Still I Rise
From prison terms to family-turned-foes, Boosie BadAzz has weathered the storm humbly. Ten albums deep and the talented rapper just keeps pushing.
Words: Georgette Cline
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

A lesson in finance and fashion comes courtesy of Boosie BadAzz as he stands inside Atlantic Records’ New York office on a brisk November day, surrounded by an entourage that includes his boys from back home and his co-manager, B Rich. Boosie, dressed in a teal bomber jacket, a white T-shirt, acid wash skinny jeans and white Nike Air Max sneakers, has no shame in admitting how much he spent on his outfit for the day. “This that Down South swag,” he says with a jubilant air, posing while G-Eazy’s “No Limit” serves as the soundtrack for his photo shoot. “Now that New York gangsta. Yeah, you see it. Yeah, we wear that cheap shit. Yeah, $40 jacket. You see it. This the nigga Fashion Nova shit.”

The room erupts into laughter as Boosie name-drops the popular Instagram-friendly fashion house for women, proving that even a self-described gangsta with multiple zeroes in his bank account shops on a budget. “How are you gonna spend money and think you’re going to stay with money?” the 35-year-old Baton Rouge, La. native asks. The question he poses is an interesting one considering the wealth of jewelry adorning his neck and wrists—three rope chains, a Lil Boosie chain featuring the rhymer’s bust, a wood-grain face Rolex (one of eight he owns) and what he describes as a Tupac Shakur bracelet.

Boosie, born Torrence Hatch, bought himself the Tupac-inspired bracelet on the late rapper’s birthday, June 16. The Southern rhyme giant, who now lives in Atlanta, was drawn to the gold piece after seeing ’Pac wear it in a famed Death Row Records photo alongside Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Suge Knight, all in black turtlenecks positioned against a black backdrop. Boosie’s decision to give the jewelry such a personal designation—naming it after ’Pac and copping it the day he was born—proves his connection to the West Coast rap savior runs deep (“I cried when he died”). He even titled his recently released 10th studio album, BooPac, as a tribute to Tupac.

With 10 albums under his belt and more than 30 mixtapes released over the last 17 years, Boosie’s journey to BooPac, which came out on Dec. 15, 2017 on Atlantic Records, has been a wild ride of triumphs and tribulations. At 17, Boosie (known then as Lil’ Boosie) dropped his debut album, appropriately titled Youngest of Da Camp. The release led to his signing with Trill Entertainment in 2001, setting the tone for a career decorated with reality-driven rhymes and remarkable resilience.

For the better part of that decade, Boosie continued to feed the streets with projects. From solo efforts like 2006’s Bad Azz, to collaborative LPs such as 2004’s Gangsta Musik with Webbie, his raw tales of struggle and betrayal coupled with perseverance and a get-money attitude made him a competitive force in the rap landscape. Hits like 2007’s “Wipe Me Down” alongside Webbie and Foxx, and “Independent,” Webbie’s track featuring Boosie, proved his vehement Southern drawl had staying power despite slipping from the Billboard Hot 100.

Unfortunately, Boosie was knocked off the ladder of success he was steadily climbing after a 2008 arrest for resisting arrest, weed and gun possession. A four-year prison bid followed, which doubled once he was caught trying to smuggle drugs into prison. Then there was the indictment on a first-degree murder charge in 2010; if convicted, he’d be facing death row. During this trying time, his loyal fan base kept the “Free Boosie” campaign going while new supporters jumped on the bandwagon once the publicity of his trial was at fever pitch. Thankfully, by March 5, 2014, Boosie beat the murder charge and walked away with his freedom, only serving five of the eight-year sentence.

Four years removed from prison, Boosie BadAzz is still considered a poet laureate of the streets. “I don’t even have to drop an album and I pack out shows,” he reveals. “That goes with timeless music.” But, he never lets his fans go without a project for long. Boosie has continued to drop albums following his incarceration—two total—and didn’t let a battle with kidney cancer in 2015 knock his hustle. “Cancer hit, I got scars on my stomach,” he raps on “Webbie I Remember,” off BooPac; the man just can’t be stopped. Now cancer-free, he’s got nearly two decades of a career behind him and a lifetime to go.

Brian “B Rich” Richardson, 35, who’s known Boosie since 2009, and has been co-managing him for the last year and a half, attributes the rhymer’s longevity in the game to his connection with fans. “I think he’s a good poet and able to communicate that through his songs,” B Rich states. “I think people can really feel it. Some people that make music, they’re not believable. But everything he’s saying, you can hear the pain in his voice and the feeling in his words. He represents the streets, the people in the trenches—they relate to him. And no matter how much money he made, he’s still able to connect with the people that’s in the trenches. I see that every show he goes to he has people crying.”

History shows many Boosie loyalists (grown men included) have shed a tear when they’re in the rap veteran’s presence. Search YouTube to find the “God Wants Me to Ball” rapper consoling crying fans at his shows. Last year, video of a man in Alaska went viral after he let the waterworks loose when meeting Boosie at a signing. Though it can take an emotional toll on both the fan and the artist, Boosie empathizes wholeheartedly. “Everything my fans tell me is the way I felt when I was a Tupac fan coming up,” Boosie explains. “My fans tell me, ‘Boosie will make you feel like you was in the household watching everything that was happening to me, with your music.’ That’s how Tupac made me feel, like everything he was talking about I was living. My music do that, you know? That’s what I do good. I touch people.”

