Compton Rapper Boogie Tells Personal Stories for the Internet Age
As Boogie, featured in Noisey Bompton, prepares his upcoming album 'Thirst 48 Part 2,' we sit down to talk about religion and his home city.
Boogie / Still from Noisey Bompton
Boogie, the West Side Compton rapper, should be probably be posting to Instagram more, for the sake of promotion. But that’s not really his style. The social media stuff is exhausting to him, he explained on a recent visit to the VICE offices in New York. He’s 26, but he’s not into the constant parade of showing off and self-aggrandizing on social media that’s so often pinned to his generation. It’s one of the themes of his upcoming album, Thirst 48 Part 2, and it’s also a reflection of his generally affable but reserved demeanor. Boogie is a guy you sit down and have a real conversation with, not one you tweet about trading handshakes with at a networking event. After he leaves the office, I realize we didn’t take any pictures. Not a single selfie together; not a single pic for the Noisey ‘gram. But who cares?
The bottom line is Boogie is a guy of substance. He speaks thoughtfully and matter-of-factly, with a slight lisp, as he discusses topics like social media, religion, and gang culture with equal comfort. As with his local contemporaries Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples, these themes are presented in his music with a knowing but empathetic tone. For instance, in his breakout hit from last year, the booming Jahlil Beats production “Oh My,” Boogie quips about “niggas that got work from selling they food stamps” while also alluding to situations that would shock the listener too much to mention (hence the titular hook). But Boogie also stands out from those peers by, for the most part, leaning on more of a warm, soul-infused production palette that connects him to the tradition of East Coast rap classics while still retaining a crisp, modern sound. His voice, a nasally rasp, sounds at turns sneering and world-weary, giving him a powerful toolset to delve deeper into the day-to-day realities of personal relationships.
On his upcoming album, he tries to make sense of a relationship falling apart throughout his growing professional success, and he discusses things like being in too bad a mood to want to respond to anyone’s texts. On last year’s excellent, soulful The Reach, he offers up images of his household life as a way of diving into larger issues, like when he raps “that’s my five-year-old son he’s still got crayons in his cupboard / how am I supposed to tell him I got shot over a color?”
After signing a deal last fall with Interscope (the same label, incidentally, that’s home to Kendrick Lamar), Boogie has a promising 2016 ahead of him, with Thirst 48 Part 2, out this spring. He was one of the artists Noisey met with when we filmed our episode of NOISEY on VICELAND, the recently aired Noisey Bompton. In the episode, he was introduced as one of the artists under the wing of local notable G. Weed. Since filming his segments, he’s only seen more success. We sat down with him recently to talk more about growing up in Compton and about what comes next.
Noisey: So in between Thirst 48 and this project that's coming out, you said you lost one of your close friends.
Boogie: Oh no, it was just that we just didn't work out. My first tape led me to expressing my feelings for her. We was best friends since ninth grade, and I'm 26 now, so you see that was a long time. We ended up becoming a couple, and it just didn’t work out. I spent like every day with her before I made that move, and then unfortunately, yeah, now, it just didn't work out.
You’re from Compton. What was it like growing up there? How did you meet G. Weed and all of those guys?
Weeder is just so big to our hood. Since I was kid, Weeder just been the OG in my neighborhood. Everybody respect him. We wasn't super close—‘cause that's how our hood is, it's separated by blocks and stuff like that—and we just happened to be from a different block, but we always knew of each other. But a couple years ago when my music kinda was picking up, he played a big hand in making sure I was good. I ain't really have a father when I was growing up, and not to say that Weeder is like a dad to me, but he's definitely like a father figure to the whole neighborhood. So he played a big part in everybody life. Definitely.
What were you into as a kid? Have you been into music your whole life?
Yeah, I mean, besides gang banging, I was honestly never that dude that was super into gang banging either way. Even though I was from the hood. Young, like 14, I was in church, so I fell in love with music early. Besides music it was girls. It was music, girls, and gang banging was all I knew growing up. My reality. I was super good in school until that stuff happened. And then I just fell off. Basketball was big to me too. But I was too short, too short, too short.
I was going to say, you’re kind of a tiny guy to play basketball.
[Laughs] I was good ‘til tenth grade and then, yeah, people started growing, and I didn't really grow.
So then you were just kind of doing music?
