Have you ever been to a pool party that looked like a carefree summer gathering from a distance, only to get closer and overhear complicated conversations about life under clouds of marijuana smoke?
No? Listen to Myke Bogan’s appropriately titled debut album, Pool Party. It’s a similar experience.
Guided by Bogan’s melodic vocal delivery over buoyant hip-hop production, the record has no problem living up to its name, sonically. This is the kind of summertime music that sounds best blaring through poolside boomboxes and rattling the walls of late-night house parties.
Bogan isn’t content swimming in the shallow end forever, though. In Pool Party’s opening moments, he raps, “Welcome to this crazy mind, suicidal novelist,” setting the table for an emotionally nuanced album that isn’t afraid of mixing darker tones into its bright summer palette.
Detailing the record’s creation process, Bogan says, “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” revealing that the album’s complex subject matter is a reflection of his headspace over the last two years as he struggled to sculpt the project into what we hear today.
Pool Party is his first album under independent Portland label EYRST after five years of releasing music on his own. Given a long leash and plenty of creative control, Bogan managed to avoid restrictions from his new label, except for one: The album had to be sample-free.
“Making sample-free music is not me at all,” he says, admitting that the rule to use only original sounds represented a huge challenge. “I love boom bap, I love hip-hop, I love MPC drums, I love all that shit.”
Approaching the project from an angle he wasn’t used to, the music didn’t flow out of him as freely as it had in the past. Pool Party took nearly twice as long to complete as his previous five projects. “I’m used to it coming easy,” he explains. “We made it happen, but it was hell. There were times I wanted to quit. There were times I wanted to back out.”
“The thing is, I’m a beat dickhead,” Bogan laughs. “I choose my beats very, very wisely. I felt bad at times with producers constantly sending me stuff, and me being like, ‘Nope, that’s not it. Nope, that’s not it.’”
Finally, a breakthrough came as he penciled out rhymes for one the album’s clear standouts, “Not The,” which gave Bogan a chance to triumphantly yell, “I know that I’m a beast,” over woozy production from EYRST co-founder Neill Von Tally.
“I was just questioning myself a lot,” he says. “Like, ‘Did I make the right decisions? Am I doing the right things?’ But on that song, somehow, all the confidence came back. I wrote that when I came back from writer’s block and I was on such a high about it.”
A difficult recording process wasn’t the only inspiration for Pool Party’s emotionally complex themes. Half a decade into his career, Bogan finds himself maturing as an artist and as a person.
“In the beginning, I was somebody who was caught up in the whole rap thing,” he says. “You know, just smoke weed and be in the studio and drink liquor and beer and have some hoes come through. That was my thing in the beginning. But as you progress and continue to take it more seriously, you kind of zone in more and more.”
One thing that he’s focusing on more is family.
“My kids are my motivation,” he tells me over the phone from Los Angeles, where he splits time with Portland in order to be home with his two sons Takai (7) and Tayvian (5). “That’s what I do it for. I do it so someday they can have things I never dreamed of having.”
Bogan’s dual residences represent two colliding universes that compete for his attention.
“When I’m in California, I’m definitely in dad mode,” he explains. “I’m at the games, at the practices, making lunches, picking up and dropping them off from school. I feel like I missed out on so much when they were younger and I don’t like missing things any more. I gotta be there. It’s full-time dad stuff and I only write when they’re sleeping or they’re at school. So, when I’m away, it’s like, ‘Yo, I gotta do music and take advantage of the time I’m in Portland to constantly be working.’”
In Portland’s increasingly vibrant and competitive hip-hop community, the hard work is paying off. As one of the city’s most charismatic performers, Bogan’s energetic live shows have been a highlight of the local rap scene for years.
Now, Pool Party represents the most complete picture of his abilities that he’s ever been able to capture on record. Plus, the new joint features guest spots from EYRST family members The Last Artful, Dodgr and Blossom, which you can hear below.
Looking at the finished album song by song, remembering everything that went into the project, Bogan reflects, “The process of the whole album is what’s in the track list. There are frustrations, high points, super confident points, super low points, and then at the end, it’s like... it’s done. And it feels really good. I’m really happy with it.”