Boogie Boogie
VIBE/ Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Boogie Plans To Be The Best Rapper In Existence, Point Blank Period

Compton rapper Boogie is coming for that crown.

Within just seconds of meeting Boogie, the nimble wordsmith with Compton, Calif. propped up on his shoulders, the day all but promises to end in disaster. Earlier, he and his two-person entourage disembarked from a red-eye flight that robbed him of decent shut-eye (blame middle seat discomfort) to make obligatory New York press rounds. An evening visit with VIBE would be the last appointment before hanging it up for the day. The next morning, they’d turn right back around to L.A.

As we make small talk down the corridor of our Midtown offices to grab a few things and head to our next destination, an admittedly ill-placed door juts out from the wall beside him, colliding with his face in what feels like slow motion. I wince as Boogie recoils and cradles his face in his hands. The rushing person on the other side of the door stands frozen and wide-eyed. It's the freak accident I'd been dreading would happen to me or someone else in the office. Today it just so happens to be, by his own admission, "the best rapper ever” in training.

Apologies come tumbling out as mortification sets in, but he waves them off and cracks out a laugh. "Nah, it's okay. I was just a little stunned. I'm good," he says, relaxed. More apologies. His words sound like an obligatory response despite his assumed pain; the empty "Fine, and you?" to a stranger's "How are you?" But with that charismatic crooked smile of his, cool and casual, he assures me that his relatively chummy mood is still intact. At the next door, however, he holds back, his manager joking that he should approach them all with extreme caution. I quickly learn that Boogie is the type to just go with it, taking bumps in stride and learning as he goes.

The West Coast rapper and Shady Records signee—not to be confused with New York’s rap-singing upstart, A Boogie wit da Hoodie (“[The matching names] don't bother me, we got different lanes,” Boogie says)—has a funny kind of ease about him. Not necessarily the kind that makes a stranger entering his space feel comfortable, but rather the sort that makes it hard to put a hiccup in his mood. “Super chill” in nature, Boogie’s default demeanor seems to hover in between the two extremes, as if he’s in a hazy but functional high. Naturally low lids only peel back during blips of honest amusement. His speaking voice coasts along a relatively flat tonal spectrum, breaking only sparingly for inflections. That is, except for when he’s got the mic in his hands.

When I first saw him this past summer, Boogie commanded two separate Lollapalooza stages, the first of which included a tucked away tent for Toyota’s Music Den. A tight crowd of 50 or so bordered the platform, to which Boogie shed his white tee and fired off cunning couplets from his only three projects: Thirst 48 (2014), The Reach (2015) and Thirst 48 Pt. II (2016). When he leapt directly into the center of them all, matching their raucous jumping, ecstatic fans—your typical suburban white teenage festival-goers sporting mesh bralettes, khaki shorts paired with jerseys, dust bandanas and CamelBak water backpacks—towered over him. With the crook of his finger, he summoned one lucky guy to join him on stage, much to the chagrin of his bodyguard, to play hype man. It’s a far cry from what he says his first string of performances looked like.

My high key favorite right now is @ws_boogie. Thirst 48 Pt 2 though?? 👌🏾You can feel his heart, man.

A post shared by Stacy-Ann E. (@stassi_x) on

“I was super trash,” the 27-year-old, nicknamed after Paid in Full’s Ace Boogie, recalls of earlier days. Then, he was timid in nature, awkwardly overcompensating for the lack of a developed stage presence and the audience not knowing his music. “I was yelling on the mic, too aggressive when I was rapping my stuff, and I didn't have the swag. I was super mad at myself and I just vowed I had to step my game up and really perfect my craft as far as performing.”

After a two-month stint with Toronto-bred singer Tory Lanez, a high-octane performer and notorious stage diver, on his 2015 Swavenation tour, Boogie has grown noticeably comfortable with losing himself in the crowd and getting real close and personal with them. “I be smokin' with [fans] after all the time," he says. "That sh*t be tight. People tell me I need to chill before I get laced with something.”

