Baton Rouge, LA., hometown hero Boosie Badazz (formerly Lil Boosie) has always rapped with palpable urgency. His voice, arguably his most distinctive feature, is a piercing drawl that demands attention and drips with pathos. But after finishing a five-year prison sentence for weed possession in 2014 (and dodging a murder charge in 2012), he has a new fire in his belly. The 32-year-old rapper, born Torrence Hatch, recorded his first verse as a free man before his ride home from the Louisiana State Penitentiary was even finished.
The biggest hits of his 15-year catalog are predominantly party songs (“Wipe Me Down,” “Zoom”), but on his sixth studio album, Touch Down 2 Cause Hell, he seems to have lost interest in the ratchet bacchanalia of his pre-prison days. Boosie has years of pent-up stories to get off his chest, many of them dealing with loyalty, self-respect and trust — or more often, deep distrust. On “Like a Man” and other tracks, he recalls his dramatic court case, during which his own songs were used as evidence against him: “System tried to convict me off testimony from lyrics, but I’m a G/Came home with my chest out, and it’s easy to see.”
Boosie doesn’t heed to current trends, though he demonstrates a keen aptitude for selecting the right guest rappers on Touch Down. Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan, who like Boosie use their idiosyncratic voices as expressive tools, are especially inspired choices. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hits. The menacing “No Juice” has been succeeding as a street favorite since its release in 2014, and “On That Level,” featuring frequent collaborator Webbie, strikes a fun, graceful balance between their mid-2000s heyday and Travis Porter-esque twerk sounds.
The 19-track album drags a bit in its latter half, but Boosie smartly saves its emotional climax for the devastating closer, “I’m Sorry,” on which he apologizes one by one to everyone he neglected during his prison bid. Referencing the fan letters that he received while locked up, which told him the rap game wasn’t the same without him, he spits: “Now that’s special — special enough to make me grab the pad and pen, jump on the mic and do it again.” It’s a powerful mission statement for a troubled artist’s second chapter.