Boslen is a born trailblazer. The 22-year-old hip-hop experimenter lives in Vancouver, and its people have become key to the way he understands himself and his art. A land of contrasts—snowy peaks and warm water, beautiful nature and busy streets—it’s the perfect home for an artist who reconciles disparate energies, weaving together styles and sounds that don't intuitively connect. DUSK to DAWN, his Capitol Records debut, furthers this adventurous approach, hypnotically mixing trap, pop, punk, and rock melodies, and it’s also directly inspired by his city—a place that drives him to be different, to strive for more, to achieve greatness when no one expects him to.
The simmering slow jam “Note to the City,” featuring local legends Rascalz, makes his affection explicit. It sounds like he’s singing about a lover, but as he croons, it becomes clear that he’s putting on for the place that made him. What he’s connected to most since moving there, he says, “is the feeling of being an underdog.” It’s something that makes sense to him as an artist who exists at the margins between scenes. And part of being an underdog is proving people wrong, succeeding despite the odds, which is Boslen’s whole goal. “I want it the most,” he says.
Growing up amid farmland in Chilliwack, BC, hip-hop wasn’t a big part of Boslen’s adolescence, at least until his mom and stepdad briefly separated, and Kid Cudi provided a crutch. “I was trying to protect my mental health as a 12-year-old kid,” he recalls. “I put in my headphones and listened to ‘Up, Up and Away,’ over and over and over again.” He eventually started writing his own music during another hard time, shortly after he arrived at the University of Victoria and back-to-back ACL tears sabotaged his rugby scholarship and plans for a future in sports.
Boslen, the artist, emerged from those emotional experiments in 2018, when he dropped out of school, moved to North Vancouver, and released the Motionless and Motionless II mixtapes. He found his footing in 2019 with the energetic, confrontational songs “Eye for an Eye” and “Hidden Nights,” which garnered millions of streams. In 2019, he released the Black Lotus EP, but even with so many intricately realized songs out in the world, DUSK to DAWN feels like a step forward, full of boundary-pushing vocal experiments, heavier production, and shape-shifting transitions. The music finally matches the tumultuous emotions he’s captured in his lyrics all along.
DUSK to DAWN’s cinematic approach was influenced by hip-hop’s most accomplished auteurs, people like Kanye West and, of course, Cudi. Consequently, each of the record’s singles shows off a different side of his sound. The punk-infused “DENY,” with Tyla Yaweh, weaves together pained nostalgia and hard-won optimism. The braggadocious “QUARTZ,” featuring Toronto rapper Charmaine, is thrillingly brash. There is lighter fare, too, where Boslen ponders the world around him—the “dusk” songs on the record. By contrast, the “dawn” songs represent the idea of awakening, and learning to challenge the boxes that other people put him in.
“Being an Indigenous man, being a Black man, at the age I am now, people tend to turn their shoulders if you show vulnerability, or want to cry and be sensitive,” he laments. “I’m supposed to come off hard because I’m a rapper, but DUSK to DAWN came from the light and the dark.”
As a rugby player, Boslen would jot a biblical aphorism onto his cleats: “To whom much is given, much will be tested.” Never before has he understood or embraced that so clearly. He may not be able to pull every listener into Vancouver, but he’s using the city’s contrasts as a backdrop to challenge everyone to think beyond themselves—to dream big. “There’s thousands of kids here just like me who are so talented,” he says. “I’m trying to make a world that’s bigger than myself.”
Saturday, July 8
7:00 PM-7:45 PM