Torrence Hatch knows all about perseverance. The Baton Rouge native, better known as Lil Boosie or Boosie Badazz, was already a hero in his home state when he was sentenced to two years in prison in the fall of 2009. While locked up, he became a cult hero. The state tried to bring drug charges and a murder case; for the latter, prosecutors played his music in the courtroom and tried to paint Boosie as a cold-blooded killer.
Against overwhelming odds, he was freed in March of 2014 and immediately went on a ceaseless tear through the rap industry. A string of singles and guest spots re-established Boosie as perhaps the genre’s most personal, evocative writer. A mixtape, Life After Deathrow, counted among his best work, and his return to retail shelves, Touchdown 2 Cause Hell, was issued last year.
But in November, Boosie announced that he was suffering from kidney cancer. It was a stark, almost unbelievable turn of bad luck for a man who has been under the thumb of racist and corrupt law enforcement and judicial systems for much of his adult life. Fortunately, a December surgery to remove part of his kidney was successful, and he says he’s now cancer-free.
Boosie documented that experience on In My Feelings (Goin’ Thru It), the brief, somber album he released on New Year’s Day. Last month, he followed it up with Out My Feelings (In My Past), which shifts focus from doctor’s offices to the outside world and all its ills. As always, Boosie marries an unsettling realism to undying optimism; the record is one of the most engrossing listens from 2016 thus far.
And he’s not done. In a phone interview from earlier in February, Boosie tells me that he plans to release much more music this year, in the form of mixtapes, a retail album, and a collaboration with his former cellmate, the still-incarcerated C-Murder. He also spoke about his health, his hometown, and how he wants to be remembered. Plus, we've got an exclusive video premiere for his track "Truth."
You just underwent surgery for kidney cancer. How’s your body holding up?
My health is doing good, bro. I’m cancer-free right now, I had surgery Dec. 8, they had to take part of my kidney out. I had kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma. They had to take part of it out, but after that, I did a month and a couple weeks in a cancer rehab, and I was let out. Overall, I’m more healthy than I’ve ever been. I’m gaining my weight back; I lost like 40 pounds because of the cancer. I’m back healthy and I’m back on the road doing shows.
What about your mental outlook?
I’m more careful about what I eat. As far as my mentality with music, I’m going crazy, man. I’m making the best music I ever made, and I feel I can just keep on making music. Right now, I’m in a mental state where I’m going hard. Cancer opened my eyes up to a lot of things, it made me more grateful for being who I am. In My Feelings (Goin’ Thru It) was unrelentingly dark; some fans expected Out My Feelings (In My Past) to be a happy, joyful counterpoint.
But you’re still speaking on a lot of real, pretty grim issues.
I wasn’t trying to do anything specific with it. I went in there after my surgery, and after I was released [from rehab], and just got to making music—I wasn’t aiming at nothing, really. I was kind of angry while I was making that album because I had lost so much weight; I was kind of depressed. I was kind of pissed off. [Laughs.]
With the cancer, I always had material to drop, but I wasn’t going to hold back anymore. Life is short, man. So I got albums coming—I’ma do this back-to-back-to-back-to-back. When I stop dropping albums, I’m gonna be tired of rapping. I’m gonna keep on dropping them.
On “Wanna B Heard,” you address how people in poor communities often find themselves voiceless. It reminded me of “Crazy,” where you take the government and middle America to task for blaming rappers for societal ills when disadvantaged people have no road out. How do you feel rap is misunderstood?
It’s being misunderstood all the time. Now you can rap about certain things and they’ll want to indict you. Back in the game, you could say what you wanted, but now it’s a big old issue, man. And I just think the government, you know, the people—if you don’t give the youth nothing to do around the neighborhood… We need programs. We need sports on every corner. We need this things everywhere for these youth. If you don’t have nothing to keep the youth busy, they are going to the corner. They’re going to grab a gun. If you can’t grab a football, a basketball, a tablet, they go and grab a gun. They’re always going to blame the rappers, but you got nothing in the community, you got nothing to try to help those kids, so who else are they going to look up to? And they criticize them for trying to go rap, to try to be like us, but they see that as a talent. That’s a talent we’re providing for them. If they can rap and make a million dollars, hell, I’ll encourage everybody to rap!
