Touch Down 2 Cause Hell
Fans and critics often compare Boosie to the late Tupac Shakur. "2Pac of the South" is what they called Lil' Boosie, who now goes by Boosie Badazz. Whether such a comparison is vaguely sacrilegious will depend, for the most part, on your generation; in any case, let's briefly concede the key merits. Boosie and 2Pac are both partygoing moralizers who bark loudest when presenting their various resentments. They're anti-literary, plainspoken, and direct. They're incurably paranoid. They sound like men who spent some unfair share of their lives resigned to a dark and heartless box.
After Boosie's release from Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola a year ago, he grabbed headlines and attention for a week, and then he departed into what seemed like the wilderness. Unlike 2Pac, Boosie didn't kick around Hollywood with a vengeance. He didn't wild out. Instead, quietly, Boosie sorted the notes and lyrics from his prison diary and gave us Life After Deathrow, one of last year's very best mixtapes, which dropped in October. Seven months later, he's making good on the long-deferred promise of his sixth, post-#FreeBoosie studio album via his new recording contract with Atlantic Records.
With the exception of "Retaliation," Boosie's singles are the least interesting flourishes of Touch Down 2 Cause Hell; and strange, in any case, since the bubbliest Hell gets is on album cuts "Drop Top Music," featuring Rick Ross, and "She Don't Love Me," featuring Chris Brown. ("All I Know" is the strongest and most obvious radio contender of the album's three singles.) Jeezy outdoes himself on "Mercy on My Soul," but elsewhere collaborations with younger trap stars Rich Homie Quan ("Like a Man") and Young Thug ("On Deck") feel cursory. Left to his own devices (and with a couple assists from the homie Webbie), Boosie is committed not just to riding with "down bitches" and against "fake niggas", à la Plies, but with forging a glorious way forward in his newfound freedom. More importantly, he's underscoring his critical lapses for sake of the young'ns who admire him. At this stage, Boosie is well aware of his status as a ratchet but otherwise tender, good-natured don of the working class. And so he raps like the most vulgar deacon you'll ever meet.
Hell is a conservative album, driven by reactionary outbursts of authenticity and Real Hip-Hop, so-called; "Hip Hop Hooray," for instance," is an extensive rant against "too many rappers lying today," in contrast to the several gray (Bun B, Jay Z) and dead (DJ Screw, Malcolm X, Bernie Mac) icons he shouts out on "Black Heaven." Boosie is himself such a sensei on "Mr. Miyagi," which he begins, "All I ever did was teach folk in the community/A place where ain't no lawyers or ain't no unity," and then he's back to the familiar cause of putting Judas and Brutus on blast: "I took care of niggas: If I was sliding, they was sliding with me/Wonder why a nigga couldn't sit and testify with me."
Every other song on Hell features some measure of a piano looping and riffing, and if there were ever use for the term church trap, here we are, at that Badazz altar call. "Black Heaven," featuring Keyshia Cole, and outro track "I'm Sorry" are full-on gospel dirges, with Boosie eschewing all curse words on the latter as he runs down the list of aunts and cousins to whom he owes deepest apologies. Not shout-outs, not thank-yous, but apologies.
With 19 songs, Touch Down 2 Cause Hell is aggressively long and resembles Nicki Minaj's Pinkprint in this sense: They're both robust, dynamic projects that allow four too many dirges and a wellspring of regrets to turn a hose on all the fun. (The Pinkprint is front-loaded with such downers, whereas Hell is bottom-heavy.) Or, to put that 2Pac comparison to proper use: Hell is several, overlapping variations of "Life Goes On" and "I Ain't Mad At Cha," with bits of "Picture Me Rollin'" and no "Can't C Me" or "Whatz Your Phone #" at all. Hell is overwhelmingly aggrieved and somber.
Even while Boosie was locked away, his spirit was split among peers and newcomers who likewise excel in their synthesis of introspection and property damage—Meek Mill, Gunplay, Kevin Gates, et al. With that five-year prison bid behind him, Boosie has aged into rapper veteran class with exceptional grace. He's suffered none of the desperate makeover and crossover that tarred, say, Jay Z, Nas, or T.I. at their respective 12-year marks. Boosie is pure—and, arguably, quaint. His latest album loads several compelling rounds of rage and heartache, and no egregious duds (though "Spoil You" really is pushing it). Hell is nearly the best you could expect from 32-year-old Torrence Hatch, who's five years younger than Kanye West but speaks with a certain okra-fed croak that keeps him sounding about as old and wise as Scarface, who turns 45 this year.
Justin Charity is a staff writer for Complex. Follow him @brothernumpsa.