The result of Salvador Dali, delusional confidence, vulnerability, and distortion.
by Gabby Sgherri Photographer: Cameron Corrado
Maybe the more imperfections something has, the more you can relate to it.
“I’m getting better at watching who I keep around and that bleeds into my confidence because confidence is delusional as hell. Your ego in itself is a superpower,” says Boslen. As a rising artist, the 23-year-old Vancouver native knows all about standing in your own corner. His music falls under the umbrella of hip-hop but such a narrow definition doesn’t do it justice. For his debut album, DUSK to DAWN, he blended elements of trap, pop, punk, and rock but on his latest 7-track EP, GONZO, he took a different direction. “I’m a perfectionist, more now than ever, because I’m trying to prove myself and show my capabilities and the sonic scapes I can explore. Right now, I’m trying to balance the mainstream [sounds] with an experimental blend and hone it into something that I can be proud of.” The production on GONZO is grittier, filled with static and distortion, complimented by pounding 808s, punch-packing kicks, ominous organs, and emo-tinged guitar riffs. It’s the perfect backdrop for Boslen’s voice that delivers booming verses as easily as softer singsong melodies. If the different instruments and sonics on every beat are the orchestra then Boslen’s voice is the orchestrator.
“People now appreciate the art but at the time, [they] thought Salvador Dali was crazy. I’m trying to enforce that what I’m doing right now is ahead of its time and it will be preached and praised with time,” Boslen continues about the delusional confidence every artist needs. It’s only one ingredient in the recipe though, “and it’s really not about that, it’s about showing the kid that I once was looking up to Kid Cudi that there is someone else in the world and that they’re not alone.” Dali served as a source of inspiration for the project, from the delusional states in which he would create to his imperfections and battles with artistic integrity. It gave Boslen a backbone to interpret and create something of his own. “I [came up with] the name GONZO when I was frustrated. I was at a point in my life where people were telling me things that [weren’t necessarily] negative, but maybe [said] in the wrong way, and I was sensitive that day,” Boslen says, giving context to the album’s distorted sounds and outrageous energy. “I wanted to show people that if you push somebody to the edge, they will lash back. The way I lash back is to try my best to create real music and things that make people feel. That’s all we’re trying to do here, make people feel and you can transcend that.”
The initial spark of frustration coupled with Boslen’s perfectionist tendencies, lead to many iterations of songs and tracklists before finally reaching a version he could “live or die by.” His creative process even mirrored Dali, whether it was intentional or not. “We’re all in our own heads and we’re all trying to do what is best for us. Chasing that perfection drove me mad—drove me to blow my eardrums. But now that GONZO [is] out, seeing some of the mistakes and ups and downs, I like it more because it plays into the whole idea of being human. Maybe the more imperfections something has, the more you can relate to it.” The balance between having the delusional confidence to believe in yourself, even when no one else does, and the vulnerability to show your flaws is what makes Boslen’s music evocative and relatable all at the same time.
I first heard GONZO in the Universal Music studio for a listening session and was immediately taken aback by the palpable energy the album evoked. Speaking about the album opener Boslen divulges, “when I sequenced it, I wanted to start off bold [and] grab people’s attention. “Manic” is a pivotal moment for me to start a project because it’s like a movie in a sense.” He references The Dark Knight and the opening scene where the Joker robs a bank drawing a parallel to how he wanted to captivate the audience with the sonic equivalent of that action. The next song, “Levels”, starts off with a sinister organ loop that continues to build as Boslen’s voice gets bigger and the production becomes more and more layered evoking an out-of-body feeling of being in-sync with the sound. It provides the perfect backdrop for his lyrics, describing the levels of idolatry and his stages of personal growth. “Fallen Star” featuring production from Y2K (Doja Cat, Iann Dior), and “Gone” add melancholy and moments of reflection amid the noise—giving a dose of the aforementioned vulnerability.
“They bend through these sonic scapes where all you’re forced to do is to enjoy the ride. With shorter projects like this one, I felt [that] quality is much more important than quantity,” Boslen says of the songs that made the final cut. A stop on the ride is “Heist” and it’s literally the musical version of The Dark Night bank scene Boslen referenced. Heavy on the static distortion and drums that sound akin to the heartbeat of an adrenaline rush, he uses the lyrics to draw metaphors between a bank heist and going after your dreams. If “Heist” was a movie scene, the sound of a bullet shell casing falling from a loaded gun after the verse “Guns bring the reaper, ah” is the VFX.
Production and lyrics aside, Boslen’s visuals are equally important to his identity as an artist. Album after album, he explores different colors and compositions but always has an underlying tone of darkness. “When it comes to the darker tones [in my identity,] it’s something I only noticed recently. I went back to Chilliwack to visit my mom and she kept putting on horror movies.” Boslen’s mom is an influential figure in his life and he often gives her lyrical shoutouts. “It’s so fascinating to me that she likes watching horror movies, not for the violence but she likes those darker tones. She’s not bothered by it because her reality when she grew up was really dark—foster care and abuse—but she wears those scars on her sleeve. She’s a powerful woman [and] she taught [me] those types of things and that’s where [these darker tones] bleed in.”
The different influences Boslen pulls from during his creative process are undeniable but the result feels uniquely his own. Salvador Dali isn’t the first historical figure to inspire him, the noteworthy psychiatrist, Carl Jung, provided a skeleton for concepts on his debut album. “The art pieces Dali did and the philosophies Jung taught, just as much I studied Jay-Z’s, Kanye’s, and Drake’s catalog, there is a blueprint to what these people do. It’s laid out and if you follow it [you can] make it authentic to yourself. Virgil Abloh said it best when he was making Jordans for his brand, Off-White, he said all he did was change it by 2%. People love chicken wings but they love [even more] the different flavors.” Boslen’s references remind me of Abloh’s famous quote “everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself”. Boslen echoed the same sentiment about who he makes music for, drawing another similarity to the late Abloh in the way he approaches creation. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel by any means, but I want to give my take. I’m trying to state my truth because I have something to say about the wheel.” In the case of GONZO and Boslen, you have no choice but to listen and it might even spark the start of your own wheel.