His three tapes, all critically praised, have put valuable blips on the radars of SBTRKT, Skrillex, Rihanna (when she called him her “new fav.” beneath an IG clip of his sobering “N***a Needs” video, his social numbers skyrocketed), Kendrick Lamar and more. However, this year's BET Hip-Hop Awards Detroit cypher is what formally put the rap world and its eager indulgers on notice.

“Shady, I been ducking shade all night/When you blind-sighted by life, ain’t no fade on sight,” he rapped cockily, opening up the Shady and Griselda Records cypher alongside Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher. When it came time for Eminem’s hotly discussed solo freestyle, Boogie was part of the huddle of homies behind him, officially family. By the next morning, the cat was out of the bag: the slick spitter was Em’s promising new signee.

According to Boogie, the ink was still fresh on the page at that point. “Everything just happened fast,” he says through a steady lisp. The decision was easy, especially since he had already been signed to Interscope Records since 2015. But what made him know for sure that Eminem’s label, the arguable rap god whose notorious 8 Mile hit "Lose Yourself" won Boogie over, was the best home for him? “Besides the fact it's Em?” he says with a sure laugh. “I mean, that's it right there. I don't know, after talking to him, just understanding that he understood my music. He actually knew my project [Thirst 48 Part II] and the concepts behind it. It was a go from there.”

 

For most of the ride to his Lower East Side hotel, Boogie doesn’t say much unless he’s being spoken to. His large glassy eyes stare out the SUV window between responses, idly following the streetlights as they pass. If not there, they’re down at the iPhone in his lap, likely thumbing through the social feeds we’ve come to know well via his Thirst 48 mixtape series. In both instances, he’s silent. It’s as close to the real Boogie as we’re going to get.

Boogie, real name Anthony Dixson (“I don't let nobody call me by my government name”), grew up an extremely quiet, but highly sensitive kid. Born in Compton but living in Long Beach with his mom, he says she made sure he never felt like he was lacking in life even when, realistically, the family of two sometimes struggled. He still attended church in Compton, 20 minutes away on the I-710, where he was introduced to both gospel and gangbanging. An unashamed R&B lover—SZA, Jorja Smith, Brent Faiyaz, NAO, Beyonce and his personal GOAT, Lauryn Hill, are current faves—he immersed himself in the melodies of the choir while penning and performing “fire” Bible raps. That soon changed, though. “I never really read the Bible, so I couldn't get super deep in my Bible raps,” he says. “I went outside and realized I was in Compton. They transitioned from gospel raps to Compton raps.”

These Compton raps, poetically delivered depictions of West Side living and a street life he refuses to glorify—not too far from the layered observance of K. Dot’s catalog—are what roped in his combined 180K fans (and counting). “If I keep preaching this message to all these youngin’s/Just thinking it's gon’ work, ha/And what I do? I'm in the hood with my homies/They got them pistols, we tweeting how we so turnt ha/Backwards,” Boogie raps on “Intervention” from The Reach. Aside from the deliberate choice to pad these stories in social media-based scenarios, putting moral contradictions and his inner battles on front street is commonplace in his music. Boogie plans to nix the timeline talk and double down on his real-life dilemmas on his debut Shady project.

Eager ones can find hints of what’s to come in random Twitter scatters. In one video, he teases a “violent” new song with trap-jazz connoisseur Masego, while promising familiar magic with project regulars like singer D’Anna Stewart in another. “We came up with a concept for the project, and now we're just trying to build,” Boogie says. “I'm kinda laying off the social media vibes, and more so talking about myself this time, my insecurities.” What kind of insecurities? He pauses. “Just, at times, I lack confidence. I'm salty a lot of the time. Basic sh*t. I'm always hard on myself, that I should be farther than where I'm at. It's always a battle going on in my brain, just overthinking.” That heart-on-sleeve nature is one of the things he loves most about himself, though; the ability to share those parts others may shame.

