Somewhere over the last 30 years, rap became R&B, R&B became rap, and the two were invariably linked for the remainder of their life cycles. Slapping a singsong-y hook on an otherwise thumping rap song has endured as both a legitimate genre style and a fall back for artists looking to reup their careers. Genre bending by recent names like Bryson Tiller or Jhené Aiko has both refreshed the musical topography, all while ushering in a swath of artists who don’t sing well enough to make R&B, but don’t rap well enough to, well, rap.
Enter A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (henceforth called Boogie/Boog etc.) a 2017 XXL freshman who dropped his debut album, The Bigger Artist on September 29, 2017. Courtesy of Atlantic Records, Boog’s debut studio album is a 15-track exercise in masking his charisma and potential in generic raps and unexciting singing amidst a slew of the safest, label oriented features looking for a quick cash grab.
When Boogie landed on the internet’s radar with the track “My Shit” in 2016, all signs pointed to another musical character that played off lines about spoiling his girl with the biggest, most infectious smile for someone who hadn’t made it. (Really, re-watch the video and try not to get excited seeing Boog’s ear to ear grin for the entirety of the 3-minute track).
Now, with The Bigger Artist, Boogie changes up his exuberance, instead resting on a blend of sadboy/loner/lovestruck sing-rap that would make the Drake on the Take Care cover lift his head singing “This Little Light of Mine”.
“No Promises” sets the stage for the Bronx artist, taking a cloudy Cardo production and smearing it with his empty sadness over a failed relationship. Starting the album with the lines “I can’t make no fucking promises/ Lifestyle getting out of control/ Lifestyle getting ludicrous,” is a reorganized tapestry of words that seemingly every up-and-comer uses to excuse his readjustment to his new life, all while harping on the misadventures of yesteryear. “Undefeated” continues these sentiments, as Boogie realizes being undefeated entails a certain lack of company, as discussed in Drake’s 2015 loner manifesto, “Company”.
Herein lies the problem with A Bigger Artist; Boogie brings a sound ear for cadences and melody to accompany his producers’ creations, such that on the surface, each of his tracks is either bassy enough to bump in the car, or somber enough to sing in the bathroom. His misstep comes in the form of a generic loner persona that has already made musical in roads for acts like Kid Cudi or Drake in the late 2000s, particularly at a time when rap crews were struggling with identity problems, à la Young Money and its incomprehensible lengthy list of (alleged) talent.
One of the album’s singles, “Say A’” revives some of Boogie’s charisma, featuring him donning a cartoony style rapping bars like, “I Told ‘em ‘I got tints because I’m rich,’ they said, ‘Okay,’ ayy”. Waving off the police like that shouldn’t be met with success, especially in 2017, but admittedly Boog’s charm on the track could help him get away with murder, assuming it’s committed with a smile.
Again, where Boog could find success would be in ridding himself of the generally applicable love-lost cuts in favor of bringing more of his personality into his tracks. Hailing from the Bronx and avoiding the trappings of a NY rapper is a success story, one which Boogie could use to better stand out among the masses.
Linking up with Atlantic also did Boog some disservice, yielding him his pick of a variety of contemporary producers and features that do nothing to accentuate his style. Beats provided by Scott Storch (“Unhappy”), Metro Boomin’ (“Get To You” & “No Comparison”) and Jahaan Sweet (“Drowning”) could have been loops just as easily sent to Russ, Nav or Kehlani, but none are any more egregious than “Somebody”, produced by DJ Mustard. Mustard’s handiwork (remember, 100 BPM) sounds like a YG/Ty Dolla $ign/Iamsu! cut that was on a hard drive that fell behind the boards for the better part of a year or three. Then there’s Jamz (“Money Sprung” “Let’s Start Over” and “If I Gotta Go”) whose work here sounds like a mash up of a Metro beat with Zaytoven’s keys and then microwaved until warm.
On the feature side, Chris Brown helps bring out the worst in Boog, as the he tries to mix his autotuned vocals with Boog’s distorted hook on “Fucking and Kissing” for another somber, sadboy cut. Don Q does deliver the hardest lines across the tape with his two features, and his unabashedly southern influence (though he is from the Bronx) is energizing on a tape without any clear cut regional influences.
Ultimately, alongside lines like “If I tell you all my secrets, it won’t be a secret,” (“Unhappy”), or “Got so many jewels I feel like a jeweler,” (“Get To You”), The Bigger Artist sounds more like label bench pressing than a concerted effort by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie to craft his style. Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with this release, other than the fact that it’s substantively softer than Charmin.