ALBUM REVIEW: With a No. 1 album already on his resume, Boogie fuels the "King of New York" debate with "Artist 2.0" - but is there fire behind the gas?
It has been said that the Big Apple isn’t for everyone. The city’s arteries breed a certain type of hardened soul. Those who are lightning struck and stride through the treacherous desert of quicksand before somehow reaching a real-life utopia revel in navigating the congo of concrete. Never will they let you forget from whence they came. As the theme to Power reminds: “I gotta make it." Like Ghost, Boogie’s goal is to be the King of New York. But in his own eyes, he’s both there and not quite there all at once.
His ambition is clearly declared on “King of My City,” stating: “I be feeling like the king of my city, from the Bronx, not Benny.” Here, Boogie uses an analogy of the character Benny Blanco from the 1993 film Carlito’s Way to say he’s no fraud or imposter, but rather the real thing. The 24-year-old might not be ready to boast on it but he’s climbed a long way up that steep metro-mountain. Perhaps the young phenom is finding his sound. In “Might Not Give Up” Boogie refers to himself living a “rockstar lifestyle” and says he’s “nothing like a rapper, he’s an artist.” Not just semantics, his music is drenched in that belief. The guitar solo introduces “DTB 4 Life” sounding like something from Nirvana’s early 90s catalog. Yet Boogie’s voice and delivery feel natural. As can be heard on Artist 2.0 - It seems as though we’re trending towards more genreless music and artists transcending labels.
The album's name reflects his intentions of eclipsing the rapper epithet. This has been the sentiment of several emcees in the last decade -- not wanting to be limited to rap in the traditional sense. Longing to be cradled as artists first. A monster on the hook and an anthem maker, Boogie's style is engineered to manufacture hit records. He has discovered a formula of catchy choruses, melodic arrangements, and guitar-driven production while emphasizing the braggadocios style that New York rap is famous for. With each album, he wages an expedition through risky yet harmonic sound elements. But, his versatility has earned him equity in the music game. Boogie has listed Kanye West among his many inspirations, a claim reflected in the diversity of his fanbase. Playing to that base Boogie merges modern rock, R&B, and hip-hop. In his own brand of street gospel, Boogie effortlessly melds brutally blunt messaging on fast life over the undone pavements of Gotham. Breaking the mold shaped by New York’s rappers of the past and a few of the present, Boogie flaunts a style all his own.
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No matter how melancholic his sound appears, A Boogie stays true to the central message of overcoming adversity and triumph over circumstances - in his case surviving the disenfranchisement of urban life. The lack of hope in paths that did not include music, insinuating if not for a life of creativity he fears what may have become. He addresses tragedy and quests for love once foiled, a modern-day lyricist tight-roping the line between singer and rapper in the ultimate balancing act. Boogie strands himself in the cables thousands of feet in the air. His confidence allows him to do backflips on that rope. Unbothered and unrequited. Singing his heart out on "Thug Love" and getting introspective on “Me and My Guitar.”
The album has some high-profile and well-placed features: Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, DaBaby. Although the songs with Boogie by himself may be more enjoyable, the overall production and curation hit the mark on a majority of the project. Boogie welcomes artists of the same undefinable ilk in Roddy Rich and Gunna yet blends seamlessly with the likes of refined vocalists Summer Walker and Khalid. The most satisfying and stimulating selections on the presentation are "Blood On My Denim" & "Right Back." Boogie pairs astonishingly, yet blissfully with Lil Uzi on "Luv Is Art." However, several songs on the album do lack cohesion and come off half-baked. It feels bloated at times and smells like a chart chase. Really no reason for this to be an hour long. There are a few skippable tracks that should’ve never made it out of the editing room. He doesn’t deviate enough from song to song to justify this. It can feel like he’s alternating between the same two shells over and over.
Is A Boogie adopting a more mainstream sound or simply expanding his creative bandwidth to manage the influx of new experiences and influences that inevitably come with success? While promising, he does not come without his limitations. Boogie isn't the most lyrical. That's not his sell. Additionally, there is a need to more thoroughly clean up his track selection. Despite this, I feel there may still be untapped potential which will only be realized with time. Hopefully, the ambitious creative cross-section merges and we get a classic album. That and only that will jet him into the NYC pedestal. Overall, Artist 2.0 finds him reaching for the throne but mostly coming up with air. Be that as it may, the highs still undoubtedly overshadow the lows and make for a concentrated listening experience.