As far as raps go, Boogie is an open book. “That’s my five-year-old kid; he’s still got crayons in his cupboard/Now how I’m ‘posed to tell him I got shot over a color?/That don’t make sense, and sense ain’t too common, is it?/They try to blame them, they ain’t really the problem, is it?” he raps over exploding drums on “Make Me Over” after his son pleads to the skies for God’s protection. Boogie is pretty vocal about hard lessons from gangbanging (“Further”), needing to grow up (“N***a Needs”) and his most deeply affecting rollercoaster relationship ("Best Friend – Jamesha Pt. 2”). However, count on him to steer clear of mentioning Darius’ mom, who he insists in previous interviews and on wax is a great mother. “If I monitor anything, it's pretty much the relationship between me and my kid's mom,” he says. “Even if it's hard at times I try to keep it out of my music because I always want my kid to have this super great image of his mama. She's gonna need him and he's gonna need her.”

Parenthood is the only thing that comes before music, which he says is pretty high up there. He peppers bites of footage of his eight-year-old doing simple things like Milly Rocking to unreleased music, or asking him for homework help with the caption, “Man I love this guy.”

“You’re such a good dad, baby.” Boogie’s sassy imitation of his mother’s praise is tinged with the real life fulfillment he feels in being Darius’ father. “That’s my baby, that’s my baby,” he says of his wide-eyed doppelganger. The child, then six, lay sleeping on the cover of The Reach, innocently curled up in blankets while his father protectively watched over him. Boogie immediately softens at his mention, breaking into a toothy smile. In his eyes, he will have done his job if his son inherits his good qualities and learns from his flaws to do better, but he’s grateful for the responsibility regardless.

“Fathers are poppin' and sh*t right now," he says. "It's cool to show male kids that we can be emotional with 'em. We don't gotta be super tough with them. Don't have to show them to have super thick skin and a cold heart. You gotta teach 'em early that you could be sensitive, you could show love. You feel me? But he still gotta be hard at the same time, gotta find a balance.”

Balance. It’s the thing that will ultimately keep Boogie grounded in the two joys that guide his life: dominating fatherhood and dominating rap.

VIBE: Your career is just beginning, but what would you like your legacy to be?
Boogie: What would be my legacy? Best rapper ever.

Ever?
Like ever, ever. Like period.

Even JAY-Z?
Better. Kill him off, too. Anybody.

Lofty.
Yeah, you feel me? Every rapper, no name drops. Definitely everybody could get it… except for Em. Except for him.

Everyone in the car laughs at his smug humor and necessary deference, but I believe him. He may not have too much to celebrate just yet, but give him a few years and the throne is his. He already told the world this much during the BET cypher, anyway: “Don’t utter out my name unless you talking ‘bout the best/You keep lookin at my skin, this ain’t ordinary flesh/It’s Godbody.”

Videography by Jason Chandler

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The 25 Best Latinx Albums Of 2019

As we inch closer to the end of another memorable chapter in music, the Spanish-language gap gets bigger by the day. To anyone who believed reggaeton's second coming or Latin trap was a trend were gravely mistaken as artists across the diaspora found success on the charts and in the streaming world. Artists like Bad Bunny, Rosalía and J Balvin continued to thrive off last year's releases while dropping memorable singles (and joint projects). Others like Sech broke the mold for the marriage of hip-hop and reggaeton with Panamanian pride. Legends like Mark Anthony and Ivy Queen reminded us of their magic while rising artists like Rico Nasty, DaniLeigh and Melii provided major star power and creative visuals for their tunes. Latinx music has continued to push boundaries and the same goes for our list.

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Pictured (L-R): WurlD and Sarz
Courtesy of Management

Meet Sarz and WurlD: The Nigerian Producer-Singer Powerhouse Showing Africa’s Sonic Range

There’s a slow infiltration of sultry, soulful, lo-fi music in afrobeats—and the latest from Nigerian producer Sarz and his fellow countryman and singer-songwriter, WurlD, is just a taste of how the scene is evolving. Before landing at No. 1 on Nigeria’s iTunes Albums Chart, I Love Girls With Trobul was a long time coming. Backed by Sarz’ fresh instrumentals, WurlD flexes his songwriting chops to talk about all things love and lust in this eight-track EP. The project is a cohesive narrative of the ups and downs people face when grappling with relationships.

