I’m sitting in a tiny apartment in Darlinghurst, Sydney that hasn’t been renovated in 40-something years waiting for A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie to arrive for this shoot. We’ve been warned he’s rolling with a pretty big entourage, so when he hear a few cars pull up outside we get ready for a tight squeeze in the flat.
Two Lambos and a Bentley truck are blocking traffic out front, and I watch a dozen guys pile out of the cars one-by-one. Boogie isn’t one of them. In fact, we don’t know who any of these Gucci bum-bagged gentlemen are, or how they got this address. I venture out to sus the convoy and they say Boogie told them to pull up for some studio time. When I explain that the apartment upstairs is smaller than their Bentley, they agree to wait outside, and not long after A Boogie pulls up in a more modest black van. He’s relaxed, polite and ready to work, so while his team reschedule with the TN boys, he and I head upstairs and get to talking. We’re super pressed for time so I throw questions at him while he’s in the barber’s chair getting lined up for the shoot, and Boogie speaks with measured optimism about his vision for the future.
You’re from the Bronx. What was it was like growing up there?
Growing up in the Bronx really made me who I am now. I was really just another person looking for hope and I now that I’ve found it, everything I was looking for, I’m on a whole new journey. I’ve really expanded my whole mindset, you feel me?
Do you spend time in the Bronx these days?
I still do spend time in the Bronx, but I try not to stay too close to the Bronx because a lot of things tend to happen in your hometown, there’s a lot of hate and negative energy when you blow up. People think you’re too good for where you came from. You see examples of that all the time, rappers have their own neighbourhoods switch sides on them after they come up—that’s why I stick to myself a lot too, I try to stay true to myself.
I heard you were kind of shy when you were younger. Did it take a while before you started to show people your music?
Yeah, I started to write music when I was about 13 but it was just a couple of raps. It wasn’t ‘til three or four years later that I took it seriously at all. I was in high school in Florida at the time and I remember just going home from class every day so I could write music. I finally got into a real studio around that time and recorded a song called ‘Temporary’, it was about people who come and in and out of your life, ‘cause I felt like everyone was temporary at that time. I was always a little skeptical to show people my raps because I always wanted to be a rapper right, but I also wanted to do music music—I was always about making concepts for my songs, even if the music goes in crazy directions, you’re still going to get a good story from my songs. And I didn’t want to rap for people in real life because it’s different from going into the studio and creating a song, you feel me?
It’s not everybody’s thing to spit freestyles on the spot like that.
Yeah, that wasn’t me. I feel like I’m a master of recording more than a freestyler or a rapper. I write my own music, I don’t let nobody write my stuff. I get in the booth nowadays and let it happen. You can come back and change things once the idea is down.
“I feel like I’m a master of recording more than a freestyler or a rapper.”
Do you think spending more and more time in the studio helped your confidence?
Yeah being in that environment definitely helped, working out the recording process and just the way I chose to live my life. I had that point in my life where I spent and spent and had a lot of fun but now I’m in the studio constantly, I’m strictly business. I think a lot of artists reach that point sooner or later.
I know Boogie is a reference to the Bronx, but the Hoodie part?
The hoodie part just came from wearing hoodies all the time man, that’s the easiest question I’ve answered yet [Laughs]. I used to wear hoodies every day, in class the teachers couldn’t tell me to take my hoodies off.
What’s the ultimate hoodie?
I bought a $6,000 hoodie from Hermes before. That’s the one.
When I first read that Hoodie Szn set a record for the lowest weekly album sales of a Billboard number one, it seemed like it was almost being framed as a diss, but you did over 100 Million streams and I can’t remember the last time I bought an album in iTunes. Why do you think streams are written about like they’re less-than sales?
I think a lot of big media outlets don’t support artists like me. It’s off their radar because we don’t do stupid things for the internet, and they don’t support artists who don’t do gimmicks. People who do gimmicks get shared nowadays because kids like that crazy shit. I want my music to speak to people, and I feel like we’re going to get to a point where rappers are famous for doing something else, not even music no more. You’re right, and some pop stars still have that sales market but they can’t beat our streaming numbers. In my era we’re ruling this shit, nobody can fuck with our streams.
“Some pop stars still have that sales market but they can’t beat our streaming numbers. In my era we’re ruling this shit, nobody can fuck with our streams.”
Let’s talk about features. You have some big names on Hoodie Szn—Young Thug, Offset—and your sound meshes well with all of them.
Yeah, that’s one thing I practice. Even if I’m not feeling a beat I’ll push myself to try something on it just to see how the voice comes out, you know? It took practice, but I try to do something different on every single track. Every single feature I like a lot. That’s why those songs made the album, ‘cause I cut it down from a lot of songs, maybe even 100.
Is there anyone you couldn’t get on the record that you wanna work with for the next one?
I heard you want to work with Adele.
Yeah, that’s different though. I wouldn’t put her on Hoodie SZN [Laughs]! I would put her on another project, an RnbB vibe or somethin.
But that’s someone high on your list?
Hell yeah. I like out of the box things. People wouldn’t really expect me to want to do a song with her but I think I’m capable of doing anything and that anything is possible.
Any artists you admire that people wouldn’t expect you to fuck with?
50 Cent. I really look up to 50. A lot of people don’t even see him as the man he really is because he’s the rapper 50 cent, but it’s not just about the music, it’s also about what you do with the opportunity. He’s got his own TV show, all of that.
50 has had a big career. Are you trying to do more than music too?
No doubt, but I’m the type of person who won’t speak about things ‘til they’re done. Other people will say “I’m doing this and that, I just bought a store,” stuff like that. I think people don’t respect artists and rappers in business as much so I’d rather stay invisible as a businessman.
So you’re not going to open up a Subway anytime soon?
[Laughs] Yeah I’d open up a Subway, I just wouldn’t talk about it! It’s not about the credit or bragging rights as long as there’s money coming in.
I’ve heard you talk about Hoodie Gang before, can you explain what that is?
Man, Hoodie Gang is my favourite gang in the world, I love it more than Bloods and Crips.
It’s a group chat you invite certain fans to be part of and talk with you, right?
Yeah that’s my group chat, but it’s really more than a group chat. It’s us. I’m with them daily and it’s not just fans anymore, they’re my friends now. Hoodie Gang word, that’s my gang that’s why I call it a gang. I really want to connect with them as much as possible and recruit as many people as I can!
Maybe you can find some Australian members while you’re out here.
Hell yeah! No doubt.
Photography Bryce Thomas
Styling Kevin Hunter
Grooming Trey Alexander
Assistant Oliver Seville
Production Disregard Creative