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Rapper Boogie puts son Darius first — sometimes even on his songs

Going by his newest music video, you'd think Boogie was the life of the party.

In the raucous clip for "Oh My," his best-known song, a crew of what looks like hundreds dance their way through Compton, his hometown — on a city bus, on a front lawn, on street corners, in the middle of the road, even on rooftops. The 25-year-old rapper, also known as Anthony Dixson, is at the front of the pack, spitting verses about growing up hungry and getting shot at the park with the comfortable swagger of a star quarterback amid the pervasive, charming refrain: "Oh mah! Oh m'goodness!"

The video has been viewed on YouTube well over half a million times.

In person, though, it's a whole different story. On a hot, lazy June afternoon, congregating near the grassy courtyard of a gated apartment complex across from Compton's Roy Campanella Park, a few days before his album-release show at the Mint in Mid-City L.A., Boogie is soft-spoken, when he talks at all. He's still surrounded by friends, of course; they mill around outside the apartment of a friend known only as G Weed (or Weeder, as Boogie affectionately refers to him), recounting last night's gambling forays and arguing animatedly about why the Cleveland Cavaliers lost the NBA championship series last week to the Golden State Warriors.

Boogie, clad in a black cap and bright red long-sleeved shirt despite the heat, blends into the group. A mumbled opinion on the Cavs' roster here, a quiet, clipped lament about a recent argument with his girlfriend there. It's a far cry from the stream of consciousness that is "The Reach," his self-released debut record.

"That's why — I think I realized — I don't open up in person no more," he says later, in G Weed's living room. Behind him, shots of the Warriors' Oakland victory parade play on mute on a massive flat-screen TV. " 'Cause I'm, like, I do enough on my music, I don't need to, like, sit here and, like, go deep."

Indeed, "The Reach" leaves no room for speculation about this rapper's thoughts: Twelve back-to-back, verbose soliloquies on subjects ranging from the hungry pursuit of a music career on the same streets that have produced some of the most influential artists in the genre's history (as well as scores of lazy imitators), to judgments of unhealthy Instagram obsessions (mostly those of the women in his life — his own accounts are mainly for retweets and album promos).

"I think I'm just genuine; I'm an honest person," he says. "That's my main thing I'm pushing right now. I just, my formula is I'm going to show my flaws and my insecurities, and hopefully people learn from them. I'm not going to try to hide them."

The project, which features the kind of vivid, full-fledged production usually reserved for a successful mainstream artist on his or her second or third major-label effort, was kept close to home. The majority of "The Reach" was produced by Boogie's nephew, Keyel Walker, and engineered by their friend Darttny "Dart" Ellis.

He says the record's title is as multifold as his rap tales, alluding both to his own grind — "reaching for success" — and opportunistic acquaintances: "homies reaching for attention."

There's one recurring topic, though, that has defined his image almost as much as his Compton-Long Beach street roots, from the release of his first mix-tape, last summer's "Thirst 48," to the day of this interview.

As he puts it: "Short version would be that I'm a 25-year-old dad. That raps. From Compton."

Son Darius was born not long after Boogie started taking his rap career seriously. The 6-year-old, who now splits his time between Mom and Dad, features prominently in his father's work: shirtless and eating ice cream in the video for "Bitter Raps," a cut from "Thirst 48"; jumping around like a maniac on a mattress in the background of the video for "48's" "Let Me Rap"; and contributing ad-libbed samples to tracks like "Make Me Over," "The Reach's" second single. (The recent kindergarten graduate says his prayers on the latter song.)

Attendees of NPR's South by Southwest showcase in Austin, Texas, earlier this year heard Darius' recorded voice before the rapper even opened his mouth. If, or when, Boogie achieves mainstream success, Darius will be just about as famous as his dad.

"My dad was never around — I know it's like a cliché story now," Boogie says back on G Weed's couch. The window behind him overlooks a handful of grade-schoolers crawling over a playground at the center of the complex's courtyard. Darius is at a school-sponsored event today, but he has already given his dad a wrapped gift in advance of Father's Day that weekend (and forbidden him from opening it early). "But, yeah, he was never there. I just make it a point to be in my kid's life, maybe even too much at times, but I don't care. That's my No. 1 priority, for sure."

The "introspective, hyper-emotive, invested dad with explicit gang affiliations" character Boogie has developed in his music over the last few years combined with the fertile atmosphere created by local success stories like Kendrick Lamar and YG have made for an exceptionally promising start. "Oh My" was produced by Jahlil Beats, whose other clients include Meek Mill, Jay Z, Diddy and Lil Wayne. That afternoon in Compton, references to co-signers and their potential patronage float through the air from his crew and management — Waka Flocka Flame, Rick Ross and, of course, Lamar. Later, a rep from Republic Records shows up for an impromptu visit.

"By comparison, what I've been through and what I got to go through ... I'm not really scared of nothing in the music industry, honestly. I just come from a tough place. It's like, what's in the industry that can scare me that I haven't already been through?" 

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Boogie with DJ Looney and DJ Dezzie

Where: The Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles

When: Wednesday. Doors at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $12 to $20

Info: (323) 954-9400, themintla.com

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