BooPac is the hip-hop orator’s latest opportunity to touch the people with his rhymes. The double album featuring the likes of London Jae, B. Will, Lee Banks and Yung Bleu serves as a lyrical time capsule of sorts. Boosie’s aware of the criticism that comes with naming an album after one of hip-hop’s G.O.A.T.s but made the move to showcase more raw, emotional hip-hop in a space where mumble rap reigns supreme. “Tupac music is not talked about like it should be,” he shares. “That kinda music, it’s fading too fast. People don’t acknowledge his greatness, his music. I feel like listening to my music, it’ll give you that feel of that realness. You know, I’m not saying I’m Tupac at all. I’m just saying it’ll give you that realness.”

Keeping it real is all Boosie knows how to do—for better or for worse. Last August, the father of eight—Ivionna, 15; Tarlaysia, 15; Torrence Jr., 14; Toriana, 10; Ray Ray, 9; Lyric, 8; M.J., 8; Layla, 17 months old—received backlash for an Instagram post in which he revealed he would give his 14-year-old son Torrence Jr. money to pay a woman to perform oral sex on him for his birthday.

As expected, the furor among social media was heavy, leading Boosie to be criticized for his approach to parenting. According to the rapper, who admits he likes having babies and his “sperm is full of beauty and nutrition,” he was joking with his son when he wrote the controversial Instagram post. However, that doesn’t mean Boosie regrets having conversations with Torrence Jr. regarding sex. “People have to understand, this is how I come up,” Boosie begins. “Women can only raise men to a certain point in life. Certain things a man has to teach him or he will be taught by the streets. That’s just how it is.”

Andrew Link for XXL

Last summer also saw a rift between Boosie and his brother, Taquari Hatch, who was arrested for allegedly stealing $361,000 from the MC’s bank account in July 2017. As of October, the district attorney handling the case refused to file charges against Taquari. Boosie still hasn’t gotten his money back and the fight wages on. “I’m from the projects,” he tells. “That’s a lot of money. Somebody’s playing games. I want my money, man.”

Negativity reared its ugly head toward Boosie in 2017, but there were more positive moments to recall like starring in a play alongside singers Ray J, K. Michelle and Lyfe Jennings, among others. Thugs and the Women Who Love ’Em, which had a limited run across the U.S., found Boosie taking on the role of Kevin, a jailbird with the muscle who’s got beef with Ray J’s character. Rehearsals were cut down to just three short weeks to prepare for opening night, but despite the crunch on time, Boosie nailed his part. This is all practice for the biopic on Boosie’s life he plans to film in the near future. The script, which he started writing in jail, is already completed.

Before that project gets off the ground, Boosie has a collaborative album with Ray J he’ll release first. The two began recording the project last September, using the time after the play ended each night to hit the studio. “Ray J sound like The Weeknd on that muthafucka,” Boosie states of the upcoming joint album. “All he do is crack jokes, so that’s all I do is be playin’. We just came up with energy, and once we get in the studio we make special music together.” “Peanut on the Way,” a nod to Detroit rap mogul Brian “Peanut” Brown, is the first single off their forthcoming joint effort.

Now that he’s got a new album out and another on the way, Boosie is focused on branding. He’s got his own Louisiana Heat flavor of Rap Snacks, Boosie Juice vodka, his Jewel House clothing line and plans to launch a cologne and perfume (“Dangerous for me, Boosie Love for women”). Boosie is also shopping around his life story and trying to get a deal in place for his label, Bad Azz Music Syndicate, home to Koly P, B Will, OG Dre, Wavy and Yung Bleu, to name a few.

“It’s just about branding Boosie, whatever,” he tells. “It can be a doll in Walmart. Anything. I’m just trying to brand anything that can go on forever and make money. I’m trying to brand us as Boosie the brand. I want investors to know—’cause I’m always looking for investors and people with real money—I want all these people to look at me and say, ‘I don’t know what it is about this little guy with his haircut, but when we put money behind him he’s not failing.’” He hopes his clout will help him score some lucrative deals in 2018.

As Boosie BadAzz sits inside a studio at Atlantic Records, the chains around his neck clinking against one another, he reflects on the ups and downs of the past year. Life as a rapper isn’t so rough, but some days the bad vibes conquer all.

“I went through so much [in 2017] really,” Boosie says. “I just learn from everything and it just makes me who I am. It makes my music, too. It just affects me, but I still come out positive about it, you know?”

Like a man.

See Photos from Boosie BadAzz's XXL Magazine Spring 2018 Shoot

Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2018 issue including our two cover stories with G-Eazy and 21 Savage, Show & Prove with Trippie Redd, Cole Bennett's rise as a music video director, Show & Prove with J.I.D, Evidence's thoughts on the future of hip-hop, Show & Prove with Tee Grizzley, the power of Lil B's positivity, Ronny J's unorthodox production, the new generation of hip-hop's obsession with rock and more.