Interview: Cali Rapper Boogie

Bandanas, blocks, and Twitter mentions are irrelevant when you have a child. For 25-year-old Long Beach (and Compton) bred rapper Boogie, raising his son is paramount. Rap is a close second, a means of coping with heartache and a checkered past as much as it is a platform for pinpointing the self-imposed ills of his generation. Last year, after nearly a decade of rapping infrequently and in relative obscurity, he emerged as one of L.A.’s most promising talents, releasing his first official mixtape, Thirst 48, and appearing on SBTRKT’s Wonder Where We Land.

Thirst 48 remains one of the most fully realized and overlooked debuts of 2014, part break-up record, part “thirst” exegesis, and part purge. Over a collection forward-thinking yet soulful suites, Boogie delivers soft-spoken lyrics with a seemingly inborn sense of melody, tempering unfiltered vulnerability with an incisive wit. The wounds of failed relationships are reopened, and Instagram photos of skinny blunts and fake models are derided. Still, Boogie will smoke your weed and watch your twerk video before he unfollows you. He’s not thirsty – he’s just with it.

Earlier this week, Boogie released “Further,” the first single from his forthcoming project, The Reach. A poignant meditation on the senseless killing of a young girl from Long Beach, it serves as reminder of his ability to both articulate and analyze the violence still prevalent in his community. Prior to his show at The Echo in Los Angeles (with Daedelus and zeroh) this Thursday, we spoke over the phone about Thirst 48, gangbanging, The Reach, and more.

Boogie | Let Me Rap

You recorded Thirst 48 at home. Do you think the recording environment played a role in what you were rapping about?

I think it helped me emotionally. Every time I get alone I think – and overthink – a lot. With Thirst 48 I was really just alone in my room a lot, just thinking. It definitely was the reason I was in my feelings so much. With The Reach I’m more so in the street, and then going to the studio. That’s probably why this next tape is going to sound more aggressive and street.

How long did you work on Thirst 48?

I would say about six to eight months. I put a lot of time in that tape.

Was there a lot of editing and rerecording involved?

Definitely. My manager was always on me about verses that I needed to fix. I grew up as person. Before this tape I didn’t even like criticism. This whole tape was a growing process for me. I learned a lot about myself and the people around me. It was a good experience.

You’ve said that you always write to beats. What do you listen for when you’re selecting them?

It just got to move my soul. It got to touch my spirit. It could slap hard super loud when it’s in the speakers, but I know when I get that feeling in my heart like, “Okay, this is for me,” and then I pursue it. There are a lot of rappers and a lot of people that tell me I should just rap to beats because if you don’t like it then somebody else might like it. But I haven’t reached that stage yet. I’m really picky about what I rap to.

Boogie | Do It Like We

E-40 expressed admiration for Thirst 48. Have any other rappers reached out?

I haven’t really talked to a lot of dudes. I haven’t really talked to a lot of rappers. DJ Quik and Kurupt talked to me. Them the homies.

You recently freestyled on Sway in the Morning. Do you feel like freestyling is becoming a lost art?

I think it is. Freestyling is just something that came naturally to me. I don’t even write my verses no more. I sit there and repeat words in my head until I memorize the verse. Freestyling is automatic for me. I could do that all day. I love freestyling. And I think it is a lost art. But at the end of the day, what can you really do with a freestyle? It’s kind of overrated at the same time. I want to see somebody make a great song. A great song is probably going to touch me more than a great freestyle.

A great song is probably going to touch me more than a great freestyle.

Boogie Freestyle on Sway in the Morning Shade 45

If you were paid to write a new definition of “thirst” for the dictionary, what would it be?

That’s a good one. I could probably give examples, but what would be a definition? There are so many ways to be thirsty. [laughs] You got me stumped on this one, bro. There are so many examples. You could be extra DMing a bitch on Twitter, you could be taking super selfies all day trying to get comments from bitches – so many examples.

How do you prevent your own thirst?

I got homies that tell me when I’m being thirsty. That’s what homies are for. If I see my homie on Instagram doing something I’m going to check him like, “Bro, that shit was stupid thirsty – erase that shit.” And my homies are the same with me. So I have had thirsty moments. I probably did some thirsty shit this year.

How often do you unfollow people on Twitter and Instagram?

Every day. If I see you doing some shit that I don’t like, that I feel is weak, I will not follow you. I have no problem following people back. What I really hate is memes, pictures of artists next to quotes that they would never say. It’ll be a picture of DMX with a Maya Angelou poem. I’m like, “DMX never said that, bro.”

Thirst 48 is also about a failed relationship. What are some of your favorite break-up records/songs?

Lately I’ve been listening to “911” by Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige. That’s been my shit for a week. I listen to Lauryn Hill every day – any Lauryn Hill song. What’s that Donell Jones [song]? “Where I Wanna Be.” Greatest breakup song ever. [I’m] proud of myself for thinking of that, by the way.

My microphone is my main voice. I don’t want nothing to take away from that.

What would you say is the difference between offering your opinion and being bitter? Where do you draw the line?

I don’t know. I guess when you just overdo it. It’s cool to speak your opinion one time, but if you daily stuck on one topic of course you’re going to seem bitter. So I make sure I throw how I feel about a topic out there and then I’m probably not going to speak on it again, unless I get asked about it of course. But I think repetitive complaining makes you look bitter. If you start speaking on stuff and getting out of touch with actual facts then you’re going to seem bitter. I try to make sure I keep all of my opinions as close to facts as possible.

