Back in May, I visited the Pico Union Project synagogue to have my spirit awakened by vōx, and I ended up getting more than I bargained for. One of the acts that night, Savannah-born BOSCO, presented her Southern melting pot of R&B styles in a set that dared us to get up and dance in the pews and aisles. I now know that was a preview of her newest project, b., which came out earlier in the summer, a highly anticipated follow up to her 2015 BOY EP. Even without career context, b. is an accomplished record that moves the genre forward while embracing well-respected artists that came before.
The sound direction of b. is more progressive than previous work, while standing completely independent of the past. BOY had a unified future beats vibe, carrying vocal performances that were so beautiful they felt important. It was a release that exuded confidence, and while it still deserves praise, it wouldn’t be fair to compare it to b. This was likely intentional, unconsciously at least, as BOSCO hates trying to fit her work into any categories. She tersely described this album as “R&B meets Americana meets chillwave,” opting not to elaborate on the labels; instead she provided a detailed account of what this release meant to her:
“b. is a collection of songs about escapism, freedom, self-discovery, and relationships while transitioning into womanhood. I created this body of work in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New Orleans from intimate moments in my bedroom, friends’ stories, unfinished conversations and feelings while traveling, Uber + plane rides with fleeting thoughts and self-love/worth during solitude. During this process, I learned a lot about myself, facing things no one really wants to see about themselves. I guess I’m telling my truths this time around.”
b. is an emphatically human record. BOSCO goes through many emotions over its eight tracks, using opaque metaphors to weave together anecdotes. Sometimes the narrative borrows from familiar places, whether in imagery or through direct lyrics, informing how she sees her artistry. She believes in the power of collaboration, and has had a real connection with virtually everyone with a credit on the record. The music videos are even intimate, including a crew of almost exclusively women of color in the “Castles” shoot. And BOSCO doesn’t just live by this principle of community in her music; she also created a minority-driven creative agency called Slug, which was created “with the purpose of empowering culture, art, and music on her own terms.” She has quite literally created a space where she can propel artists around her, and through her newest project, she pays tribute to artists that paved the way. “Let me love you,” she begs on “LuvU,” a clear homage to Mario, and another verbatim quote was taken from Bobby Brown’s “Cruel,” a song that she associates with drives with her mom. Not to mention the connection between BOSCO and Solange: there is an easy sonic comparison, but more importantly, she sports a pink coat in the “Castles” clip, which could very well be a nod to the recent classic, A Seat at the Table.
Aside from the soul-bearing nature of the lyrics, BOSCO shows us another side by filling gaps between tracks with personal field recordings. The release kicks off with the whir of a car speeding past us, and other moments give us a more voyeuristic look at her life: “Cruel” fades into a distant clip of a flight attendant preparing for takeoff, and tacked onto the end of “LuvU” is an overheard meditation on the trials of adulthood. These are small revelations that we wouldn’t have been privy to if we only heard the music created in a studio. She channels the past and present into her legacy, honoring artists that made rhythm and blues music what it is today. With that, BOSCO hopes she can join their ranks. And with b., she is surely on her way.
by: Zoë Elaine