Dean Van Nguyen is a witness.
Has Boogie ever slept well? His biggest song, “Oh My” rattled trunks, but beneath the bass was a banger about getting shot up and booked in jail. The Compton rapper’s two excellent mixtapes, Thirst 48 and The Reach, reflect on the questions that keep black parents all over America up at night. Woozy synths and crawling drum machines hang over Boogie like shadows.
New single “Man Down” adds an operatic streak to Boogie’s creeping style. It’s a less-than-three-minute epic, all tragedy and cinematic pyrotechnics. He sounds paranoid and distrustful, rapping about the wolves at his door, over producers Amarie Johnson and Keyel’s doomed strings — yet reveals no specifics of who is to be feared. These bullet shots that ring out through sound like stray shots into a storm.
Recent events reinforce Boogie’s worst fears. His quickly-recorded freestyle “Hypocrite” plays like the ruminations of a brilliant mind feeling helpless to stop tragedies like Minnesota and Baton Rouge. And Ferguson, Cleveland, Staten Island, et al. Boogie aims for the personal. This is music, as he says himself, “made out of frustration and fear for my kid”. That’s enough weight to carry.
On “Hypocrite,” Boogie sounds weary and exasperated. It’s a song he had to record, aware that its existence might make no difference at all: “Without me thinking I’m a hypocrite, I should be out here in this shit/ Not trying to make a track about it.” Punctuated by an audio clip of the mother of Alton Sterling’s oldest son, Boogie starkly reveals the contemporary American horror. He welcomes being arrested like it’s a stay of execution, and damns the “good cops” for protecting their own. Death hangs over his voice.
This is music not necessarily made to heal, but rather to exorcise emotions. Both tracks bleed with a hurt you wouldn’t wish on anybody; hurt currently felt by so many. But it’s music Boogie needs to make. And somehow, it’s what we need too.