And you’re not heavily active on Twitter.

I try not to use that platform as my main voice. My microphone is my main voice. I don’t want nothing to take away from that. N*as be tweeting twenty times a second.

You once rapped under the name Ace Boogie. Did you release any music under that name?

I had some songs on my MySpace page. I’d drop little singles. I’d probably get to the studio once a month and record three songs because that was all I could pay for at the time.

What was the response like?

When I was rapping at that age, it was more about rapping for my friends and getting respect from my friends and girls at school. So locally I felt it did good. It’s not like it got me no deals or no shows, but it got me a cool little street buzz.

Did you wipe all of that music from the Internet?

That’s a good question. One day I did search and I think I found a song. But I’m going to act like I don’t remember what it was under right now. [laughs] I’m not trying to let that hit the light.

Boogie | Bitter Raps (Official Video)

You’ve lived in Compton and Long Beach. Which do you prefer? Why?

Honestly, I would say my heart is in Compton… [As] far as being in the street, where I felt I grew a lot, it took place in Compton. I went through a lot of stuff in Long Beach too, but for some reason my heart just feels more connected to Compton.

But most people classify you as Long Beach rapper, right?

It’s tough because streets come with a lot of politics. My mom always lived in Long Beach and I got a lot of friends out here – I went to school in Long Beach myself. But then when it comes to gangbanging, which I don’t really like to speak about, I was always in Compton.

It’s tough. It’s something that I battle with daily. There are a lot of dudes who don’t like people not claiming one city. I go through that a lot. I just try to look at the bigger picture. I can’t lie about who I am or where I come from. If I just say Long Beach I’m leaving out my whole Compton story, and that’s part of me. If I say Compton, I’m leaving out my Long Beach story.

Gangster rap is not going to stop until gangbanging stop.

You’ve said before that you prefer performing to recording. What is it about being in front of a crowd that resonates with you?

The energy and the rush I get. I’ve never felt it before. It’s like I search for that high with everything else I do now. The high I get from performing is so next level. I mean I love recording, I love creating music, but it’s just that adrenaline rush I get on stage. I’m stuck on it.

Do you think singing in your church choir during your childhood played a role in your passion for performing?

Wow, that’s crazy. I never even identified that. But that’s definitely true now that I think about that. [Church] is where I first performed. I was performing every weekend. Then I got my first solo and I was stuck on performing. So it definitely came from church.

Apart from music, how important has church/religion been in your life?

Big. I’m a strong believer in God. I’m not really too much of a fan of the separation of religions. As I grew older I kind of fell out of the separation, I think we all have one God. I definitely got my core and who I am as human being from church.

Ironically, it was through church that you…

That’s where I met the first gang member I really got close to. I call him my cousin now, but he was more so my best friend at the time. He was already caught up in the gang activity and I kind of followed suit, just trying to fit in.

Do you think there are any parallels between religion and gangbanging?

That’s a tough one. As far as the parallels, I can’t really narrow them down right now. Honestly, every gangbanger is super religious. It’s so crazy that almost every gangbanger either got a Jesus tattoo on them or is super religious in a way and put everything on God. That’s the real ironic part about it. They talk about going to kill somebody and then put it on God. It’s kind of crazy.

I love gangster music. It’s just the glorifying of it that I have a problem with.

Do you think gangster rap needs to stop in order for things to improve in communities like Compton and Long Beach?

I feel like gangster rap is not going to stop until gangbanging stop. And I don’t see the stop for gangbanging coming any time soon. Does [gangster rap] need to stop? I mean I love gangster music. It’s just the glorifying of it that I have a problem with. It’s okay to say where you come from, but when you’re telling these kids that they should basically follow you and live this life too, that’s when I have a real issue with it. That’s the demons I battle everyday myself, being from a neighborhood but still having to separate myself because my kid is way more important than any color or any block. And if my kid get caught up in this life then that’s my fault. Because nothing good can come out of gangbanging. It started as something that was supposed to build up your community, protects y’all from the police, but then it turned into something that’s poisoning your community. It’s bad.

It’s something you deal with on “Further.”

Yeah. I got banged on with my kid with me. That’s real. And there’s nothing cool about that.

[But] the death of that girl Tiana [Ricks] inspired that song. It was a death that was real big in Long Beach. The little girl got shot and her dad got shot. It made me realize that there’s no point to this shit. The dude came and shot up a house party not even aiming at the person he was looking for, he was just shooting at people, kids. Is that what [gangbanging] is about, killing little six-year-olds? If I have to be the dude to say, “Fuck gangbanging,” I’m going to be him.

Do you think more people should be rapping about how having children has affected their lives and made them reevaluate that lifestyle?

I definitely feel people should rap about it. But it’s probably not going to happen as long as... Girls probably say to themselves and their friends, “I want this good guy, blah blah,” but at the end of the day they’re infatuated by the bullshit. As long as we think the girls like it, we’re going to keep doing it. If I go post a picture right now holding a 357 with my shirt off chucking Piru up, I’m probably going to get a lot of likes and lot of heart faces from bitches. They’re going to inbox me. It’s like, “Why?” I just basically told you that I’m willing to go kill myself or somebody else for no reason and y’all liked it. It’s a never-ending circle of bullshit. I’m still trying to figure out a way to stop it. It’s one of my goals in life.

By Max Bell on February 11, 2015

On a different note