Few people are as strong as Boosie Badazz. He’s fought diabetes from a young age; in early work, he documented his battle with denial by not taking his insulin shots, resulting in routine sickness and weight loss. He’s been equally transparent about disputes with family, and the downsides of street life. He calls this approach Reality Rap, and it's made him a hero for countless other people who struggle, too.
In 2010, he began a nearly five-year stint at Louisiana State Penitentiary, the largest maximum-security prison in the United States, on charges of narcotics possession and violation of parole. While incarcerated, he was also tried for first-degree murder, a charge that could have carried the death penalty had he been found guilty.
Boosie was released in 2014, and has since continued building the catalog of his self-appointed microgenre, dropping music that explored what he went through in prison. In November 2015, he announced that he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer. Fans were crushed—reading about all of this can drive your blood pressure up, let alone having to live it. The man’s got a motor, and his will is something one could only aspire to have.
$90,000 in surgery later, Boosie is still here and cancer-free. He says this has motivated him to try and drop a project every month of 2016. Over the phone from Los Angeles, Boosie talked about how support for his fight with cancer transcended music circles, the responsibility that comes with having a cult following, and if his struggles are meant to uplift fans.
When you make music, are you just naturally being open, or are you consciously trying to inspire people?
You could be my cousin. If you stole from me, I’mma talk about it. What I go through in my life, I tend to put it in my music. I always say the things that hurt me the most and that matter to me the most. I can’t hold it in, man. It’s like therapy. And my fans tend to come to me and say, “Man, I like when you said ‘daddy was on drugs.’ I ain’t have shit, woopty woop.” It always be those lines where I thought, should I say it or should I not? that touch people the most. So since I first started, I figured the deeper I go, the more I touch people.
As you grow older, do you feel a responsibility to not only speak to people about what to look out for in their immediate surroundings but also how to analyze the bigger picture?
I just know I’m a voice of the people. So it’s certain things that I have to talk about that I’m not gonna let ride. I'mma say how I feel about it. I don’t care what anybody else feel about it because everybody can feel how they want. I’m obligated to so many listeners who count on me to say those special things. A lot of my fans feel how I feel, so I feel like it’s a responsibility. I’m not gonna let it get swept under the rug.
Is there something you still want to get better at as an artist, or businessman?
As an artist, I feel like I’m at my best right now. 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. I’m in my own lane with this real ass music. So many people stray away from real music and I’m happy because of that [laughs]. I can stay in my lane and develop more and more fans. You know, I wanna work with a lot of pop artists and people be saying I need to cross over. But if I get on a song with pop artists, I'mma still talk some real shit. That’s just me.
Have you ever felt that working with pop artists would compromise who you are?
Nah. I feel like I got fans that love me for more than just the rap. They love me as a person, they love me as a daddy, they love me as a character. They love Boosie as a whole. So I don’t feel like if I got on a song with Adele, they’d look no other way. You know what they’ll be saying? “I told you he was fucking great!” They won’t be saying Boosie switched over. I have a fanbase that’s been telling people for years that I’m the shit and we’ve been doubted for so long. At this point of my career, me coming home and staying successful, now they on a level like: “I told you so.” My fans talking big shit right now. So it doesn’t matter who I work with, they gonna say, “Boosie killed that track.”
“I have a fanbase that’s been telling people for years that I’m the shit and we’ve been doubted for so long. At this point of my career, me coming home and staying successful, now they on a level like: ‘I told you so.’ My fans talking big shit right now.”
How did it feel to get so many prayers and blessings from the public and your peers when you announced having cancer?
It was big, man. Not only fans of my music was praying for me; it’s the parents and family of my fans that’s coming up to me. I had people tell me, “My daughter told me about what’s going on. I’m praying for you. I was fighting for you.” Grandmothers. When I was diagnosed with cancer, that brought a lot of tears to people’s eyes who love me. And if you love somebody, what they go through affects you too. It’s bigger than Boosie having cancer. You know? Old people walking up saying, “I was at church. I never heard of your music before, but people came up and put your name in the prayer line and that’s how I know about you.” That’s deep bro.
