A Boogie’s Only Competition Is Himself
The King of New York—as far as this writer is concerned—is back: A Boogie wit da Hoodie has released his long-anticipated fourth studio album, Me Vs. Myself. True to the title, his new project finds the Bronx native taking listeners through a back-and-forth battle between his two alter egos; A Boogie and Artist. The former is toxic and gritty, without hesitation for calling out different artists for stealing his sound. (“Nowadays all these artists sound like Artist” as he once said on “Ballin.”) The latter is heartbroken and emotionally scarred, speaking about his struggles as a lover and his individual journey through life.
A Boogie came on the scene in 2016, signing a joint venture with Atlantic Records and his own imprint, Highbridge The Label, and releasing a plethora of songs that became instant classics and gave New York City a youthful spark that it was sorely missing at the time. His distinctive, sing-songy mash of bars and melody fully animated the streets of New York, and caught props from such rap superstars as Drake, Meek Mill, and DJ Khaled. But his commercial impact has been anything but local: in 2017 his debut album The Bigger Artist peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 charts, and his follow-up Hoodie Szn would become his first Number 1 album.
Me Vs. Myself instantly feels like a top A Boogie project—including mixtapes and EPs. The new album features a return to the original A Boogie melodic sound that hooked diehard fans in the first place, alongside some of his best rapping to date. Songs like “Money Conversation” will bring out your inner rock star, while a track like “February” will put you through the emotional ringer. It’s the most compelling case yet that A Boogie deserves to be mentioned among the contemporary hip-hop elite. A Boogie sat down with GQ to discuss the new project, his mental-health journey, and his unique relationship with his fans, and to weigh in on the ever-raging King of New York debate.
You first teased this project way back in 2020 on Twitter, what was the journey like from then to now?
We finally did this shit, man. We are finally here, man. I made the album about three times, literally. It came down to a point where it was like it would’ve been a good album whichever one it was, but now it’s even better than the first two versions.
When I first heard about the project I thought you were going to give us a double disc, something along the lines of Life after Death.
That is definitely what it is. If you check out the tracklist, the first song is an Artist song and the second song is A Boogie. So it’s literally me versus myself. It’s a different character going back-to-back with each other. The first time I separated it on my EP [2021’s B4AVA], I separated A boogie and Artist. I put three songs over here, three songs over there. This time, I wanted fans to hear the actual battle and go through the mood swings as they listen.
Your relationship with your fans is—I don’t want to say toxic, but the cadence is toxic. Every time you even announce an album, in the comments section, it’s aggressive questions about, “When is the album dropping?”
I can’t even drop a single on Instagram without them posting, “Where the album at? Where the album?” I drop an album and then it’s, “Yo, when is the next album coming?”I got to have three albums in the cut ready for my fans. Shit, hopefully next year we get to do the drop back-to -back to back for the fans, because I don’t want to make them wait too long, I know I’m selfish, but I can’t do that. I can’t have the fans angry at me for that long.
Your fans are a bit selfish, too. It gets to a point where they don’t want to hear you with another artist on a song. Does that hurt your creativity?
Yeah, because I like how me and other artists collaborate, and I don’t want people to hear a whole album and just hear me over and over and over again. I want you to hear another voice so you can’t get tired of mine.
You and Roddy Ricch have a special bond. When y’all link up on a track it’s always amazing. What’s your relationship like with Roddy?
That’s my guy right there, our chemistry is [unmatched] on every song. He is like Lil Durk in that way. The chemistry is crazy, every single song always bumping. I have a project in my phone with me and Lil Durk. It’s six songs. I was listening to the shit other day and I’m like, “Damn, bro, this shit is really fire.” We got more songs that we working on. After this album, there’s like three people I’m working on collab projects with. I just can’t say everything yet…
Who else could you see yourself releasing a full project with?
Me and Roddy could do a tape in two or three days. It’s too easy for us to make melodies… Everybody that I would do a project with, we would finish in a week, literally. We could lock in for five days, just how me and [Young] Thugga used to lock in; we used to make five songs a day, At one point, 19 songs in a week.
How did you and Kodak Black reconnect for “Water”? Only the hardcore fans know that your 2017 hit “Drowning” was originally called “Water,” so this is like full circle.
Yea, this is like part 2. Kodak and I want a diamond record under our belt right now. So when it comes to “Water,” it’s going to make “Drowning” go diamond at the same time. We’re going to do the video together this time, and bring both of our fan bases together. I was telling everybody, “This got to be the main one right here. We got to push this shit right here,” so we are going to go hard for this song.
I thought I was going to hear buzzing British rapper Central Cee on this project, specifically on “Bounce Back.”
That’s crazy—that was supposed to be the one, too. Me and Central Cee definitely have got to link up and get a track in, and do a video. I don’t care if it’s on the album or not, me and Central Cee got to get one in. We were in the talks already, but he was in Australia on tour at the time.
Do you take credit for being the first rapper to name drop Mike Amiri in a song?
I feel like it’s four names that can [share claim to] being the first to rap about Mike Amiri’s: Future, Julez Santana, Meek Mill, and me. We were the first artists to wear Mike Amiri denim in the beginning. I don’t know who wore it first [specifically], all I know is that I didn’t see anybody wear it before I wore it.
So why did you stop wearing Balmain jeans?
Because they ripped on me too much. Every time I was performing, they ripped on me, So I’m like “Nah, I need new jeans, bro, because we got to stretch more.” That’s when Amiri’s came along perfectly for me.
