August 19, 2014


Paul Thompson paid for the necklace and ate breakfast

We celebrate a curious quality in our rap stars. The contradiction—a blunt, imprecise tool—humanizes these larger-than-life figures, we say. Makes them seem like us. Nas documents the plight of the black woman, then buys her jewelry and holds it over her head; Kanye laments his materialism while he shops for watches. Even Tupac, perhaps the rapper most celebrated for his chameleonic tendencies, seemed like he was forever fighting an internal war. The competing impulses—to kill or to heal, to destroy or to build—add color, add depth, make three-dimensional. Beliefs that wholly contradict one another are stitched together by artistry, by a consistent philosophy. But not with Lil’ Boosie.

Boosie doesn’t deal in absolutes. Baton Rouge’s favorite son has long had the ability to balance his sides in perfect harmony. Bad Azz, his 2006 major label debut (a surprisingly definitive record for a rapper whose output has always been so scattershot), is by a man who understands that there is a time and place for everything. The same kid who told his mother “I’m thuggin’ outside, we don’t need cable!” (“Set It Off”) is the one reminding you “After the shows, I’m with my fans, giving kisses and hugs” (“Movies”), sneering at his peers who aren’t. For Boosie, these aren’t contradictions. He’s tender, thoughtful, protective to those who are close to him—and heartless to those who aren’t. It’s an extreme, maybe offputting philosophy, but it’s consistent. Boosie will brag about Webbie waving the chrome, but he’s still praying for him.

Now, he’s asking for you to empathize with him. Touchdown 2 Cause Hell is due out September 23rd, and “Crazy” is Boosie at his nuanced best. The hook is four successive statements:

They say that I’m crazy.

In March of this year, Boosie’s six-year legal odyssey finally drew to a close. His list of transgressions is long, and seemingly nonsensical in places. The drug charges in the face of prior offenses, leaving his property while on house arrest, smuggling drugs into prison, and on and on. Needless to say, he feels he was dismissed by even those who had supported him in the past. So he starts “Crazy” with an image sure to inspire the same reaction: “’Cause I pistol-whipped that nigga, for forty minutes—straight”. It’s followed quickly by the same sentiment: “Jail charges back-to-back, they like, ‘Old crazy-ass Boosie Boo’”. He knows how it looks.

(Sometimes) I feel like I’m crazy.

And so Terrence Hatch has no interest in shouting down the haters. But he walks you through his thought process, crazy as it might seem. “If you was facing that nina, you would get loaded, too” is about the strongest case for moral relativism you can make in a rap song. Boosie—a father, mind you—writes here about grappling with the basest of fears, and suddenly the cause-and-effect doesn’t seem so ridiculous. Sometimes, the explanations are brasher: “They say I’m crazy for having all these baby mamas/But I was young, they was fresh, so I raw dogged ‘em”. Then, of course, there’s one of the core tenets of Boosie’s work, and a staple of the first two acts in any gangster movie: “They must’ve forgot I’m the reason the whole hood ate”.

But I know I’m not crazy.

Then you consider what’s happening here. Boosie spent the last half-decade in and out of courts and penitentiaries. Now, it seems he spent that time patiently waiting, plotting his return. “Business minded, now I’m trying to make this shit so real/Can’t be crazy, I ain’t got no 360 deal.” The cackle sells it. He has it all figured out: “They say my music make the goons keep goonin’/What about the government, who don’t give us opportunity?” He sees how he came to be (“Straight in school, but in the streets I was baptized”), and he throws his conscience back in your face: “Do wrong, I tell you ‘bout it—that’s how I deal.”

And my mistakes don’t make me.

Now, finally, he’s wiser. “Label asked me ‘Why you wanna name your album that?’/’I’m touching down to cause hell’, how I answered that.” But it’s a calculated takeover. Boosie wants reason to prevail (“Phone ringin’ don’t even answer, that’s my dawg callin’/Some shit I’m trying to look over, he ready to off him”), and he sets out to prove the time in a cell didn’t break him. “23-hour lockdown, two years of cold showers” couldn’t turn him crazy, so, he reasons, nothing could. Then, of course, is his best, most personal retort: “Can’t be crazy—I got honor roll sons and daughters.” Maybe he isn’t crazy after all.

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