By now, the hullabaloo of the San Diego Music Awards should have died down. Complaints on Facebook support groups have tapered off. I'm sure someone has suggested that the hip-hop community stage its own awards show, a good idea that probably got plenty of 'likes' but won't happen any time soon.
One pretty legitimate complaint that still rings true with the SDMA's as far as hip-hop goes, though, is the dearth of street-rap representation. There weren't a ton of street rap acts in the list of nominees, and one of those acts got on there for breaking from the mold. It makes sense for a variety of reasons, the main one being that street rap itself has been on the decline for more than a decade (frat-rap posterboy Asher Roth at one point declared it "dead," even). On top of that, many of the local "movers-and-shakers" probably either find it too boring or too aggressive, or otherwise too much associated with all the worst evils in the world (here's a pro tip for you: If you have any problem in your life at all, blame it on rap -- it's like Robitussin, "curing" you of responsibility).
Still, the lack of street rap is just a little weird, considering that Mitchy Slick is the biggest hip-hop artist from our city. With all the hundreds of rappers trying to follow in his steps, sheer mathematical probability ensures that you're gonna find some good street rap. All of which is to say, "Oh, hey, look! I made a trip to Fam Mart for some more rappity rap."
Bossman Hogg is a street rapper from San Diego affiliated with the incarcerated but respected O.G. rapper Don Diego (you may recognize Don Diego's name from the previously mentioned list of SDMA nominees). Bossman Hogg's latest album, Hoggz Breath, was released under Don Diego's Damafiamu Entertainment imprint, which is enjoying a pretty good run of releases in the last year between Hoggz Breath, Don Diego's Red Everything, Young Reef's Red October and Black Mikey's Premeditated Music.
On the surface, Hoggz Breath has all the trappings of a street-rap album from San Diego: generic West Coast-ish beats, an overabundance of guests and kinda shoddy graphic design/artwork. But Bossman Hogg raps well -- with heart -- and that's good enough to carry it. He spits in this distinctive, constant shout that's like the vocal equivalent of typing in ALL CAPS. ALL CAPS may be obnoxious to read online, but it works for baring open your aching soul on record, which is mostly what Bossman Hogg does here.
The core of the album are confessional raps. On the first song, "Man's World," which samples James Brown's classic ballad, Bossman Hogg sets the tone for the album by sketching a world full of evil and wickedness -- but also one of struggle and hope. He redirects his assault in more detail on "Solid When It's Cold" by striking down a particular friend who turned foe. "The Life I Live" gets autobiographical, as Bossman recounts his broken home -- his father's abuse of his mother, his brother's death -- and how it drove him to the gang life. Far from being a cynical "product of my environment" statement, the song offers hope: After struggling with the devil, Bossman saves his soul through God and ultimately finds happiness in his three children and his budding music career.
All of the saving and emotion would be pretty corny if it were completely self-centered. But Bossman Hogg doesn't just try to save himself -- he wants to save others by relating his experiences to them. On "O.G.'s Were Lil Hommies Too," he speaks directly to 'lil' homies' about how he got to be in a position to encourage them to keep growing, even if they may make mistakes at times. "Keep Stepin Out the Hood" carries a similar sentiment, with Bossman urging his friends to keep grinding -- and importantly, to stay away from the temptation of crime -- to make it out of the ghetto.
The entire album isn't all one-note however, and isn't completely obsessed with pain. Unfortunately, the rest of the album that isn't about pain isn't as good. One problem is that rapping in an ALL CAPS voice doesn't translate as well to songs where Bossman hollers at chicks ("It's That Good", "I'm Feelin You", "Like That"). It's hard to whisper sweet nothing's into her ear when you're screaming not-so-sweet nothing's into her face (though I should remind you that I'm a blogger, so take my pickup game advice with a grain of salt).
The other issue is that performing with such pain and emotion can mask a lot of deficiencies. When you take that away, you remember that the Dr. Dre-lite beats are pretty forgettable. You also realize that Bossman Hogg is not the most technically gifted rapper in the world, often dropping clunky rhymes that seem to fall just short of the length of the measure and sound off beat.
But who worries about technical proficiency when they''re struggling to stay above water? If you like rappers who wear their hearts on their sleeves without being a big douche about it, I recommend Bossman Hogg's Hoggz Breath. The voice is abrasive, but once you hear the truth he speaks and the force with which he delivers it, you'll be sold. Long live emo-street rap.
If you're interested, you can purchase Bossman Hogg's Hoggz Breath on the Damafiamu web store here.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog SD Raps.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.