Any emcee who's entering the game with his head on straight knows that respecting your elders can be an instrumental tool to success. Youngsters routinely cite fallen soldiers like Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. as chief influences toward their love for music.
But for Spring Valley, NY emcee BOOGNIGHTS, it all started with his friend's older brother, Ambush.
"I always loved music, but when I saw how my older friend would put his music together, it was like, 'Wow, he sounds just like the people on the radio at the time. He sounds real good,'" BOOGNIGHTS remembers. "Me and his brother were always bothering him, like, 'We want to learn this.' He's like, 'OK, I'm going to show you how.'"
Ambush commenced to show the pair of nine-year-olds how to write rhymes: everything from hooks and lyrics to song format and how to record with two cassettes. While BOOG and his friend would consistently make songs, Ambush would just as consistently dismiss them—that is, until BOOG walked into Ambush's room and caught him dancing to the pair's song over Cappadonna's "Black Boy" instrumental.
"With his approval stamp on it, that was my first achievement," BOOG says.
BOOG would expand from what he learned. He honed his flow and his pen game throughout high school, but it wasn't until Ambush unexpectedly died that he decided to take music seriously.
"I decided I wanted to get better to be as good as him," BOOG says. "To live his legacy on."
BOOGNIGHTS studied graphic design at Western Connecticut State University, and substituted cassette tapes and punchlines with studio equipment and purpose. He eventually started booking shows, and his songs got play in area clubs. Things were going well for BOOGNIGHTS ' burgeoning career, until he suddenly decided to quit due to disinterest in the rest of the industry.
"When I started and I was doing it, a lot of people wasn't rapping," BOOG remembers. "That's when I sort of fell back, when people started rapping like it was the thing to do. I felt like it just got corny, so I stopped doing it."
He stuck with his decision for three years, focusing on a career around his Bachelor's in Art from WCSU. But after reminding himself of the promise to his friend's legacy and realizing his own talents, BOOGNIGHTS resumed where he left off.
"I feel like I got 100 times better, and I didn't write the whole three years till my first track," he says. "I guess I was building up all that aggression, or whatever it was."
Listening to his music now, he doesn't sound like an emcee that's only a year back into recording. BOOG doesn't only have a ginsu-sharp delivery and lyrics for days; he displays the lost East Coast swagger that cemented the likes of Diplomats and Fabolous. "Propane" sees him going in with punchline-heavy bars over triumphant horns, while "I Think She Knows" sees him effortlessly tying in a verse on-topic with Justin Timberlake's "Lovestoned." Southern DJs Lady T and Elementz have featured him on their latest mixtapes, and with his own The ARTiste debut mixtape, he's taking matters into his own hands.
"I love music, I've got real good talent, so why not?" BOOG says. "I don't want to regret anything later, like, 'I should have tried it.' If you have a talent, you should give it a shot."
Ambush would be proud.