On the origin story of how this project came to be, the duo notes that a mutual friend of theirs made the initial connection for them to explore working together. Sarz, born Osaretin Osabuohien, then sent over a few beats, with WurlD delivering with 2018’s “Trobul” in less than 24 hours. Sarz says he was so in love with the song that this collaboration needed to go beyond one track. They both describe the foundation of the EP as “seamless,” and for WurlD, this was one of the few times he made a decision to work on a project with someone without overthinking it. It just felt right.

I Love Girls With Trobul is the duo’s take on balance while pushing the culture forward. WurlD comes with his relatable, minimal lyrics (he’s also worked with the likes of BOB, Trinidad James, Mario, Walshy Fire and more during his time in Atlanta) while Sarz (a chart-topping producer who’s had Niniola and Wizkid grace his beats) delivers trendsetting instrumentals. There’s a song on I Love Girls With Trobul for everybody—for those on the continent and in the diaspora alike.

“Mad” is the newest music video to drop from the EP. A continuation of the storyline that the collaborators showed us in their previous single “Ego: Nobody Wins,” we take a look at the dysfunctional insecurities of a relationship between WurlD, born Sadiq Onifade, and his love interest (played by Bolu Aduke Kanmi). The relatability of the visual and the song will surely get you in your feelings.

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VIBE: Sarz, what kind of sonic journey did you intend to take listeners through in this EP?

Sarz: I was trying to make something that suits WurlD’s sound, makes him comfortable enough to express himself, and also isn’t alien to the afrobeats space. I was also trying to push the narrative with the sound because that’s what I’m known for. I’ve always been that producer in Nigeria that doesn’t really follow trends and does stuff that other producers use as a template to make music. This is just one of those projects where it doesn’t sound like anything else in the afrobeats space right now. This time next year, you’ll hear so many songs that sound like songs off this project.

How would you describe the creative process of working with each other?

WurlD: We had to trust each other—I was very open. It was all about both of us meeting in the middle. There were times where Sarz would advise me to tweak the conversation in my lyrics. Another thing we focused on was bringing Africa along as much as possible. He’s Nigeria at its core. I learned how to create music in America, though I was born in Nigeria—so I know the culture. I lived there until I was a teenager. We understood each other and I was open to the idea; we were both determined to do whatever we needed to do to make the best project. One of our biggest challenges making this was that we were both in different places throughout the process, so the ongoing support we got from “Trobul” kept us alive. We recorded the first series of songs in L.A., the body of it in Atlanta and we then finished it in Lagos earlier this year.

Sarz: We had to go back and forth with ideas because his musical background and experiences are different than mine. There were certain songs that we had to go back and forth with to make it more relatable and right for the project.

Why is a project like I Love Girls With Trobul needed in the popular African music scene now?

Sarz: From my end, I feel like when you’re genuine with your art and speaking your truth, people will always gravitate to that—because there’s someone out there that feels the same way you feel. I don’t know who’s out there who feels the same way, but judging from the reviews and feedback we’ve been getting, there are so many people that we’re touching right now with this.

WurlD: I like the idea of collaboration. I wanted to shine a light on the importance of collaborating with producers. Living in the States for so many years, I saw this happen every day. I noticed how there are different ways to collaborate and how in general there’s not a lot of love for producers. I hope this inspires other producers to put more value in themselves.

Wurld, what inspired you to be so vulnerable with the stories you share in the EP?

