Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” is already the biggest first-week debut of 2022. With its arrival comes 18 tracks of introspection touching on everything from racism to transphobia to generational trauma.
One of those tracks, “Purple Hearts” featuring R&B queen Summer Walker and Wu-Tang Clan alum Ghostface Killah, came to life with the help of Westside Boogie, the Shady Records signee who co-wrote it.
How did the record come together? Through Boogie’s management at LVRN, whose cofounder, Justice Baiden, got the call.
“Kendrick is specific obviously about who he collaborates with, so I think he can always come from a space of who he listens to,” says Baiden. “When Anthony, his manager, reached out to me, he said, ‘Yo, Dot is wrapping up the album and he’d love for Summer to be a part of it. How can we get them on the phone?’ So we orchestrated a call and they got on the phone together.”
Boogie’s participation proved even more meaningful considering he, like Lamar, hails from Compton. And the final result proved to have a magic all its own.
“It was sick,” says Baiden. “Being a part of hip-hop culture and growing up, watching Kendrick to where he is now is incredible. As we’re building and doing our thing, to get acknowledged by somebody that has reached heights that we’d love to reach is great. Also in the same breath, it just made so much sense.”
Variety spoke with Westside Boogie at The Bakerie in downtown Los Angeles about what it meant to contribute to such a monumental album, his experience in the music business and his forthcoming album, “More Black Superheroes.”
Let’s start with “Purple Hearts.” How does it feel to get a track on Kendrick’s album?
It feels amazing. One, because everybody knows that’s one of my favorite rappers of all time. Also, it’s a big leap for me — writing for somebody. I never co-wrote. … My boy Justice blessed me with the opportunity and trusted me. It also helps having LVRN as your management, because, you know, they’re plugged. [Laughs]
How did Summer Walker jump onto the record?
It was a back and forth thing. You know, we got the same manager. She’s with LVRN, I’m with LVRN. It wasn’t necessarily me right there with her, it was me sending her stuff I could help with. And her doing her part.
What was the creative process like?
It was hard at first … tapping into being a girl. I was doing my little parts at home and I didn’t tell my homies what I was doing. … It’s a little more free when you’re doing it for somebody else. Because as artists, we get trapped in the mind of the artist we’re supposed to be, or how people already see us as. So we do them same type of records because it’s safe. But when it’s for somebody else, you can do whatever.
What was your reaction when you heard the record back?
This shit is amazing! When I was listening to the album, it still didn’t feel real to me until I heard the song. I had a bottle of champagne in my hand, I was sitting on my assistant’s floor. I just started drinking. [Laughs] That was it.
What lyric are you proudest of on “Purple Hearts”?
The hook: “Shut the fuck up when you hear love talking.” Kendrick. It doesn’t have shit to do with me, I just love that part and I’m a part of a song that says that. And the best lyric on the song is the “eat my ass” part. I’m proud of Summer for that bar.
Do you have a favorite track off Kendrick’s album besides “Purple Hearts”?
“Count Me Out” is my favorite. He was just gassing on there, the way he was rapping. It felt super vulnerable saying how he shared too much and cared too much. I felt that bar, that was heavy for me.
How do you view Kendrick’s place in hip-hop?
He’s Mount Rushmore — one of my GOATs and he has to be one of the rap GOATs.
It’s amazing. It’s Compton. Compton is the best music city in the world. No matter what my manager Justice has to say about Atlanta, Compton runs the world.
Eminem said to Dr.Dre that the Kendrick album left him speechless?
Yeah he tweeted Dr. Dre. Eminem’s hilarious on social media. He chooses to tweet Dr.Dre about the Kendrick album, that is so funny to me. I love him.
How has your experience been at Shady?
It’s amazing, that’s my boy. Obviously he’s one of the biggest rappers ever, so there’s that benefit. He opened my career to a whole other fanbase so I’m forever grateful for that. You can always take so much in from him because he’s one of the GOATs.
How were you first discovered by Eminem?
