This past September, Atlanta rapper Boregard played to a crowd of roughly a dozen supporters at a converted warehouse venue in Edgewood. Six months later, he regularly rocks shows of at least a hundred or more in attendance at the famous Masquerade, where rap legends have cut their teeth for decades. This is not to imply, however, that life is all sunshine and roses. As a fourth year marketing student at Emory University, Boregard finds himself at a crossroads. On one side is the traditional lifestyle he’s been living, pursuing his degree and joining the rat race after graduation. The other side is much more tantalizing, a high risk and high reward career of packed concerts, beautiful women, and above all, recognition as an artist. As his music continues to gain traction online, Boregard feels increasing pressure to pick a direction and stick to it, even if it means giving up everything he’s ever known.
Around this time last year, not too long after his 21st birthday, Boregard released his very first music video. It was a culmination of a lifetime investment, countless hours spent hunched over a notepad trying to share his story in a time when hip-hop valued production and autotune over lyricism and narrative capabilities. The video itself is a parody of “The Bachelorette,” a perfect representation of the lighthearted nature of the Stockbridge, Georgia native’s music that masks what is really an outlet to deal with the gamut of human emotion. I was talking but they wasn’t hearing…now I’m charging interest. So begins “Trustfall,” Boregard’s debut project, released late last fall and quickly racking up thousands of plays on the popular music-sharing website Soundcloud. This theme of showing up doubters and succeeding against the odds pervades the album’s lyrics, representing the frustration of the former private school student whose friends never took his interest in rap as seriously as he did.
To say that Boregard, born Bockarie Amara, was exposed to music at a young age would be a bit of an understatement. More accurately, music was a close sibling, always around the house and on every stoop of his neighborhood, which was principally composed of immigrants from Sierra Leone. When his mother would leave for work in the morning, his cousins would come over and play him the popular hip-hop records of the time, feeding his still impressionable mind the booming trap rhythms of pioneers like Lex Luger and Gucci Mane. Having attended private school for his entire life, the subjects broached on these records were unfamiliar to Boregard; he had never been a thug, never sold drugs or driven flashy cars like his new idols claimed to do. But with enough confidence and bravado, he found that he could speak on his own experiences in a poignant way, rather than telling stories from a lifestyle that he had never lived.
It wasn’t long before he and his cousins began recording themselves on a cheap microphone and crafting songs to share on the Internet, inspired by the local rapper Soulja Boy, who had made his name with viral music videos on Myspace. Although they all wanted to make it doing music, Boregard quickly separated himself from the pack by how seriously he took the opportunity to record, especially when inspiration struck. Describing the young emcee’s process in the studio, frequent collaborator and cousin by marriage Starpav recalls, “A beat will be running and he’ll just vibe for however long it takes to find a flow. There’ll be a little head nod or shoulder shimmy here and there. Aside from some occasional mumbles, he will type/write lyrics in silence. Then out of nowhere he’ll spit flame as if it had been written days ago.” A solid work ethic can take a career a long way, as can raw talent. Boregard finds himself in the precarious position of having both in spades, but an uncertainty regarding what the future holds for him.
My team got a couple goals: we’re catchin’ up and we’re at your throat. From his 2017 output thus far, it would be difficult to detect a hint of doubt in Boregard’s tone. On “Come Clean,” released on Soundcloud last week, he flexes his lyrical abilities for two and a half minutes over a bass-heavy instrumental, covering everything from failed relationships to the way his presence changes the tone at parties as soon as he arrives. Right now, however, things aren’t moving quickly enough to satisfy Boregard’s natural desire to win. Soundcloud is his bread and butter, where he shares his newest creations and hopes that one of them will land in the hands of someone that can help him take the next step. The number next to his name is his follower count, currently sitting at a respectable 623, a number that causes him endless anxiety and has helped morph what started out as a hobby into a serious career prospect. When prodded on the most pressing issue threatening his vision of finding himself next to Southern rap greats like Outkast and UGK, Boregard is quick to speak on the pressure of using his precious free time to record and then trying to convince as many people as possible to listen. “I’m busy, anxious, sometimes it feels like it’s not going as fast as it should be. I’m trying to get my followers up. I’m not going to stop until I’ve exhausted it all, when I can’t add any new sounds or concepts.” The dream right now isn’t sold out shows, appearances on Fallon, or CD’s being sold in record stores across America. All Boregard wants is to be able to sit back and rest for a moment, to pause his continuous pursuit of new ears that will be open to the stories he is trying to tell.
So here he sits, with a burgeoning rap career and a few months left on a degree that has been buoyed by constant urging from his mother, who lends hesitant support to his musical aspirations but really just wants to see her son graduate. There’s certainly a real anxiety to him, bubbling just beneath the surface, hidden in the general confidence of his music but revealed in short glimpses from lines like Tell me why I should trust another? A n*gga will lie on the Bible, a n*gga will lie on his mother, off the title track to “Trustfall.” This almost uncomfortable energy can be seen in the way he constantly plays with his hair, his rapid rate of conversation, his uncanny ability to wear his heart on his sleeve but also keep enough protected to create an air of mystery about him. Until things really start to fall into place, and the numbers next to his Soundcloud username maintain a healthy growth, Boregard remains at his crossroads. That is not to say, however, that music isn’t still his principal goal. Referencing a popular urban legend about Beyonce, he mentions that sometimes he is so focused on getting what he wants that he forgets to eat. He laughs this off, but it is clear that there is some truth to it, as the more time and effort he puts into his craft, the fewer hours there are in a day to ponder what happens if it never takes off. For now, he’s happy enough, but the horizon is closer than even he could imagine. “I mean, I’m consistently bringing a crowd to my shows, and people come up to me like, ‘Damn, I’m glad I came.’ That’s all good, but I’ll really know I made it when I get a sponsorship from Tabasco. I put Tabasco on everything.”