Atlanta’s BOSCO refuses to claim a genre for her music. There are notes of electronic, elements of hip-hop, and a palpable dancehall influence, and through her dauntless lyrics and the audacity of her sonic versatility, there is a distinct feminist message. On Sunday, at the Highline Ballroom, she didn’t stop moving – jumping, dancing, dabbing – once she walked onstage. She has a lot of chops, minus one: BOSCO has no chill. And for her, that’s a good thing.
There were no moments of quiet reflection in her performance – just light, sound, and the organized chaos of a one-woman parade. One uptempo song melted into another as she sang and rapped, with her tour DJ, Ella Hussle, providing the framework for her resonant vocals. The backdrop was a screen flashing vibrant color blocks, like one of those old M.I.A. videos that came with a seizure warning. BOSCO’s investment in this theatrical aspect of her music is a nod to Michael Jackson, one of her strongest influences growing up, as well as to her belief that music and colors and textures are inextricable.
Her set featured tracks from her latest project, the bouncy, bold mixtape Girls in the Yard, which was spearheaded by her friend DJ Speakerfoxxx. The album is an embodiment of BOSCO’s musical palette, an unexpected but welcome mélange of influences. There are Southern-fried beats, dancehall-bravado swaggers, and vocals that sound like a nod to Janelle Monáe during her ArchAndroid phase — warm and husky at times, breathy chanting at others.
The chemistry between Speakerfoxxx and BOSCO made the mixtape resonate and garnered attention quick. On her own, on the stage, BOSCO strove to re-create that chemistry, with the audience standing in for her missing collaborator. Around mid-set she pulled a young man in a Columbia sweatshirt onto the stage to dance with her to “Run Around (Hey! Booty on the Floor).” It worked: She became a Zumba instructor, her sudden disciple championing her gender-blind choreography.
BOSCO’s demeanor and her recent music are in impeccable formation (no pun intended) with the womanist messages currently trending in pop music. Her lyrics subvert her sex-drenched girl pop, and her swagger is unmistakably hip-hop. “Sim Simma/Show me a bitch that’s trilla,” she spits on “Beemer,” flipping Beenie Man’s dancehall fluff into a playful but real proposition.
As the dust from the music industry’s combustion keeps settling, collectives like BOSCO and Speakerfoxxx’s have become a powerful tool against obscurity for artists, and women musicians in particular. Now-erased boundaries that previously might have kept them from moving between styles are no longer an issue. All that matters is staying awake, and BOSCO’s got that covered.