The fanfare surrounding 31-year-old Torence “Lil Boosie” Hatch’s release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after a four-year sentence on drug charges has been surreal.
A video of his daughter, a wide-eyed girl in ponytails and bows, feverishly expressing her anticipation over her dad coming home went viral. The clip, sweet at heart, was highly problematic though, because of the little girl’s repeated and casual use of the N-word — and it embodies the contradictions in this whole story.
Boosie became a trending topic on Twitter and yesterday there was a #Boosiespeaks press conference streamed lived on the Internet, held at the same time Gov. Bobby Jindal opened the 2014 Louisiana Legislative session. It seems that Boosie received far more attention than Jindal, even while some celebrities spoke out against the excitement surrounding Boosie’s release.
The Boosie fan base, a motley crew of diehards (a picture of a man with the words “Free Boosie” tattooed on his face made the rounds online some years back), bashed those who were less than thrilled about Boosie’s prison release.
The first time I heard Lil Boosie’s music I was appalled. My cousin Bryan spent an entire weekend playing various songs from the Baton Rouge rapper all with the hope of changing my mind. The year was 2001 and he was already a huge Boosie fan. “He’s a homeboy. He’s a regular dude. I’m rooting for him,” my cousin said.
He was determined for me to like Lil Boosie, too.
I just couldn’t. I kept hearing Boosie’s lyrics. Being the lover of words and stories that I am, I was unable to move beyond the Boosie line about forcing a woman to ingest Clorox to induce a miscarriage.
And with that I was done with the underground Baton Rouge rap legend, years before he reached a national platform, years before he recorded a song that appeared on an Oscar-winning soundtrack.
Regardless of how you may feel about rap lyrics overall — a war waged in the late 80s by the likes of Tipper Gore and C. Delores Tucker and a topic since debated to death — this Boosie thing is complicated.
You see, I have love for Boosie.
There is something to be said about a story of redemption. Boosie has a clean slate and there are no more charges hanging over his head.
In the press conference, the Boosie who stood before the crowd in all white and shades was a humble man who thanked God and promised to dedicate his future to his children and to his music career.
He said his prison time made him a “better person and artist.”
Behind bars, he was busy getting his GED, writing an autobiography and even a movie about his life. There are the 1,018 songs he penned during his incarceration too.
The machine around Boosie is impressive. He has legions of devotees who adore him, rap colleagues who can’t wait to record with him and a deal with Atlantic Records. Boosie is ready to get to work and to reestablish himself professionally.
I wish all young black men, all young people who are released from jail, would have a support system like the one that seems to be lifting up Boosie.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 45.4 percent of people released from prison in 1999 and 43.3 percent of those sent home in 2004 were reincarcerated within three years, either for committing a new crime or for violating conditions governing their release.
At the turn of the millennium, 3 percent of the U.S. population was either incarcerated, on probation or on parole. The Justice Department has estimated that a third of black men and nearly a fifth of Latino men born in 2001 will go to prison in their lifetime.
At the press conference, Texas hip hop artist Bun B said, “it’s a shame how many people don’t want to see a black man home.”
Let’s help welcome Boosie, and the fameless others, home too with support and opportunity while continuing to call them out — with love — on their behavior, or in Boosie’s case, his lyrics.
jewel bush, a New Orleans native, is a writer whose work has appeared in The (Houma) Courier, The Washington Post, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, and El Tiempo, a bilingual Spanish newspaper. In 2010, she founded MelaNated Writers Collective, a multi-genre group for writers of color in New Orleans dedicated to cultivating the literary, artistic and professional growth of emerging writers. Her three favorite books are Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Catcher in the Rye, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.