Westside Boogie has spent the past three years in therapy, but found that it was detrimental to his usual creative process. The Compton rapper’s 2019 debut Everythings For Sale was saturated in melancholy, laden in self-doubt, self-hatred, infidelity, and exhaustion — all the things therapy helps to remedy.
“When I got therapy it was harder for me to point the finger,” Boogie says while lightly chewing on his breakfast at a quiet restaurant in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “I had to hold myself accountable, so it was a new way of creating at that time — and it was tough for me.”
Following the critical success of Everythings For Sale, Boogie found himself recreating the album several times during the early stages of his sophomore record More Black Superheroes, which dropped on June 17. He was unable to snap himself out of his debut’s gloomy subtext, and both his Shady/Interscope label and his fans were breathing down his neck for new material.
“It got to the point where the label was so frustrated about me doing the same type of songs that they picked the beats,” Boogie says. “They wrote ten beats and they said: ‘These are the beats you’re using for your project.’ I had to go through that process of fighting them, like, ‘No, y’all not gonna be picking my f–king beats — but I know what y’all saying.’
It all clicked for him when he allowed his other identities to shine. Back in his Compton community, he’s tough and cold, while in the booth he’s pensive and reflective, and around his closest friends and family he’s emotional and empathetic. The key for More Black Superheroes was to somehow get all these Boogie’s into the booth.
“I was just trying to keep my fans busy so they don’t keep pressing me about my album so I started dropping freestyles,” he says. “But in my freestyles, my natural inclination is to just be ignorant — but the freedom I got from that it was like, ‘Oh this character, I’ve been hiding it for so long,” and now it’s so much fun because I am these different sides. I’m not glorifying ignorance, but it is what it is. It’s a part of me, and I just wanted to start embracing it.”
Westside Boogie spoke with Billboard about his new album More Black Superheroes, his relationship with his mother and his favorite childhood heroes.
How are you feeling at the moment?
It’s a crazy time in my life right now. It just feels like I’m opening my life back up to the world, and it feels like I’ve been using not having my album out as a good defense mechanism to not let people in. I’ve just been hiding out — but now it’s like the floodgates are back open, and my art… I’m super precious about it.
Were you feeling the pressure this time around?
Yeah, the first project, no one really knew about me and I could create what I want. I definitely went through that process of comparing this album, and making sure it was better than my last project, because I’m human. But I feel like I’m finally in the space mentally where I’m like just confident, and not in the comparison process.
What did you bring from Everythings For Sale, and what did you leave behind?
What I did take from that process was my vulnerability. I’m never gonna stop using that, because I feel like that’s one of my biggest weapons and my biggest strengths. I just wanted to expand, because I got so many different sides — I didn’t wanna just be known as Emotional Boog when I do ratchet stuff and am ignorant at times. So I just wanted to make sure I tied all those characters in on this project.
Everythings For Sale feels like a lifetime ago. What was COVID like for you, and how did it creatively impact you?
So I was recording every day, and at the time I had a problem of re-creating Everythings For Sale over and over. I probably re-created that album like two times. Grateful I got a good team around me like [management company] LVRN, who are always making me be uncomfortable — and it’s so irritating at times, but I know how necessary it is.
Also, when Everythings For Sale came out, I still had a kid who wasn’t a double-digit age yet, he was still 9 years old. Now I have a 12-year-old who is running me dry and think they know the world — but it’s when they start building their own character and they start thinking they know everything, so I gotta respect his growth.
When did it click for you that you were finally working on something different?
Maybe like a couple of months ago. It just happened. Until a couple of months ago I was fighting with [LVRN A&R Justice Baiden] on everything.
Was there one song that kickstarted the transition into More Black Superheroes?
When I did “Stuck” I was there in the LVRN studio and I remember Justice walking in and he was just like, “Oh this is a different energy,” and I knew it was something special — so we just built off that moment.
What was the next song that came after “Stuck”?
“Alright,” which happened when the label said I needed a single. I was crying, because I never wanna be the artist who’s gotta go to the studio and like, make a single. But they were just making it seem like I was being lazy — which is the part that drives me crazy. So I kinda went, “Oh y’all think I’m being lazy? Watch this,” and I did “Alright.” That’s something about me though — when I’m challenged or pressured, I perform better. It’s kinda irritating but it is what it is.
It feels like “Stuck” is a real pivotal moment for the project. This idea of being caught between two different lifestyles. Do you often feel that way?
That’s the survivor’s guilt that I deal with every day. Being the one from my neighborhood that I feel like made it out, and this invisible pull that’s always bringing me back when it’s not necessarily true. My homies from my neighborhood don’t even want me over there. So it’s not like I go over there and they make me feel guilty. I get away and I feel guilt.
How do you navigate that?
I tend to overextend when I don’t have to and that’s the part where I’m trying to find a balance. Because there is people that would take advantage of my guilt. Even people from my neighborhood. I go over there and I do stuff for everybody even the ones that don’t like me just so I can calm down the voices in my brain. I think I need to find a balance because I be doing too much.
