As a producer, Boots has popped up overnight, influencing the sound on Beyonce’s most recent album quite heavily. And before, there’s very minimal information about him. In a New York Times interview, they mentioned an old band he was in called Blonds, and also being homeless at some point. But both facts were kinda just thrown in there as an ‘oh, by the way, this happened’ sorta thing. But ever since then, he’s been absolutely on fire. He’s worked with Run The Jewels, FKA Twigs, and now he’s trying to make it on his own with Aquaria, his first full length LP.
And as the Beyonce pedigree might hint at, Boots has a great skill for creating this murky environment that he’s able to bend in different ways. Sometimes a beat on here just knocks, like on “C.U.R.E.” Big drums, sirens blaring, some pots and pans clacking against one another, everything about this song is Boots at his most straightforward Hip-Hop. But he can turn on a dime, like he does on “Only,” churning out a smooth ballad.
Each of those songs exist in the same world Boots has created, though. And the fluidity is quite admirable here, since it seems like he hates the idea of allowing a sound to wear out its welcome. “Dead Comes Running” is a complete kitchen sink type of song. His soft cooing bookends the song, but in between that is a frenzy of jittery drum patches and heavy guitar churns.
While his work on the production boards can not be denied, it’s his efforts on the mic that come up a little short. On “C.U.R.E.,” his lyrics fall into the realm of trying too hard to be a conscious, “I’m not like most rappers” type of rapper. The lyrics aren’t bad, but his delivery doesn’t do him any favors with the message he’s trying to convey. The mumble flow IS trendy right now, but it doesn’t really work on a song talking about advertisers and Wall Street taking everybody’s money. It’s corruption, man! Speak up! Anunciate! The rapping doesn’t come natural to him, but he does a capable enough job to where he doesn’t drop any lines that are eye poppingly bad.
But because of that fluidity of his, he doesn’t spend too much time obsessing over making this a full-on rap record. Buzzworthy producers try reaching like that all the time now, but it seldom works out. Just ask Hit-Boy. And Boots also happens to be a really good singer. He’s got a skill for some subtly catchy melodies and he can get his voice into this trembly high pitch, which adds a lot of vulnerability to his dark and moody soundscape.
The maximalist effort on Aquaria is an impressive display of Boots’s talent. He builds off the sound from his time with Beyonce, but also adds new layers that are more experimental in its lack of traditional pop structure. And while that does a great deal of busyness, he works so well with the clutter that it’s still a captivating listen.