A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie is hungry. The 20-year-old Bronx rapper strides into Billboard on a rainy Thursday afternoon and eyes the snack selection, opting for a cup of instant noodles. “I just want something in my stomach,” says the rising rapper born Artist Duboise, whose Highbridge label signed to Atlantic Records as a joint venture earlier this year.
On the eve of the release of his TBA EP, his road manager runs through his packed evening, which includes two back-to-back release parties at New York hotspots Jane Ballroom and Up&Down with studio time. It’s light work for A Boogie, whose follow-up to the breakthrough Artist mixtape, home to the Drake co-signed hit “My Shit,” shows him in his element: swerving in and out of melodies while sweetly rap-singing about blocking haters (“Ransom”), scoping out girls (“Baecation” and “Timeless”) and even the sound noodles make (“Macaroni”).
While he keeps a tight lip about the meaning of TBA (consider it to be announced in the meantime), A Boogie is forthcoming about his humble beginnings, mingling with his idols and working on his craft.
What has been the hardest part of transitioning into a star?
The craziest part I have to say is little moments when these people I knew when I was younger, like DJ Khaled and Drake, just hitting me up telling me to come to these events. That’s real big right there.
You opened several shows for Drake’s Summer Sixteen tour in New York. How did you land the gig?
He heard my music first. A lot of people been trying to put him on, I heard. Once he got my number, we was talking about music for a few days. A week later, he hit me up the night before he performed at [Madison Square Garden] and he asked me, “You want to perform?” I was like, “Yeah.”
You dropped the Artist mixtape in February. How did you approach TBA differently?
I made the Artist project a real Artist project. I put it together in a neat way so it stood out to types of artist like Drake. Right now, even seeing my name next to their names on Apple Music — I don’t even feel like I’m there yet. It’s new to me still.
What is the story behind your real name, Artist?
I don’t know the exact story. I just know my dad is into art and he named me Artist.
Did you grow up in a musical household?
Nobody was really making music, but I was listening to music. My mom playing the radio while she was cleaning. My dad driving me to go fishing in New Jersey, playing the radio on the way to jersey.
Are you a good fisherman?
Nah, I was never really that good. I always got my hook taken.
Who were some of the artists your parents would play?
Lauryn Hill was one of my favorites. Nas, Jay Z, 50 Cent, Kanye. I can’t just listen to one [artist] — I got to throw it in a mixture. When it comes to Lauryn Hill, I like the way she puts things together. I think she kind of started that wave when it comes to the melodies. She made it sound really good back then.
Being from New York, do you feel like there’s a certain responsibility to show that the East Coast still has a presence in hip-hop?
Yeah, of course. It’s me right now and Dave East, Don Q, PnB [Rock], Young M.A. We going crazy right now. As long as everybody keeps a consistent flow, It’s gonna be a real good run. We the new wave.
What do you think separates East Coast hip-hop from the sound coming out of other regions?
We got a different bounce. When it comes to words, we’re more descriptive. We got a new bounce right now.
Do you feel like you make music better when you’re thinking about the clubs or when you’re in your feelings?
When I’m in my feelings, of course. It’s easy to make a song for the clubs. I don’t even do too much [for the clubs] but when I do, I make it easy. When it comes to making songs about feelings — real life, it takes me a while because I can’t just write anything. If it’s not real, I’m not gonna put it there.
Have you ever felt hesitant about putting certain things out about yourself?
Of course. One song, “Temporary” took me like a year to make. That was the first song I ever made — me and my producer called Mr. Whyte. That was when I was in Florida for about three years — went there in 2012 came back in 2015. He was the first person that brought me into the studio. I never been to no real studio before even when I was in New York. So when I went there, I heard my voice in a real microphone. When I knew how I could sound, I abused it. I went home — I listened to the song. I wrote it over and over, changing things. It took me mad long to finish that. I was 17 when I started making [the song] and I was 18 when I put it out. When I recorded it, it came out a real good song. That was the song that lead to my career.
You were 12 or 13 when you started write raps.
Yeah I still got the notebook. [I would write in] school, on the train, everywhere.
Who taught you the structure of a song?
I would say myself because I always stuck to myself and thought a lot. I didn’t talk a lot. So it was just me thinking about things and putting it together. And I like puzzles. I always liked puzzles as a kid. I got 100’s in every writing class. Straight A’s in everything.
Describe growing up in the Bronx.
Both. When I was in high school, that’s when a lot of things started happening in my life. I went to Dewitt Clinton in the Bronx so I was with 20 years olds so you had to learn to grow up quick. I went to one of the worst schools in the Bronx. I was seeing all this bad stuff. That’s all I was seeing. It started to come to me. I stopped going to school for a little while — just in and out. I still graduated high school though.
Did you fall into a bad crowd?
Yep, that was always one of my problems. I fell into a bad crowd at the time.
You were also on probation and house arrest for a time.
Yeah I was in Florida then. That was the whole three years. That’s why I was there — stuck. I got arrested for a dime of weed. My mom was already moving to Florida. She went to Florida then came back for me as a surprise. I was like 15, 16.
You also studied air conditioning at one point?
I took air conditioning classes in Florida. I didn’t take it that serious. I just needed something to do. It was complicated — a whole bunch of wires. Before you learn about the AC, you got to learn about each part. That was mad work for me. I didn’t even want to learn that. I was on house arrest. I just needed somewhere to go.
Has there been a moment where you felt like you made it?
My mom texts me [she’s proud of me] all the time. She just texted me last night matter of a fact. I forgot exactly what she said but it was out of nowhere. Things like that make me just want to keep on going.
Mumble rap is all the rage right now. What do you hope to bring to the table?
I’m trying to bring that real music feeling back to music. You on the train and you’re really listening to what the song is talking about. That’s a big part of what I really want to do.
What are you working on next?
After this project, I got a mixtape with Zaytoven. I met him at Drake’s show so I got his number. He heard a lot of my music and we connected from there. He sent me like 30 beats. I made a track, and was like, “Nah, I got to make a mixtape.” It’s going to be called Artoven.
Recall a line where you felt like you were really good at what you do.
When I said a certain line, “I’m rocking Buscemi even though I like Loubs so you gotta use a key to walk in my shoes.” After I said that, it was over. I was like I’m the king.