Do your friends ever think you’re doing too much?
Nah, all the time. A lot of times they tell me to shut up. But I understand that I’m the same way when people try to give me information. It’s this cycle, we’re all conditioned to feel like we got it figured out. The first step is for me to learn how to receive information before I even go try and tell somebody else what they need to be doing. So I’m still working on that part. But I do go over there, and I need to work on showing them my emotional side more. Like, I get to my neighborhood and we all tough, none of us feel nothing. So I need to be the one that’s brave enough to show ‘em you can feel stuff and be emotional.
Did these situations at all influence the title of the album?
More Black Superheroes is a layered title for me. Like, we go out in the world and feel like everything is normal and take it on the chin, but it’s not normal, and I feel like we should be proud we made it through all our trials. It’s also about me embracing all these sides of myself and becoming the best version of myself. Also, being a superhero for my kid, someone he can look up to.
Was there anyone that was a Black superhero for you growing up?
Black? That’s what I’m saying. That’s even more reason why I created this, cause I can’t even really think of none. Basketball players on TV. Allen Iverson, Kobe, Jordan, and then rappers who glorify ignorance. I had 2Pac, I did have Lauryn Hill. But as far as someone I could physically touch and go see, I didn’t have one. Our heroes is our OGs, and then a lot of older people take that word for granted and don’t even live up to what it stands for. They just send us out to crash and go on dummy missions. Just my mama I guess, and my granny.
You say on “Stuck,” “Call my mama, I don’t do that s–t enough.” How is your relationship with your mom at this moment?
During this process, I’ve been really trying to fix my relationship with my mama, because I didn’t know how angry I was at her for my childhood until I did a Colors interview. They asked me a specific question, and I was like, “Oh my mama never gave me the space to be emotional.” So that’s why when she be calling me all, “Baby I love you. I love you” — I be so mad, like, “Girl, stop telling me you love me. I’m finna shut down because I don’t know how to receive that.” She saw the Colors interview and got mad because I didn’t talk to her about it first. But I’m glad that uncomfortable conversation happened because I was able to express myself.
Changing gears, you gotta tell me about connecting with Soulja Boy on “Can’t Even Lie.” How and why did you link with him?
He from Bompton! Nah, I was in the studio and I was just playin’ at first, because I did “Can’t Even Lie” and I was like, “I’m not gonna keep this song.” But then I started really feeling like, “This s–t is hard,” so I said to my team, “Yo what if Soulja Boy got on here?” Everybody started laughing and I was like, “Nah for real, what if Soulja Boy got on here?” So I sent it to him he sent it back in like two days and he went crazy.
What do you think is the one big misconception people have about Big Draco?
Once the world see you a certain way, it’s kinda hard for you to flip that switch. He came in dancing and now he’s trying to tell y’all he’s serious, and y’all still wanna put him in that box — and it’s the same thing when I come out with conscious rap and they wanna put me in a box of only conscious rap. So then when I do ignorant stuff, they not really receptive to it. Well, OK, maybe not really for me — because I came in gang bangin’ — but I think that’s the misconception of Soulja Boy. He’s still a man at the end of the day. We laugh at his trials, but s–t happened and he’s still here. I don’t know the n—a buss on somebody, and he is the first to do a lot of stuff. I don’t know about everything he say he is the first to do, but he’s an innovator.
What’s your relationship like with Smino? You have great chemistry on “Can’t Get Over You.”
Smino is my brother. I think we gonna drop a project eventually, I don’t know when, but that’s like my n—a. We got a couple of [songs made].
You’ve got an interesting story about connecting with Snoop Dogg.
So my mama used to be married to this real toxic man, and I hated him — but he also was from Snoop Dogg’s hood, so I kinda had that relationship a long time ago. So I knew if I ever made it, he gonna remember my face. I ended up making it, DMing him, and Snoop sent me two features back in two hours, and I just picked which one I wanted more. I was just with him at the Super Bowl rehearsal, because Em brought me up there.
I imagine you’re sick of getting questions about Eminem at this point in your career.
Actually, nah I kinda am. Not really, but it’s just like, I’m still super selfish and only wanna talk about myself. But I’m super grateful for everything he’s done for me. If the n—a gonna give me a verse, I don’t give a f–k. If 10 million people are only coming to this song for a verse from Eminem then it’s cool. I can never not be grateful for that.
It feels like recently you’ve really grown confident in your craft, and you’ve been saying often that you think you’re the best rapper out right now. When did your mindset around your art change?
I always used to say I was the best rapper, but it was with empty confidence. Now I really believe that. I listen to the people I used to look up to, but now I look at them as equals, or that I’m better than them. I really believe in that. Right now, I think I’m at the most mentally stable place I’ve ever been in my life, just as far as being confident and happy with who I am as a person, and not comparing my past to people.
Are some people still mad Eminem’s not on your album?
Yep, and too bad.