Ain’t no love like Boosie love. Ain’t no hate like Boosie hate. What makes him special is that he only inhabits the extremes. It’s too early to accurately assess where Life After Death Row fits in the Boosieography, but for the moment, let’s just all sit in wonder and appreciation that this exists at all. The sub-text of the album isn’t exactly below the surface. Boosie is airing out the haters and mixed emotions that accompanied his last half-decade in Hell. He still misses Lil Ivy. He references his attorney, who was the New Orleans analogue to Johnny Cochran. He’s still got the mind of a Maniac. His voice is pitched deeper from the deranged Eazy E-as-an-Animaniac belt that he had in his first incarnation. He encompasses the entirety of the struggle, a folk hero suffering the sling of every systemic arrow.
There’s even an Angola blues penitent croon embedded into “O Lord,” the final track of the mixtape. He’s the Lead Belly of his time, and the thing that endears Boosie to so many is that there is no subterfuge. He nearly died as a result of living up to his own mythology and had to dwell in his own Gehenna. Even if these aren’t necessarily the best or most catchy Boosie songs, they’re among the most powerful. Listen to his voice shouting a list of the incarcerated on the last track. It’s his own version of a prayer for the dead or doomed
A refrain of they just want to go home repeats over and over again and you get that sickening sense that he was the lucky one — one of the few to make it out alive. Due to his celebrity status and the D.A.’s original decision to pursue the death penalty, there was the tangible gallows threat. Boosie is back rapping. There is a mixtape of 18 songs from someone who could have been forever silenced. There are no awkward commercial concessions. Just the sort of direct aorta-to-ear connection that first endeared him to the world. This is what we were missing.