We might be only a month in, but 2019 is already looking like Los Angeles’ year. After the breakout success of 03 Greedo, Blueface, and Drakeo the Ruler in late 2018, Compton’s Boogie has come through with another landmark for the city on his debut album Everythings for Sale.
Having caught the attention of the rap world, and one M. Mathers himself, back in 2016 with his mixtape Thirst 48 Part II, Boogie is part of a growing generation of MCs that prefer a more lyrical, introspective take on hip-hop. Alongside Dreamville’s J.I.D – who features on latest single "Soho" – and MCs like Noname and Saba, Boogie is aiming to prove that there’s still merit in an old school approach to rap. It’s no surprise his debut comes via Eminem’s Shady Records.
Don’t get it twisted, Everythings for Sale is still a thoroughly modern album. Snares rattle with the clarity of the best Metro Boomin beats and Boogie doesn’t shy away from getting ignorant every now and again. Yet what stands out most is that throughout the album, Boogie is a rapper in conflict; half in the game and half in the streets, trying to survive both. Tracks like "Tired/Reflections" and "Skydive II" see Boogie lament his growing fame and reflect on his mortality, with Atlanta’s 6lack lending a verse of haunting autotuned gloom to the latter. Elsewhere, such as on "Lolsmh," that sadness transforms into resilience, and Boogie is reborn defiant, buoyed up by his successes and unafraid to flaunt them.
This back and forth is clearest on the Eminem-featuring "Rainy Days." Its hook - “I’ve been thuggin’ through my rainy days” - serves as something of a manifesto for the album, and for a lot of modern rap. Boogie nails his verse, coming through with an almost dialectical exploration of his own ‘wokeness,’ his perspective manically shifting from line to line. It’s a topical track, as #MeToo and conversations around sexism have begun to have an impact on hip-hop, and it could have been one of the best on the album if it weren’t for the contribution of Boogie’s label boss.
If you’re reading this review, chances are you’ve heard/read the opening bars of Eminem’s guest verse on this track. If you haven’t, it involves bestiality, and somehow things get worse from there. Eminem refuses to stop rapping, he changes flows something like three times, and by the end, his verse feels like being repeatedly slapped across the face by a child; harmless but incredibly annoying nonetheless.
Luckily, Em’s contribution is an anomaly, and when other guests turn up things go much better. J.I.D’s performance on "Soho" would leave André 3000’s head spinning, while Snoh Aalegra’s guest vocals on closing track "Time" round off the album with uplifting, soulful grace. When Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s trumpet swoons in midway through "Whose Fault" it transforms the track into a neo-noir anthem.
The deeper you get into Everythings for Sale, the more the history of the city it was made in unfolds in front of you. Elements of West Coast funk crop up on "Live 95," hints of YG’s flamboyant gangster rap underpin "Silent Ride," and Boogie’s melodies throughout recall the half-sung trap of new schoolers like Greedo. But no track on the album waves its LA flag more proudly than "Self Destruction." Stabs of G-funk bass punctuate the song as Boogie runs through a deliberately uncivil series of verses that both send up and celebrate gangsta rap. Coming from another rapper, lines like “that night I drunk text SZA and got hot she ain’t reply” and “don't be stupid this that fire, oh shit, I forgot my line” would be far too on the nose, but when Boogie drops them it sounds like the Vince Staples x Father John Misty collab of hipster’s dreams.
At its best, Everythings for Sale distills hip-hop down to its most essential parts, with Boogie shapeshifting as the album progresses. "Swap Meet" sees him reckoning with romance in a series of poetic verses that recall Chance the Rapper. Meanwhile, on "Silent Ride" and both "Skydive"s, Boogie taps into the emo-trap craze so well that when Future’s latest album started auto-playing afterwards, it took me a moment to realize the change.
Boogie doesn’t always pull it off. There are moments throughout the album where those same shifts in style can leave you wondering who he is once you peel them away, and shorter tracks like "Live 95" and "No Warning" fail to leave much of a lasting impression. Yet what’s clear from his debut record is that, like Eminem at his peak, Boogie is an incredibly keen observer of hip-hop. On Everythings for Sale, he may have mastered the game, but he’s yet to transform it in the same way as the artists he admires most.