how family is. But lately I’ve been telling myself that, at the end of the day, it is my decision. I’m gonna listen to the homies, but I’m definitely gonna go with my gut. I trust my ear.
Pitchfork: How has your live show progressed since you got bigger?
B: Last year I was yelling when I got on the mic. We didn’t have performance tracks; I was rapping over the vocals and I was yelling. It took me about two shows, and getting pressed by my manager and seeing disappointment in people’s eyes, for me to get it together. And now I feel like I’m probably the best rap performer. [laughs]
Pitchfork: What creative challenges are you tackling right now?
B: More melodies, for sure. I’m trying to test my voice a lot more, to be a lot more open—I still feel I could dig deeper. There’s a lot of topics and subjects that I wasn’t sure I should touch yet because of the politics in the streets. But now I’m to that point where I don’t really care. There’s stuff that needs to be said.
Pitchfork: What are some of those topics?
B: My main thing is showing how this gangbanging life is not cool. Because I’m a part of it, and I feel like right now it’s so diluted, and rap makes it so trendy. Everybody thinks it’s cool. I talk on it a lot, but I was scared people were gonna say it was corny, and I didn’t wanna get looked on as a preacher. But now I’m actually just trying to show my problems, because I’m a part of the problem, too. I’ve got a kid and I don’t want him to grow up in the same cycle.