Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated release he thinks we need to know about. This week it’s a couple of Bohagon tracks, including his verse from “Be Real,” Lil Scrappy’s B-side to “No Problem.” Listen to “Be Real” (he comes in about three minutes in) and read Schnipper’s thoughts after the jump.
“Rap Game Stressful” became an anthem in our office last week, Waka Flocka Flame literally moaning that This rap game got me stressed out/ Shawty I’m losing hope. Then he asks Lord tell me/ Will I make it to see 30? and shit gets legit depressing. His catharsis is still your bummer.
Depressed rap, to me, has long been the realm of Bohagon, a forever sidelined Atlanta rapper and associate of Lil Jon. He had some brief attention luck with “Bucket” and “There She Go,” two mid-tempo club songs, but neither of those songs stung as deeply as when he’s got problems. I first heard Bohagon on “Be Real,” Lil Scrappy’s B-side to “No Problem,” which is apparently so forgotten and unloved that it’s not on YouTube (some Russian language site has it up for streaming, at least). It’s an incredibly simple beat, two different stinging guitar parts looped and simple thin drums. Lil Scrappy narrates why his “heart is so cold,” straightforward if not particularly full formed. Bohagon gets the third verse, not coming in until three minutes deep, and he sounds pungent, like he’s rapping with his face wrenched up at some gross mold. I seen a man cut with a dirty bottle/ Blood squirted on his shirt and collar/ I heard him holler a sound that I can’t forget/ Ran home, watched cartoons and ain’t said shit. He’s saying this over some 5th rate Black Sabbath imitation soloing and it is brutal. A couple of years later, Bohagon, frustrated at the eternal nothingness he was getting from his label, put out a number of mixtapes, and, buried as track 27 of 28 on The Power Move is unparalleled, pretty fairly earned, lamenting . In the verse after he talks about wanting to die, he says:
Sometimes I wish that I could spread my wings and fly away and never return/ Cus every turn it seems like there’s an obstacle in my way … I’m stuck in the quicksand and can’t get free/ And maybe the quicksand is BME [his label at the time]/ They keep telling me ways that sooner or later it’s gon’ be your time/ Sooner or later it gon’ be your shine/ Sooner or later…no not this time/ I kept letting them pacify me and everyone else kept passing by me/ While all of my fans kept asking about me/ “When they gonna drop an album on me?”/ “Coming soon,” that’s what I said, knowing damn well in the back of my head, I don’t even really believe it myself/ I feel like they starving me out my wealth/ It’s hard to call a n***a family if I can’t feed my kids and you can feed yours/ I’m struggling just to pay my bills/ You out balling at the awards/ I want my shot at the awards/ Instead of the back of my hands against steal doors yelling “Let me in! Let me be! N***a, put my album out and let me free.
Then he trails off mumbling, “I’m an artist, man,” and that he gets “frustrated sometimes.” That song came out more than four years ago, Bohagon has yet to see the fame and fortune he was awaiting. Part of that is because, with the exception of, like The Lovely Bones, sad culture is not grist for a populist, money spending mill. The most successful pop music is usually the most direct, hence the recent glut of Katy Perry soundalikes all produced by Dr Luke, a million different singers all wanting you to throw your hands in the air at the club, big silver synths and everything bombastic. They’re all pretty good songs, though. Convincing happiness is undeniable. So, when Bohagon fakes it on club tracks like “There She Go,” only half believing it himself there, he has to know he’s possession of a strong underdog’s immutable voice. Unfortunately that voice doesn’t sell records, or in his case, even get them released.
So what of “Rap Game Stressful?” It works because it’s an anomaly, the man who’s joyously called himself Labron Flocka James actually emoting. Do we care about Waka’s feelings, though? Briefly in “Hard in Da Paint,” he touches on the obviously tragic passing of his brother, but it’s over mosh rap, and it just ends with him justifying dropping out. Bohagon can’t glamorize the banal need to feed his kids. But he doesn’t try to jazz it up, either, and it’s grimly believable. It’s still available for download, five years later. It’s free, too, for better or for worse.