When you released Artist 2.0 you noticeably switched from piano-influenced beats to guitar sounds. What made you do that, considering how much your fans love your piano-driven songs?
I did it on purpose, I’m not going to lie. I like making people miss me for some reason, I’m selfish as shit. I switched over the whole instrument when I was thinking about making an album because I was like, “I’m tired of pianos. We’re going to do guitar for this theme right there.” I was [originally] going to do that on every album going forward, switch up the theme with [a new instrument], but I didn’t want to overdo one thing. But on Me vs. Myself, when the fans hear the piano vibe now, you know it’s going to put a smile on their faces.
When you first came out in 2016 you created a lane for yourself and other New York City artists. Do you feel like you get the respect for putting on for the city?
I made a great lane, an amazing lane. I opened it up for everybody. I even gave people space to drop their music over and over every year. People don’t realize things like that about me. I’m not in it for just competition. Even if I don’t do a song with every artist that’s coming out from New York, I leave a lot of space. if I wanted to, I could drop every two, or three months, and flood the whole shit.
Word. Why don’t you, though?
I could get 5 billion, 10 billion streams a year. [The opportunity] is there, I just got to do it. I’m at a point where I got to just do things that my fans want me to do. I did everything that I wanted to do in the industry, so now it’s time to give my fans whatever they want.
You’re a huge Michael Jackson fan, but what some people might not know is that you actually try to reflect that in your music.
Growing up my whole life, it was all Michael Jackson all the time. So I wanted some type of resemblance in my musical style. When I do certain types of rap songs and do melodies and flows, I try to bring in a little bit of Michael.
I remember you leaked your own song from your last album, why weren’t you able to get that officially cleared?
Yeah, it was the Michael Jackson joint [“This Time.”] It was during a time where there was a lot going on [as far as cultural conversations about Michael] and [his estate] didn’t want to touch the song at the time. We might be able to get it cleared one day but we asked them so much they might be annoyed as hell right now. I apologized to the Jackson estate about leaking that one.
Something people don’t talk about is how hard it is to be a rapper in 2022 and how the lifestyle can weigh on your mental health.
It depends on your personality. A lot of people grow up shy. When it comes to people like me, it was hard for us to open up. A person could be more comfortable, and [fame] could be something they planned and prepared for, so they’re ready for it. But nine times out of ten, that’s not the case. We are not ready for this shit and we act like we are ready in the beginning. Now, I’m the type of person that opens up while something is going on.
Have you adjusted to fame?
It’s still hard. I’m not even going to lie to you. Everybody will tell you how to do it. I’m not going to tell you how to do it because you might mess up listening to me. Shit, it’s still hard to this day. We live a regular life inside. We are not going to try to make it look Hollywood and sugarcoat this shit no more, man. We really like normal people out here, everybody gotta remember when we in the crib with the family, it’s the same thing as you in the crib with your family.
There aren’t too many older mentors in the rap game, but you’ve built a strong connection with 50 Cent. What have you learned from him?
One thing I learned from 50 Cent is I can’t teach everybody everything he tells me. When it comes down to that, you can’t tell everybody everything you learn. My mentors teach me something, and I used to go tell my friends “Yo, he told me this and that.” But even as you’re going through the game, you have to be a student of the game. It’s more important for me to take the lessons I learned and be a good leader and get to a point where I actually do things and show people I really want them to succeed.
You’re connecting with the youth of New York, the new class of rappers like B-Lovee, J.I, Stunna Gambino, Kai Cenat. What advice do you give to them?
At first, that’s just showing love to people that show love to you. But it gets deeper after a while. You know me, I’m not the type of person to go bond with everybody in the world, but when I see growth in the person, I can open up, especially when I see myself within people. I’ve seen Kai Cenat going crazy with his streaming career, he was a fan for a long time and I peeped that so I just started following him. He didn’t even know I was following him. After a while I wanted to link up and do an interview and shit, we were already like family by that point
Now that you’ve worked with Kai Cenat, do you have any interest in Twitch streaming?.
Yeah, that’s what we’re doing next. Me and Kai, me and Adin [Ross]. Adin just hit me yesterday too, right after Kai hit me about the damn Twitch shit. That’s crazy. So I’m going to do it with both of them. We got to show out.
Where do you rank your projects? From Artist to The Bigger Artist to Hoodie Szn, How do you compare them to what you just made with Me Vs. Myself?
I feel like every single album, I take a step or two forward. Some of my fans prefer my older songs because they have specific memories from that time that the music is forever tied to. But the truth is, I got better. I would love for my fans to play the first Artist mix tape and then play Me Vs. Myself. I promise you, the quality, the wordplay, everything is better. You wouldn’t even think it’s the same person.
Do you feel like you had a lot left to prove in your career at this point?
I always got something to prove. I’m not going to say I don’t want to be the greatest. It would be amazing to know what it feels like to be the greatest., So why not? I never knew I was going to make it to this point right here, so shit. Hell yeah.
A lot of rappers in the city try to come for the crown and claim the title of King of New York.
That’s what makes me not want to claim I’m the King of New York, when I hear people do that and drop some [weak] shit. The people going to say what it really is, they are the judge. My fans aren’t fake, I have real motherfucking fans. So you put the album out and you say you the King of New York, you got to really be that nigga.
So do you just want to retire the term King of New York?
Hell no. You think I’m going to retire the crown? If the people think I’m the King of New York, then that’s what it is, it’s whatever the people say. Everything people see in me, I want to be that.
In addition to true crime documentaries, true crime re-imaginings are a new way for streaming platforms and television networks…