Yeah. In high school, it was just all about girls, and I ended up getting kicked out of high school 11th grade, went to homeschool. I had my kid when I was 20 years old, and then I knew I had to get my shit together. I went to this city college and took engineering. I used the financial aid money to buy me a little studio. Recording in my mama house and my bedroom. And then the song I did just happened to catch my manager Clayton’s ears. He reached out to me and changed my life.
What song was that?
It's a song I had called “Numb.” It was like 45 seconds long. I had my homie who is now my DJ, he had a camera. He shot a video for me for 20 dollars. We just shot it in my mama’s living room, and we drove to the park and shot a scene there, so it was literally just two scenes. One of homies I went to high school with named Aston Matthews, he happened to retweet the video. He had a little local clout. I guess Clayton was following him. He saw the video. And that happened. Then I did my first project, second project, and now I'm on my third one.
You said you set up a studio in your house, and you were doing engineering?
Well, trying. I was fake engineering. I was definitely fake engineering.
Were you doing all the production and stuff for your music?
Nah. Before I met Clayton, all my beats was coming from YouTube. I’d just type in, “J Dilla type beat,” “Kendrick type beat,” some type beat, and just rap to em. Or SoundClick. Then he linked me up with this producer named Caleb Stone. It just went up from there. I recorded my first project by myself in my room. But then after that when we had to step it up, so now I’ve got an engineer, an in-house team.
J Dilla type beat or whatever. So you’ve always had a little bit of that sort of classic feel?
Yeah, I think all that just come from church, and the soul—it's the church. At first I was on gospel rapping. It didn't last so long in Compton. ‘Cause you can't do that much gospel rapping in Compton.
What does that even mean, gospel rapping?
It just was like, because I sung in a choir at church. And they was like, “we want to try to do a rap.” So just imagine having to rap in church. It was like, no cussing, purely rapping about holy water and stuff like that. Yeah, then I went outside, and all that changed.
What's the tension between—I mean I would imagine there's some tension between—the church life and then the gang life, growing up?
Yeah, it's so ironic how big church is, especially in gang bangers. It's like the number one thing that all the gang bangers are in. I really don't know why it's like that. I just know parents, in Compton it's a lot of single moms. And they just want they kid to do better so they send them to church, not knowing that this church is still in the heart of some ignorant shit. I don't know why it's so big to them. It’ll be like the most hoodest gang bangers are super religious.
Yeah, and it's so ironic. It's crazy. My homie Bull is probably the craziest dude I know. He goes to church faithfully every Sunday.
Is your mom super religious?
She is. I think she’s more religious to herself, though. The politics, the church, I don't think she vibes with it. I remember when she came to church after being away a couple weeks, and me and her weren't doing that good. People in the church were talking about her and stuff like that. That's the problem, a lot of the people in the church is so judgmental inside. There’s so many politics, and that's my problem with religion now. I just don't believe in it. I just feel like it's one creator to all of us, and all the politics and other stuff that come with it is weird.
Can you sing too?
It depends on who you compare me to. Probably to another rapper, I feel like I sing good. But as far as, like, runs? I’m not like a real singer with melodies.
What got you into writing raps, specifically?
What was it? I feel like it was a battle rapper. I don’t know what triggered it off. I know church triggered off my love for music. I really don’t know what triggered off me starting to write a rap, though. I know we used to play around after church, and I was just better than everyone else that was playing around. That’s probably what made me feel like I could really try it, but I have no idea. I started writing, and my glasses broke, and I stopped writing. I started saying everything in my head, so that’s how I started doing that. I ain’t write since ninth grade. I feel like it’s still like writing because I be saying the same line until I remember it. It’s like a repetitive thing. Just writing in my head instead of on paper.
What do you feel like your progression musically has been? This is now going to be your third project.
I feel like I take a lot of steps forward, and then I take like two steps back just to take like ten steps forward. After Thirst 48, after each project, I feel like I go through this little phase where I’ve got to snap back because I’ll be happy I finished the project. Like I said, before I met Clayton, I had never done a full body of work. I had just been dropping like 45-second songs. So to do a project, I’ll be so happy, and it takes so much of my energy because I don’t open up to people outside of my music. So all my feelings are invested in these projects, and to bounce back and have to find new emotions is real tough to me.
Kyle Kramer is an editor at Noisey. Follow him on Twitter.