Did you notice Baton Rouge changing in the time you were away?
Nah, I ain’t notice no change. The education ain’t no better. More schools closing down. Grade point averages still at an all-time low. The prison’s even more packed. I ain’t see no change in Baton Rouge, to keep it 100. Obama out like three, four weeks ago and talked about the problems in Baton Rouge, but I just hope somebody can make a difference.
Did you get the proper medical attention in Angola?
Well, with diabetes in jail, the doctors are not even more experienced than the doctors in the streets. You’re not going to have the best care in prison, even though they check you, they’re not scientist doctors like people at the real hospitals. Some of them don’t even have a doctorate in this shit. To keep it real, I feel like I didn’t get enough attention. But a lot of that, I could blame myself for, too, because when you got diabetes, you’ve got a lot of stuff going. And in prison, I was still smoking, I was still drinking syrup. It was like I was on the streets.
They’re always going to blame the rappers, but you got nothing in the community, you got nothing to try to help those kids, so who else are they going to look up to?
You were in the video for Young Thug’s “Fuck Cancer,” and you’ve worked with him prior to that. What’s your relationship like?
Thug cool people. Thug always swings by my house to record, or just to chill. He’ll be running around, talking. He knows how to work—I might not see him for a month, and when he comes back in there, and I got 35 new songs. [Laughs.] I think that motivates him to get in the studio. But he’s one of the quickest I’ve ever seen: he’ll go in [the booth] and do a verse in three minutes. I’ve never seen nothing that in my life. He and Rich Homie Quan, they just go in and do it. I never was able to do that like that, I be having to write my lyrics down and really touch base with a lot of stuff. I’ve never seen anybody work like those two.
How has your creative process changed since coming home?
I think I’m deeper in my music now. I touch on more life situations, more world situations, what’s going on outside. But I always made real music; I always had real song, I just think I have deeper songs. Back then I had more rowdy rowdy, bout it bout it songs, but it’s still Boosie, I still make real music. I feel like I’m in my own lane. I’ve been in the game a long time, and I’ve watched 40, 50 rappers fall off. I’m still here because I make music that touches peoples’ hearts. I don’t just make music that makes people dance—I make that music, too, but eventually you’re gonna get tired of dancing. My fans feel like I’m their brother, their cousin, and that carries a long way.
You’re making an album with C-Murder. How did you two get so close?
C-Murder my homie. We got real close in jail. He was my bed partner, we slept in the same dorm for over two years together. When you’re in a situation like that, you’re around somebody every day, he becomes like your brother. Whatever he needs, I’m here for him. I’ll never turn my back on him. He helped me out a lot. He made me wise up; I was so wild in there [before]. He used to always talk to me, like, “Can I beat these people in this jail system? Can I overpower these people?” But you’ve got to be smarter, and he made me smarter. He made me man up a lot, he taught me a lot about being a better person and smiling. He showed me that when you smile, that hurts people more than you cursing them out.
If you were president, what are the first things you would do?
First, I wouldn’t throw away all that money they throw away every damn year. I would give all that money to the poor, and help the poor. Next, I would cut down these damn taxes: 30-something percent, like if I make a million, I gotta pay $300,000? You wasn’t on the corner getting shot at with me. You wasn’t in the projects with me. You wasn’t writing those raps with me, and you’re trying to take damn near half of my money. That is ridiculous, the taxes we’re paying. That’s what I would do, I would cut down taxes. And we wouldn’t be spending all that money with other countries—I would bring everything right here in America.
How do you want to be remembered?
I just want to be remembered as one of the greats, man. I want to be remembered as one of the greats. When you name greats, even if I’m named last, I want to be named among everyone else. When I die, I feel like I will be, because who else has lasted this long? Who has stayed this consistent? Whose fans love them like my fans love me? You’ve got to put me in the category as somebody special. If you just say, “I ain’t gonna lie, he was great at making real music, he’s not in my top five, but he was great at making real music,” then I’m satisfied.