FME 2016 MVP is Boosie Badazz
Most of my frustration with music reviews stems from people judging influence in the moment. We can look back and understand the influence great albums or artists had on previous eras but anyone telling you the influence someone right now is having on the world right now…is pulling that out of their butt. In the moment all we have is the work.
No one put in better work in 2016 than Boosie Badazz. He beat cancer got out of prison and released six fantastic projects. You could select the worst of those six projects (probably Thug Talk) and still get more out of it (content and enjoyment-wise) than the numerical victors of 2016. Over a total of 103 songs he poured his heart out time after time.
The emotional progression of his work in 2016 was masterful. In January he released a tight and earth shattering collection of music called In My Feelings. (Goin’ Thru It). It’s a devastating journey; he turned introspective internal monologues into anthemic bangers. While he roars he also ruminates all the way through going from The Rain to his cancer experience (Cancer) to sleeping in a puddle in his federal prison cell to the responsibility he has to his family and friends(Call of Duty) it makes perfect sense that the last song is I Know They Gone Miss Me where he wistfully hopes that his kids and friends will hold his memory close even after he passes. Nothing he released in 2016 was as uncomfortable as In My Feelings because of the unfiltered level of disclosure he abided by for those ten songs. Forgive Me Being Lost in the wrong hands would be a humble brag about the depth and unstoppable nature of our narrators vengeance but right off the bat he confesses seeing his first dead body at 8 years old, he describes himself and his crew as roaches and as the song progresses he delivers the blistering “They tried to give me life, said I’m bad for the community. How I’m supposed ta feel about some people tryin’ to ruin me? Why should I stop for the cops if they shootin’ me? Why I get rich now my friends using me? Cold Winters, why us I need answers, if I sin god forgive me but my baby need pampers.” Every Boosie verse takes place on the lowest dirtiest scariest continuum of existence, and it’s in a very consciously Springsteen way. No matter how rich he gets he doesn’t want to lose that identity.
Out My Feelings In My Past is a brilliant follow up that hit a month after its predecessor. He makes the transition from internal dialogue to engaging with the world and wrestling with his memory of it vs. the state it is in now. You can see this on World War 6, New School/Old School, and especially on Mann where he talks about how horrifying the newest generation of younger hustlers are compared to his era. Takem Back is a vivid rendering of his path to success where you can hear the implication that Boosie uses his experiences as parables and abides by the lessons they teach.
Thug Talk came in March and embraced fully the anger bubbling in the first two releases. On the second song (Finish U) he shouts the song into a melee that would make Waka Flocka proud; Off The Chain makes every brag kinetic and might not be his most meaningful song but pumps adrenaline through your speakers(“Say you gangsta I don’t buy that. I can smell where you hide at. Six murders and two attempts you talkin’ that ish B__ you lying! Go to war with any creature B__ you F_ing with a lion!!!”—Off The Chain). This roaring tsunami of anger feeds the soulful seething hopelessness of Menace II Society. Guest verses on Thug Talk are no joke featuring the holy trinity of Z-ro, Pimp C, and Webbie.
In May Bleek Mode (Thug In Peace Lil Bleek) blew more holes in our available hard drive space. Not only was this project #5 but it is nineteen tracks! My favorite Boosie song of 2016 is on this one, Hard But Sweet where he refers to his childhood as the Jolly Rancher days because they were hard but sweet. The image fits him like a glove and defines the project which is full of hard, violent bangers but reveals itself in the sweet songs longing for the companionship of his favorite people. Destined To Blow and Blue Money are full to the brim with swagger but Not My N_ and Family Rules are intensely emotionally. Boosie doesn’t need death to get intense. He doesn’t “get intense” he just is. Dis Morning is just Boosie going off, about Ebola and distrust, paranoia, police violence, & ambition.Boosie is so ceaselessly dialed in to passionate full force response that it is actually difficult to maintain his level of energy. Boosie wears you out! At one point in Bleek Mode Boosie is convinced that in prison the insulin he uses for diabetes is being tampered with in order to murder him. Can you imagine being in that state of mind? Bleek Mode takes you there and it is scary. Still Not as scary as C-Murders voice.
A month before we even got Bleek Mode Boosie & C-Murder came together to put out an album called Penitentiary Chances. I didn’t have high hopes since prison albums(C-Murder is still locked up) tend to sound awful from a sound quality pov. I was wrong. Every Boosie song takes place in Boosie world so all vocals are clean as a new white T-shirt and all beats rumble with bass. The high point of the project is hearing C-Murder dialed into the power of that horrifying voice over the creepy chanting of Dear Supreme Court. If the song was intended to convince people he was innocent I’m not sure it should have been as creepy as it is. As a C-Murder song it is amazing. Penitentiary Chances is a real discussion about prison life from two people who shared the same cell block at one point. Boosie says “Used to have a personal chef…now I work in the kitchen(In The Pen),” let that image really sink in. It is intense. You listen to This Ain’t Living, For My Homies That’s Dead, Blame My Mother, & When We Came 2 The Can and before you hit song ten you feel like your living Donald Goines White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief. Great book, tough read. Same deal here.
By the time Boosie dropped Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas I was ready for some joy to peek in. No one has dropped a Christmas project this hardcore. The track that made headlines was No Drake On where we have a Boyz N The Hood moment gone left. The protagonist of the song is riding around seething for revenge but he’s not getting out of the car. Instead of Drake playing in the ride he pops on Murder Was The Case. Lil Scrappy is great on the song, Hurricane Chris is vicious on Hurricane, Rich Homie Quan is probably my favorite guest verse of the album but I like my Boosie songs solo. Vlad TV features Boosie hitting that TI level of boisterous-but-he-means-every-word performance.
This isn’t just some paper Burger King crown of an award I’m giving to Boosie. I listened to over a hundred songs of his this year MANY MANY times. I know about his grandmother, his spirituality, his kidney cancer, his childhood love for pickles and hot chips and that level of successful vivid storytelling creates a relationship to the music and its author. I never sit back wondering why Boosie can’t break out into the international sensation the top 3 guys are. I’m just thankful that in 2016 anyone gave this much of themselves.
Stream or download Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas below:
Stream or purchase Bleek Mode below:
Stream or purchase Thug Talk below:
Stream or purchase Out My Feelings (In My Past) below:
If you get this far and like what you hear buy or stream In My Feelings and Penitentiary Chances from the service you pay for or hunt down the physical copy like us old heads do. Best Buy still has music…for now.
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