I will go on record to state that no rap song as moving as this has surfaced in the past five years. A loop of the Jam & Lewis-produced S.O.S. Band hit "No One's Gonna Love You"—the same song flipped by A$AP Rocky for "Peso"—"Top to the Bottom" is a song about success against all odds. This is a very common theme in rap music, obviously, which makes it all the more incredible that Boosie was able to make such great art from such a familiar template, without skirting cliche for even a second. And it's all the more haunting for having been released just after Boosie ended up going away for five years—cut down as he was reaching the peak of his powers. Shot in 2009, it was only released after Boosie's friend Bleek—who appears with Boosie on a bicycle in the video—passed on in April 2010.
Boosie is one year older than I am, and although we've led obviously different lives, it is startling to be reminded of this fact, in the little flickers of timeline overlap; his mention of being "Famous like the Ninja Turtles" in "Wipe Me Down," for example (because, obviously, he'd be too old for Power Rangers, and too young for He-Man). Or on "Top to the Bottom," when he mentions the artists who inspired him, quoting Biggie: "It was all a dream, I used to write raps in my notebook/A baby G trynna walk like Eazy E/Tupac was the shit to me, in my front room trynna sing Jodeci..." He goes on to talk about watching Menace To Society.
A lot of times, we talk about these artists—especially gangster rap artists—as if our experience with their music is pure vicarious entertainment. For many, it is, no doubt. Sometimes, that's the point, as it often is with Boosie: who more efficiently captures extroverted overconfidence, macho aggression, and muscle in song than Boosie on "Set It Off"? But Boosie's art is as much about empathic connections as it is barbed opposition. This is the central contradiction from which all other internal contradictions flow. "Fuck the Police" is pretty righteous. But when he threatens to shoot people a few songs later, that righteousness is compromised instantly. Reality, too, contains contradictions.
We are human, but sometimes we are very, very different. There are uncrossable boundaries, and art is our attempt to better map out exactly where those differences lie—and where they don't. "Top to the Bottom" is one of the most thorough emotional explorations of what it means to be human that I've ever experienced, and I don't care if you're Baton Rouge's most racist cracker-ass cop: "Top to the Bottom" will leave you with a lump in your throat.