Shady Records/Interscope Records
Shady Records/Interscope Records

Boogie is warring with his reflection, and his bedroom mirror has been dragged out on the front lawn for everyone to see.

By large, rappers—especially former gang banging ones from Compton—are supposed to crash the game coated in a thick, bulletproof exterior. They are uber-confident, braggadocios triumphs of machismo, out for the money, women and championship belts. Or so the stereotype goes.

Anthony Dixson doesn’t conform, and for that we’re better off.

He doesn’t have it all figured out. He gets sad and angry and knows he needs to improve. He has regrets, and he screws up. In other words, he’s like us. “Pass on the key to the streets/I need the key to the door that’s locking out my inner peace,” he admits. And later: “I’d give my arms and my legs to get this out my head.”

So, by barring his work-in-progress soul through the tight, melodic confessions sprinkled throughout Everything's for Sale, we see a three-dimensional human we can relate to—and not the battle rapper you met in the Snickers commercial with Elton John.

Boogie graduates to the major leagues after having cultivated a diehard fan base through a trio of excellent indie tapes—Thirst 48; The Reach; Thirst 48, Pt. IIthat dropped from 2014 to 2016, each more accomplished and nuanced than the last. Aside from a few high-profile guest drops, the Compton choirboy’s first studio release continues that trajectory.

For the most part, the production team consists of unsung L.A. boardsmen Keyel and Dart, whose mood-setting pieces complement Boogie’s raw vulnerability to a tee. Filling his headphones with R&B of late, Boogie’s cigarettes-and-sorrow voice toys with an arsenal of melodies, flipping easily between song and spit, often within the same verse.

“I started off barring up, so I can do that all day, Boogie told Billboard of his approach. "But it brings a different aspect to the song when you can bring melodies and go back to a flow. It just makes it more interesting to me. I want my project to take people on an emotional roller coaster.”

That the 29-year-old writer is able to cram so many bumps and twists into a tense 39 minutes is a testament to an improved pen game. Eight of the album’s 13 tracks clock in under three minutes—perfect for short attention spans.

Relationships get torn raw in “Skydive”—with its lush acoustic licks—and “No Warning.” Boogie, a father, funnels the frustration of joint custody into a masterpiece on “Whose Fault.” Opening with a bickering couple, our author plays out the finger-pointing rage by taking the point of view of both the man and the woman in a broken union. The thing strikes hard with its reality.

Of equal quality is “Lolsmh (Interlude),” a track so lyrically fragile you could cry to it. “No, my skin ain’t thick, it’s thin, it prolly bleeds soon as you touch me/I love if you hate me, I hate that you fuckin’ love me,” Boogie confesses. And, later, when the love falls to pieces, he laments: “I helped her get up on her feet, for me to see her walk away.”

Don’t fret, it’s not all downers and diary entries. The uptempo highs are exhilarating. Take “Soho,” a heater where Boogie goes bar for bar with J.I.D. It leaves you wanting more.

“Rainy Days,” which features Boogie's new label boss Eminem, is set up to be epic with its simmering Streetrunner track and snappy drums, and Boogie aces his opening verse with a playful trail-off flow. But Em’s ridiculous sheep-sex pun ("Like a shepherd havin' sex with his sheep, fuck what you heard") and abrasive tongue-twisting feel madly misplaced, shoehorned out of nowhere.

Leagues better is the woozy, drunken “Self Destruction,” where Boogie checks himself for sleeping around and acting a fool. It’s a beautiful mess, and it’s based on his real flaws. Boogie sees through the false fronts and tinted windows. “Scared if you open up, niggas might just have leverage on you,” he fires.

Bravely, Boogie has given us something true, something we can feel. Even if it hurts. —Luke Fox

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