Yet Boogie pushes on. You’d think signing with the highest selling artist of 2018 would be a boon, but with critics more determined than ever to avoid Eminem’s existence, the whole Shady Records thing may well be more of a hurdle than a launch pad for Everything’s for Sale.
In spite of the belly ache certain snooty music writers may have had over the latest great California hope signing with their self-imposed nemesis, Boogie’s debut seems to have arrived largely untampered with, and more than capable of standing up on its own merits.
Hailing from the same neighborhood as one Kendrick Lamar, Boogie, real name Anthony Dixson, has quickly had parallels drawn to the kingpin of the TDE roster, as well as Vince Staples. These regional comparisons may be overly convenient, but they’re not entirely without merit. Dixson shows far more vision than your average MC, with his more recent mixtapes, The Reach and Thirst 48, Pt. II, both boasting considerable focus and intent, yet, at the end of the day, he’s very much his own man.
In contrast with the serious grandeur of Lamar and the biting critiques of Staples, Boogie is a thinker often annoyed with over-thinking. A thinking man’s MC that just doesn’t see himself that way. He takes seriously dense topics, whether the fear of poverty and racial discrimination of The Reach or the more the personal concerns of Thirst 48, and deconstructs them with near disdain.
As a rapper, he’s so skilled he needn’t appear to display any. His thoughts tumble out in short bursts, a flow so casual and effortless you’re bound to miss exactly how searching and involved half of what he’s saying is on first, second, and even third pass.
As Everything’s for Sale opens, he raps, “I’m tired of working at myself, I wanna be perfect already/ I’m tired of the dating process, I wanna know what’s certain already/ I’m tired of questioning if God real, I wanna get murdered already,” with a gunshot and the sound of police drowning out the last line: and this is just to start things off.
Boogie is deft at putting off a deep sense of pain with a gentle groove, and much of Sale is vibe and smoke ready. Very much a headphone album, the record is mixed with such precision that it often belies the gravity of its creator’s words, no doubt by design.
He may be a rapper’s rapper in many respects, but Boogie is readymade for these times; his lovelorn sense of insecurity tailor-made for the era of social media, with thoughts such as, “She read my text, I read her mind,” and, “I wish you’d talk more, know that that’s a lost war,” seeping out even amidst the flawless driving music that is ‘Silent Ride’. In fact, if there’s a general emotional arc to Everything’s for Sale, it’s Boogie’s difficulty in acknowledging the heart of a hopeless romantic, as particularly betrayed by the mix of insecurity and blind worship that is ‘Sky Dive’ and the adoring ‘Swap Meet’. Jaded or not, Boogie has a lot of feelings, and refreshingly, he isn’t afraid to share them, however vulnerable it leaves him.
‘LOL SMH’, on the other hand, is a more direct commentary on its day and age; the potential eyeroll of its title turning out to be a depressive missive on a flagging relationship and the despair of a black youth all too aware of his plight. Boogie makes the like of, “Ain’t no dreams of being like Mike, he can’t do shit for me,” cut deep.
The features, while all passable, all prove simply backdrop to Boogie’s show. 6LACK acquits himself well but is generously happy to play second fiddle. J.I.D proves as indistinguishable as ever, inoffensive, but his presence is nearly unnoticeable.
Eminem is a fossil, a snarling dinosaur that devours ‘Rainy Days’, still on his Kamikaze grind (“Marshall is dead in the water,” does manage to sting), but plays his role well, offsetting Boogie’s laidback nature at nearly the halfway point, reinvigorating the listener for what’s to come.
Perhaps most crucially, trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah provides longing playing to the devastating ‘Whose Fault’, as Boogie finally bottoms out:
“You say my son got a game and I need to get him to it, uh
Though I miss him I say ‘shit, no I ain’t finna do it’
‘Cause I’m too pissed I say ‘no bitch, go tell your nigga do it’ uh
Another stereotype that I couldn’t prove wrong.”
Contrasted with the self-righteous pandering of a J. Cole, or the supreme realization of a To Pimp a Butterfly, Boogie is the everyman, the relatable. In short, rather than the ideal, Boogie is the reality, unafraid to fill gentle, chill session worthy soundscapes with sneaky bits of stark humanity and honesty, unafraid to say, “Don’t be callin’ me woke (No)/
I cheat on my queen for a ho.”
Does this always make Boogie likable? More often than not, in fact, yes. He’s just as wounded as the rest of us, just as much a pig at his worst, just as noble at his best. Boogie simply isn’t interested in delusions of grandeur, nor in coating his music in easy “message” moments, preferring to dash out ideas in fleeting contradictions and glimpses of fear and pride.
In an attention short era, subtlety is a hard sell, but if there’s any justice left amidst Spotify’s algorithms, Everything’s for Sale will find an audience. Its gilded despair only leaves a greater impression with each listen. If there’s an album for the sad Instagrammer, posing in a beam of perfect light, copyrighted smile, only to heave a sigh, this is it.