How Boosie overcame the system & almost dying to maintain his place as a Southern legend.

In 2008, Boosie Badazz has coined his rap style as “reality rap”. The term wasn’t a misnomer or inaccurate, Boosie had made plenty of decisions that eventually paid a price. He struggled with diabetes at a young age, figuring that his best course of action as a man was to remain as hyper-masculine as possible. Being a diabetic was a show of weakness so he refused to take his insulin shots. His body suffered for it but he always bounced back, smiling, laughing.

In his music, constantly shedding more and more about his personal struggle and triumphs had made him a folk hero in Baton Rouge and the world over. He will never be compared as a technical rap wizard or a legend in the traditional sense. He’s an outlier, a rapper who relishes in being at times an animated, wry gangster like Eazy E and someone as sober and emotionally fucked up as Scarface. Real and always urgent. Nothing stopped Boosie from pulling up in colorful cars or flossing gold and platinum jewelry. Getting out of the insane poverty that erodes the color and charm of Baton Rouge made him do that. People compare Boosie to another author of “reality rap”, Tupac Shakur as if they were kindred spirits. One will never win an argument denouncing the legacy of Boosie, much in the same vein that there is zero argument in regards to a Tupac fan. You can’t argue against passion and love.

As my writing career has shifted into focus, the same has occurred with Boosie. Months before he entered Louisiana’s infamous Angola penitentiary, he released an album, Superbad: The Return of Boosie Badazz. It was mostly label driven decisions, singles that pushed up his identity but tried their best to wrap around his guest verses from Foxx’s “Wipe Me Down” and Webbie’s “Independent”. It didn’t work and sadly sunk. The five years Boosie sat in indefinite stasis in Angola, a few cells away from former No Limit capo C-Murder, he found himself either starring down more time added to his sentence and in one particular case, the death penalty. His first-degree murder trial was widespread coverage and his not guilty verdict felt like a foot had been lifted off of his chest. But he wasn’t free. He couldn’t even release a statement or speak through the media. It kept fans, supporters and even his own legal defense in the dark on when exactly he would be returning home after finishing his sentence.

“I’ve coped by knowing in my heart that I’m someone special who many people love. If you lose hope in yourself, you’ll make your time hard. I always felt that my mission wasn’t complete. I feel I haven’t reached the star power that was destined for me,” Boosie wrote in a letter to SPIN in January 2013. “That makes me keep writing and thinking of ways to better myself as a man and artist. When it feels like the world is on my shoulders, I look at my pictures from when I was free and it gives hope and determination to pushing.”

In March 2014, Boosie was officially home. His body had swollen thanks to prison food and workout regimens. His releases following prison went right back to doing what had created his fanbase in the first place, hard rap records that showed vulnerability but refused to show any kind of fear. Boosie was reborn on Life After Deathrow and his oft-delayed Touch Down 2 Cause Hell mentioned more of the same, if not a few variances of catharsis. Boosie was alive, adapting to the new rap climate and becoming a star on social media. He flaunted wealth, he crafted more Boosie-isms and was thankful that the world hadn’t forgotten about him.

Then, last November, reality came at Boosie again. As it had with my father and millions before them, Boosie revealed to the world that he had kidney cancer. He deleted the post as another sign of bravado but the fear was real. Boosie had a brand new discussion with death; death was more than willing to finally take him on.

Two Novembers ago, just as Boosie was continuing to adjust back to being a rap star and man of the people, my father had routinely gotten thinner. We believed it was his body breaking down with old age or at least a result of him not eating a lot. He had been diagnosed a diabetic some years prior and his lungs had slowly began to weaken as early as September 2012. He revealed to my mom and me that he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer. I didn’t move, I merely nodded. When you’ve seen someone look death in the face on numerous occasions in rapid succession, your emotions towards it dull out. You figure its something else, something that either will come or won’t. He was set for surgery on December 4th, 2014. Doctor’s had discovered the cancer early and determined that it was treatable. He’s now down to one and a half kidneys, venturing through the doors of a dialysis facility three times a week.

My dad’s health has improved and he’s no longer in need of an oxygen tank for support of his lungs. He stares depression in the face every day because his body has betrayed him but he walks on, too stubborn to fully give it up because living is still a middle finger to all of it. If he’s cracking jokes, laughing big or talking cash money shit, my dad is at a state of normalcy. Just like Boosie.

After his successful surgery last December, Boosie was down to one kidney. He spent most of his time recovering doing all he could to not think about it. Instead, it consumed him and people took notice. Young Thug dedicated a bar to Boosie on I’m Up‘s “F Cancer” and Boosie even joined in for the official video for a “congrats-you-don’t-have-cancer-anymore” party. Boosie processed all of his circumstances, the rare idea of his own body betraying him and released it all into music. Once he was given the all clear? The old Boosie returned, tougher and more humorous than ever. In My Feelings was skeletal in production and mastering. There wasn’t a need for big features or guests, just Boosie putting something out in a form of real-time catharsis. Out My Feelings was a straight-on gangsta rap album where Boosie essentially said the things he needed to get out to remind people that he was alive. “As an artist, I feel like I’m at my best right now,” he recently told The FADER. “The more I go through, the more I have to talk about, and I been going through so much shit lately. So put me in the studio with anybody in the world and I’ll stand my ground.”

Right now Boosie’s in Hawaii. A recent video of him that went viral involved him remixing Rihanna’s “Work” & O.T. Genasis’ “Cut It” while surrounded by dancers on the beach. His joy and happiness couldn’t be contained in that moment. In a way, that’s still Boosie. As hard and scarred as he may be, he’s still finding more joy in life being alive than constantly looking darkness in the face. Boosie’s reality now, much like my father’s reality is to keep living. It’s the one thing that pisses off the harbingers of death even more.