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Dean Van Nguyen ain’t meeting at Nobu or going for sushi at Roku.
Who could have envisioned Boogie and Elton John joining forces to hawk candy bars? Yet there they are together, pocketing Snickers’ money to hold up the product in a flashy new commercial. Anybody who spun Thirst 48 ought to be surprised by such a switcheroo. The Comptonite’s debut mixtape was a cerebral collection of quiet rhymes over bleak synths and crawling drum machines. He looked anything but the guy you could promote a brand on. Cut to a half-decade later and Boogie’s move up the rap game hierarchy is toasted over a ceremonial concoction of caramel, peanuts, and nougat.
You can trace this new level of visibility back to Boogie inking a deal with Shady Records in 2017. On paper, it seemed a weird fit. The company’s only album releases this decade have come from Yelawolf, Slaughterhouse, Bad Meets Evil (Eminem and Royce da 5’9”), and Em himself, which reads like the cast of hip-hop slasher flick. It wasn’t irrational to fear Boogie’s new associates and rising profile might have carried his music towards a more profit-orientated direction. But Boogie panders to no man. Everything’s For Sale (which is being promoted as a debut album) builds on the methodology he forged on Thirst 48, The Reach, and Thirst 48 Pt. II. As ever, the rapper’s deep-thinking, low-key style needs time to brew, but there are rewards to be found in this record’s grooves.
If anything, Everything’s For Sale reigns in the sounds of Thirst 48 Pt. II, which was much more region-specific, closer at times to 2pac, Snoop Dogg, and DJ Quik’s slicker grooves than Boogie’s historically sparse sound design. As ever, he sees life as not something to be mindlessly celebrated, but ruminated on, picked apart, deconstructed and reconstructed at every turn. It’s how this 29-year-0ld father processes his role in an unruly world.
Just look at how much emotional weight he packs into the first track alone. Over somber piano chords, “Tired/Reflections” sees Boogie slip into the second person to probe feelings about his ex, his career, and his own internal struggles. “Whose Fault” somehow bottles the full spectrum of awfulness when a fracturing relationship sees a kid caught in the middle. Boogie’s pointed depiction of clashes with his child’s mother are mixed with fears that he’s becoming a deadbeat dad. A line like, “Another stereotype that I couldn’t prove wrong” is heavy stuff in isolation. Coming from an artist whose views on fatherhood have been among rap’s most trenchant, it’s absolutely devastating.
This is writing that rejects cliché. Even “Self Destruction,” the album’s one obvious single, sees Boogie use the space not to revel in crowd-pleasing platitudes but lash out at what he sees as trite braggadocio, decry artists who glorify pills, and throw in a quick line about drunk texting SZA.
Adding to the sense of continuity, Boogie leans on producers Keyel and Dart, two guys who’ve been with him since The Reach. Keyel’s duskish beat on “Silent Ride” allows Boogie to effectively modulate his voice to a half-sung croon. And maybe there’s something in his rasp, but Boogie is one of the few rappers I’ve enjoyed hearing flow over an acoustic guitar. “Skydive” and “Skydive II” are both built around delicate plucks, the latter of which sounds like a Blonde outtake with 6lack doing a pretty excellent Frank Ocean impression.
There are some disappointments if you want to be hypercritical. It’s fair to say that the set would benefited from a tune like “Oh My,” the real banger in Boogie’s collection, and/or a song in the vein of the smooth “Slide On You” for extra variety. More obviously, “Rainy Days” features a verse from Eminem, who just doesn’t fit on a Boogie record, especially in his current form.
These are minor grumbles in a grand scheme. There’s something admirable about Boogie climbing the beanstalk, reaching the castle of hip-hop stardom, and seeking entry by offering Everything’s For Sale, an album that quietly revels in his personal flaws and hard-lived experiences. But that’s how the man operates. Whereas others would be desperate to turn the Men In Black neuralyzer on themselves, wipe their most painful and intense memories and move on, Boogie rotates his camera around each thought to find the most compelling angles. No commercial deal or high-profile association seems likely to take that urge away from his make-up.