WurlD: I feel like when I’m creating music is when I’m the most vulnerable. Music is communication—people go through things. I like the idea of empowering people through words where a sad song can actually lift you up. If it’s done in a happy space, you don’t feel so sad after all. I can’t really explain how I balance that but it’s a free, caring space. I care about the listener. I understand how difficult it is to empower yourself through a heartbreak. It’s being vulnerable, but it’s to be free and accept a loss. I understand the need for people to feel empowered to get up and keep going, so that makes it easy for me to tap into my vulnerability and to keep the audience lifted.

Sarz, what inspired you to conjure a sinister, dark sound with “Mad”?

Sarz: There’s nothing like that in the African space right now. That was the last record we made, and I felt like the project needed a little edge. After working on a few records, “Mad” was the standout one. We just knew this is what we’ve been looking for—it was just me trying to make a global soundtrack. I feel like anyone, anywhere in the world can relate to “Mad,” even though it’s afrobeats.

Walk me through its music video. What should viewers keep in mind while watching?

WurlD: We wanted to stay close to the conversation of the song. And “Mad” goes through different emotions with an afro-dance element. The key part in the record is how I’m dealing with my issues and I’m dealing with yours, but at the end of the day we get mad and we’ll make up. This is an everyday situation. We fight, we come together. And we wanted to highlight that in the video. With “Ego,” we were disconnected. With “Mad,” we give it a try when you break up to make up. The making up part is not easy, so there’s a lot of highlighting the highs and lows of those emotions to get past what made you mad. The dance elements highlight African culture and we wanted to keep it simple, stylish and straight to the point.

Sarz: With this project, we were really just trying to do things how we feel. And the project itself sounds like a story from the first song to the last. We wanted to try and keep that visually and interpret it as much as possible so people understand that journey with the visual.

What’s next from the project?

WurlD: I feel like this project we created is the first of its kind coming out of this region in Africa. We hope to inspire and show the rest of the world the necessity of range. Africa is not just one thing, and there’s so much more that we have to offer. We’re planning on doing more visuals because we feel strongly that these records deserve A1 narratives and visuals that push the culture forward and shines a light on African art.

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NEXT: Kemba Makes The Song Cry On His Painful Masterpiece ‘Gilda’

Kemba doesn’t look like the stereotypical rapper. He's not loaded with expensive jewelry, a large entourage, "exotic" women, and stylish clothes. The budding MC is reserved. Remember the quiet, artsy, yet cool kid in high school who didn’t put on a thick shield of toughness, but you knew he’d fight when invited to? That’s Kemba, the seemingly reticent kid moving to the beat inside of his headphones.

It’s a dreary Thursday afternoon near the end of September. Exactly six days prior to this date (Sept. 28), the Bronx native released his sobering album titled Gilda, the follow-up to 2016's Negus album. But even in the face of album release parties and the fame that comes with having a record deal, the Republic artist refuses to put on the clichéd mask of a rapper.

The regular degular kid arrives solo, and on time, at VIBE’s Times Square office. Despite his mother’s death still fresh on his mind, Kemba seems to be in great spirits. He’s generous with posing for pictures, calmly standing where the photographer asks him to. While Kemba is totally alert, his eyes hold a glare that shows he’s pondering some valuable lessons recently learned.

One listen to Gilda, named after his mother who died of a stroke, and it’s clear that the bubbling MC is adept at sorting through thoughts and unearthing lessons from deep-rooted pain.

“I’m just getting into the habit of speaking about things and not holding anything in,” Kemba says when asked about extracting lessons from discomfort. “I haven’t had a lot of revelations yet. I’m still getting accustomed to recognizing my thoughts, and feelings, sharing my thoughts, and looking at the feeling wheel, and identifying all of the things that that situation makes me feel.”

Kebma began his rap career as YC the Cynic. With Eminem being a big influence on his early rap style, Kemba’s lyrical ambition is evident on early mixtapes like 2010’s You’re Welcome and 2011’s Fall Forward, where he’s rapping over a mix of industry instrumentals and original beats. Kemba was also doing a lot of open mics around the Rotten Apple, tapping into his gift of wordplay and building his fanbase through an old-school path of impressing local crowds. His burgeoning career leveled-up after being discovered by Queens MC, Homeboy Sandman, who introduced Kemba to Hot 97 radio personality Peter Rosenberg.