You also got a tribute from Young Thug, with his song “Fuck Cancer.”
Even when I found out I had cancer, Thug hit me up like, “Nigga, if anybody can beat it, you can beat it. He gave it to you cause you strong nigga. This just a stepping stone.” That call motivated me. Then he called me like, “I made a ‘Fuck Cancer’ song, nigga! I need your house to shoot the video.” So we got to my house to shoot the video and it was all love.
A lot of people find strength through you.
Yeah. I always get that. Lately I been getting [from people] that me beating cancer make them feel like their mother can beat cancer, or their son can beat cancer. Me with diabetes, when I talk about it, it lifts people up. When I talk about how people need to take their insulin shots, it make people go take their shots. My words is like a damn preacher. A little boy told me a couple weeks back, “Nigga, I don’t go to no motherfuckin church. You my preacher.” I was like, “Damn, bro! [laughs] You still need to pray and all that.”
How is this all affecting your career plans going forward?
With the music, I’m building a successful label. After five or six years I wanna be a president of a major label. I’m getting into acting. I’m about to do this Boosie movie. I got a hell of a life story. If we shoot this movie right, I’m gonna get a whole new wave of fans. I’m talented with this acting, man. I can play a gangsta, I can play a retarded person, I can make people laugh. I can do it all.
I saw this old Pac interview where he said the reason he could play so many different characters was that, when he looked into the mirror, he could see right into his soul and make peace with who he truly was. Do you relate to that, as you experiment with acting?
Yeah, because you might see me being a daddy on Instagram, chasing my kids around the house, and I know I’m a G. It’s nothing you can tell me to make me look like I’m pussy, cause I’m a soldier! Or I could be on Instagram smoking, talking cash shit. I know exactly who I am! You can call me Boosie, call me Torrance, call me Bossman, call me Hollywood. Call me whatever you want. It’s nothing that can be done to me to make me feel like somebody else. I been talked about with the coldest words. It make me strong.
“It’s nothing you can tell me to make me look like I’m pussy, cause I’m a soldier! Or I could be on Instagram smoking, talking cash shit. I know exactly who I am!”
With your label, what do you look for in a young artist?
I look for talent. I look at their music, the buzz they got in their city. I like to meet up and know them as a person, see if they’re the type of person that would switch and turn bitch. I look for all that shit. But, mostly I look for talent and their dedication. They could have all the shit to make a hit record but have no dedication. You can get a hit from damn near a mistake and have no will to go in that studio and keep on doing it.
Pimp C gave you your first shot. How does it feel to have the opportunity to be that bridge for a younger artist, now, the way he did for you?
It makes me feel like I have a responsibility. I basically give the same steps that Pimp gave to me: I never show them too much enthusiasm. They’ll let me hear me a record, I’ll be like, “It’s aight.” That make them work harder. That make them know that that’s not they best even if I feel it’s they best. That’s what Pimp did to me. He kept me hungry. I wanted to please him. I took that as a CEO of my own label. It always made me wanna go in there and make more records. When I came into Pimp, I was already damn near regional but he made me feel like I was local again so I had to become nationwide.
Where do you find that hunger now?
My motivation now is for my kids. I done basically had everything I wanted out of life because I come from nothing. I made a million dollars and felt like I crossed the damn Nile River. So now, I’m doing it for my kids and building them up so they have a better life than I did. My fans keep me going, too. When they see me they see, “Boosie we need another one!” They keep me going.
It can’t be a secret to you that you’re a living legend. Your place in rap history is stamped just off how many people you touch with your stories. What is it like to know that?
It’s a good feeling, man. It’s a good feeling. Make me wanna live longer, make me wanna take care of myself better. It makes me wanna exercise, make me wanna get this diabetes out of my body. I got cancer out of my body. Me knowing I’m a legend, I don’t want it to end even though when I’m gone it’ll never end. I wanna be around to see my kids have kids. I wanna go out on top and see my kids go out on top. If not, I had a hell of a run baby.