If They Say ‘Sky’s the Limit’: Lil Boosie’s Triumphant Return

Lil Boosie drops the year's best blues album.
By    June 11, 2015


Paul Thompson been praying for Webbie ’cause Webbie wild with that chrome.

Do you remember T.I.? I know you saw his cameo in the Entourage movie, smirked at his publishing split on “Blurred Lines,” heard Young Thug put him in a fireman’s carry last year. But do you remember T.I.? He could slide onto top 40 with a sneer, part Pimp C, part Ferris Bueller. He was rapping about bagging coke in Louis Vuitton knapsacks (or, over Mannie Fresh beats, that he was a known drug dealer“); he crossed over, but he didn’t lose the plot.

Then, T.I. was caught trying to buy military-grade firearms from a federal informant in a Walgreens parking lot.  He was charged with two felonies and would eventually serve about seven months in jail and pay over $100,000 in restitution. The resulting album, 2008’s Paper Trail, had glimpses of the vicious, cackling Clifford Harris, but it was bogged down by blunt moralizing and tedious image rehab. Seven years later, T.I. is a star again, but he’s not T.I. anymore.

He turns up on “Spoil You,” the worst song on Lil Boosie’s long-awaited comeback album, Touchdown 2 Cause Hell. It’s poetic, really: Though Boosie and Tip are probably both victims of a corrupt, racist justice system, the Baton Rouge cult hero navigates his return to rap with more nuance, more vigor. Boosie was left to rot in Angola for half a decade, but all the emotional muck–the abandonment, the soul searching, the simmering rage–comes out in long form, not in fortune cookie epiphanies.

Last year, Boosie announced his return with a soulful, empathetic mixtape, Life After Deathrow. It had the requisite barbs for fair-weather friends and those who shirked him altogether, but it also had collect calls back to Angola and laments for his cell mates who might never get released. It was measured and balanced. Touchdown 2 Cause Hell isn’t.

Lots of the material here feels as if it fits chronologically before Deathrow; where that tape began with Boosie walking out the prison gates, Touchdown finds him stewing in his cell, plotting his revenge. (Boosie indicated as much to the owner of this site in their correspondence during the course of the rapper’s 2012 murder trial.) The intro’s imperative is simple–get ’em, Boosie. He does, swapping credit cards for rubber bands and jumpsuits for mink coats.

The dispatches from jail are as bleak as you might expect: on “Window of my Eyes,” the “letters get shorter, face get grayer”; “I’m Sorry” is weighed down by the understanding that most apologies ring hollow. Boosie is acutely aware of his two major advantages over those in adjacent cells–namely, his fame and his acquittal–but the truth is that at the bottom, it’s flat. It’s true I got more than most but I’m caged up like the rest.”

During that aforementioned murder trial, the prosecution was allowed to use Boosie’s lyrics as evidence against him. Having come out the other side of the legal labyrinth, he smirks and doubles down (by way of cold-blooded revenge carried out in rental cars) on “Retaliation,” one of Touchdown‘s twin standouts. The other is the shimmering, heartwarming “All I Know,” where the “Set it Off” star beams at his detractors and absconds on a camel.

Hasn’t this always been Boosie? Isn’t his catalog one long argument that the notion of a push-and-pull between consumerism and piousness (or family and ambition, or any other false binary) is reductive, and that all of those impulses clamor at once to be heard? Boosie is one of the greatest rappers to ever breathe because he can articulate distinct, disparate emotions, but also their intersections. Here, that plays out “Drop Top Music”‘s champagne bubble baths, “Black Heaven”‘s best case scenarios, “On That Level”‘s “Independent” reprise. For someone who was gifted a throne the second he was a free man, Boosie spends an awful lot of time holding up mirrors, and we’re all better for it.

Yet for all its pathos, Touchdown 2 Cause Hell is not the redemptive masterpiece it could have been. The collaborations in particular yield mixed results: The aggressively boilerplate, Chris Brown-featuring “She Don’t Love Me” is barely better than Tip’s “Spoil You”; a Rich Homie Quan duet is disappointingly tepid; Jeezy raps about missing Malaysian airplanes on the otherwise solid “Mercy on My Soul.” Frustratingly, not a single song eclipses the promo singles “Crazy” and “Black Rain.” But Boosie is a superlative talent, and his first proper album in over five years makes that case superbly. Just check the unhinged “Mr. Miyagi”–Boosie taught you.

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