But as Kemba found his footing in the underground scene and came into his own as an artist, he decided to trade in his YC the Cynic tag for a handle more befitting to the picture he wanted to paint of himself.

“I try to separate myself from constructs. I never really had pride in my name [YC the Cynic]," Kemba recalls. "I always felt detached from my real name. So I just wanted to choose something for myself.”

“I wanted it to sound youthful, like it had african roots to it, and to sound strong," he continues. “And I really just searched a bunch of names. I went through names for about a year. Like YC the Cynic, you hear it, and you can think of the type of person that would have that name. I just wanted a name that, to where I could do whatever [musically].”

Fast forward to 2019, Kemba’s departure from the battle rhymes on Gilda is his best project to date. The album moves through a series of revelations, family issues, and takes listeners on a journey of a young man trudging through hardships.

One week after the release of Gilda, Kemba sat with VIBE for a discussion about regrets, finding meaning from traumatic situations, and controlling his narrative.

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VIBE: Gilda sounds like a project where you’re exposing a bunch of lessons that you recently learned. Kemba: I feel like it led to that. It started with me examining my life in a way that I haven’t before. It started with me not being able to process my mom’s death. At some point I started to write again and it was like, “Oh shit, this is how I feel.” But I didn’t know that until I wrote it. This is the only way I’m going to find out about myself, so let me just do this. Let me think about my childhood and write. And then at some point that became me examining myself, reading back what I wrote. I’m going to therapy now, and I’m figuring out different ways to understand myself. But that started from me realizing there was more to it than writing.

I sense that you have some regrets about the relationships in your family? It’s hard because a lot of the relationships in my family are so broken. There are a lot of family members that I love and talk to on a regular basis, but there are still some that I do not know if it will ever be repaired. And I realized that as you get older it becomes harder to link with people, and you look up and it’s been a year since you saw them. Just spending time gets really hard as you get older. But that’s the goal.

Do you wish you spent more time with your mom? I think my mom is like a whole different relationship. I wish I would’ve been there with my mom. And I did spend time with my mom. I wish it would’ve been more quality time. Now I know the difference between spending time and quality time. I wish I’d known more about her, her history, and her upbringing. So yes, there are regrets.

Has your family heard the album? A lot of my family has heard the album, and I’m pleasantly surprised that the acceptance has been as good as it has. I imagine that a lot of the people that it was about didn’t hear it. But everybody that I heard from said they were proud. Some cried at some point and said they love me. And that’s a good of an acceptance that I get from them. There’s this theme of controlling your narrative throughout your music too. How young were you when you realized that that’s important?

There's a lot of talk of controlling your narrative in your music. Most 23-years-old are not thinking about controlling their narrative. When did this become a thing for you? I can’t remember when I had that idea that that was important but I do know that in general that if you don’t control your narrative someone else will. There’s a laundry list of evidence, from the history to America to the history of hip-hop, where people don’t really stake claim, and they get the value to the point where the story is up for grabs. Like right now, for as long as I have lived it’s been recognized that Kool Herc is the Godfather of Hip-Hop and as the story goes on the story gets misconstrued. And other people take claim. So controlling your narrative is super important.

Are you into activism? Your album Negus gives me that feel. That’s how I came up. I came up being part of a community organization called Rebel Diaz. They showed me the way of the social activism. We lead and organize a bunch of marches. We went down to Ferguson,down to Baltimore for Freddie Gray. I was doing that a lot, but music took more and more of my time. But I would love to get back to that. Those are my brothers. I look to them for advice often.

What will Kemba’s story read like? I’ve thought about it. I don’t know the exact answer. I just know the things that I love to do. I want to be a part of making incredible art as long as I live. Making my own art, and helping people with their art. Whether that means creating music, helping other people create music, or just executive produce projects, producing, writing for people. I just want to be involved in art, and more involved in social service.

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