I was signed in 2015/ I had a manager named Clayton, who I had reached my ceiling with. Him and my label had a disconnect a little bit. I guess the term would be, I was shelved for two years. My A&R Tim [Glover, EVP at Interscope Records], he loved me. He was the first person to sign me. He got me the opportunity to meet with LVRN.
I was on the shelf. I was living in this apartment in Torrance. I got a call from Tim, who said, “Yo, somehow, Eminem heard your music from Paul [Rosenberg, Eminem’s manager]. He wants to fly you out.” So I flew out the next day, then I was signed. Around that time, I met LVRN. My life started changing, so I could say it was a consistent belief in myself.
What is LVRN’s greatest contribution?
The honesty I get from them, getting me out of my comfort zone. I only had one previous management and that’s what they didn’t do, was push me to get me out of my comfort zone. At times, when you get too comfortable, it doesn’t feel right. You get frustrated.
You just released “Stuck,” where are you at musically?
Just trying to tap into different energies. Being pushed, being uncomfortable. I will make the same songs every time, because I could find a way to be sad about everything. This time around, I was trying to bring more energy and talk about things that were going on in my neighborhood. Not necessarily always relationship stuff like my precious work, so that’s where I’m at musically right now.
The line, “I love the hood, you know I’m stuck.” Can you elaborate on that?
Yeah, it’s about the survivor’s guilt I go through all the time. Because I’m not in the hood obviously all the time, I’m the one who made it out. So me being over there always feeling like I got to go back or I’m wrong; me feeling like I got to be in the hood all the time, even though the homies don’t even want me there. It’s that push and pull that I got, that always brings me back to my neighborhood.
How was it going back to your neighborhood to shoot the video?
It’s always great being in my neighborhood — anytime I can shoot and do something over there. But also that’s when that guilt kicks in. ”Oh, you wanna come over here to shoot videos? Come over here where we’re gangbanging everyday.” I deal with that too.
Can you talk about your alteregos: Anthony, RatchetBoog and SuperbloodBoogie?
Anthony is the dad in me. This album is about me addressing that I’m a layered human. I’m not one-sided just because people see me in one light; I can be these different things. Anthony is my vulnerable side, my emotional side. RatchetBoog, it’s all in the name — I am a ratchet at heart. That side ain’t necessarily been shown in the past, because my feelings have been hurt a lot in my past music. I’ve been ratchet a lot lately so it’s me addressing that side. SuperbloodBoogie is my ultimate self, everything combined. He’s just amazing.
What can we expect from your sophomore album, “More Black SuperHeroes,” and what inspired the name?
That name is fire, huh? Growth, always honesty in my shit, sprinkled with ignorance, sprinkled with turnt shit, just like everything. For real for real. … Coming up with a name was actually hard. We went through a lot of names. I hated it. How can we describe this feeling, when we have all these different sides? And how strong we are when we address it? When we don’t hide our true shelves? So we came up with that name. Growing up, all the superheroes I saw on TV, none of them really looked like me. Now it’s starting to change, but it was also playing into that, too. I wanted to be something my kid could see himself in.
How old is your kid now?
Twelve, acting like he’s 30. I say it all the time but it’s the toughest age. I hate it.
Is he into music?
Nah, he’s a basketball player. A little fake joc, somebody I would’ve fired on in middle school. [Laughs]
If you could be a superhero, who would it be?
I used to love the red Power Ranger. I love Blade. Out of all the Avengers, obviously Black Panther because he’s Black. And I love Ironman because that n— smart as hell.
Young Thug’s recent arrest cited his lyrics in his indictment. What’s your thoughts on that as a songwriter? Is a song fact or fiction?
It’s sad when any n–a in jail. Is the song fact or fiction? I don’t know whose truth is telling whose truth. I know a lot of my songs I draw from real spaces, but I’ve also fabricated stuff. I’ve also made up stories before.
What are your goals going forward?
My goal is to destroy every rapper. I don’t really like n–s like that. I want everybody to make money, every Black man. But I also want to kill all these n–s. And I want n–s to stop trying to box me in.
How do you mean?
Like “conscious rapper.” I just want to be able to be free.
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