Free Lil Boosie became one of hip-hop's most popular refrains in the last five years. It was our means of showing love and support to Boosie, who was facing first-degree murder charges. Through this campaign and his years of legal battles, his music and popularity grew to heights unreached before his imprisonment. A cult following continued to develop despite Boosie not being able to provide the people with new music. In fact, his already existing catalog became more appreciated and enjoyed. So, when they finally cleared him of his charges and he served more time for drug charges, the rap community felt accomplished. We awaited the triumphant return of Lil Boosie.
In March 2014, Boosie was freed and was able to see his friends and family after years behind bars. On top of that, amidst a flurry of competition by labels to ink him to a deal, he announced that he was signing to Atlantic Records and that his Touchdown 2 Cause Hell album was set for a summer release. Then...nothing. The idea came and went while September was selected as the next release date. Yup, that didn’t happen either. Instead, a free/retail mixtape titled Life After Deathrow was released on October 30. The music was solid, but it has become an increasingly hard to face reality that Boosie’s comeback so far hasn't been what we hoped for.
So has Lil Boosie’s career survived jail time?
Naturally, coming back after five years is difficult. We’ve seen huge artists like Lil Wayne and T.I. do time, get out, and then witness their music take a dip in quality. However, those two names ultimately pulled through their imprisonment largely unscathed because of their massive popularity and untouchable fan bases. Someone like Gucci Mane has also been almost surpisingly unaffected in most ways. His mainstream push from 2011-12 was over, but Gucci’s output has never missed a step. This is a man who isn’t experimenting or trying to do anything new, aside from using his A&R talents to bring the public new artists. His music is in the same lane it has been in for years.
On the flip side, two names come to mind when thinking about a career derailed by jail time. Gunplay and Young Scooter had next. The former was bodying records next to Kendrick Lamar and his MMG brothers and in 2012 his buzz was big enough that the possibility of a solo debut album was a real conversation. Later that year, he was facing life-threatening charges stemming from an armed robbery caught on camera. Granted, he didn’t serve much time, but the entire case put a stall on his career. He beat the charges, but the case careened his career. He’s now Don Logan with hopes that Def Jam will drop Living Legend this year. Or not. Young Scooter, however, was in jail for eight months in 2013. He dropped Street Lottery in January, was gone by April and didn’t get out until October. From that point on, his new music felt uninspired and repetitive.
Lil Boosie falls in between these two extremes. He’s not as big as Weezy or TIP, but he’s also more established than a myth like Gunplay. Serving the most time out of everyone listed in this article also means that he missed out on the demise of MySpace, the rise of Twitter, and a whole new era of music in the process. His career isn’t over, but the moves made since his release don’t necessarily reflect someone who was so heavily sought after while in jail. His guest features have been cool. The live shows haven’t happened much, but this could be due to legal restrictions.
Boosie’s old song “What About Me” feels more relevant than ever. Is there a demand for a new Boosie Badazz album? Yes, but it remains to be seen how high that stretches. Atlantic and Boosie need to come up with some new strategy, because none of the singles so far have popped on radio or generated the necessary buzz. Kevin Gates is unleashing a new retail mixtape once or twice a year, which is why we’ve seen growth in his sales. This might be the best bet until the world is on the Boosie wagon once again. Of course, there's a period of adjustment for any artist who's been behind bars for years, but how long can that adjustment period last in the current "what's next?" climate of the music business.
Above all, I wouldn’t say that jail time ruined his career. But it does seem like a lot of people got sucked into screaming "free Lil Boosie!" and then moved onto the next hashtag as soon as he actually got out.
[By Sermon, aka The Randy Savage of VMG, aka @SermonsDomain]