boosie-touchdown-2-hell-cover

It's been just shy of 15 months since Boosie BadAzz walked out of a Louisiana prison a free man for the first time in a half-decade. The time since has been spent readjusting to a completely different life than the one he had left when his hellish prison nightmare began; his fame had exploded, turning him from regional icon to national star; social media turned #FreeBoosie from a slogan into a full-fledged campaign; and the music industry, so fickle and unstable, had come back around to the ratchet style of music that Boosie had refined during his initial decade-long run through the South.

But Boosie himself has changed as well, as evidenced by his well-received and decidedly reserved comeback mixtape Life After Deathrow, which came out in October and largely replaced his up-tempo ratchet beats with more laid back palettes that allowed him to spit his reality raps with a more visceral and descriptive eye. Now that his comeback LP, Touch Down 2 Death Row, is finally out and finally in the hands of the people who have waited five years for his return, Boosie BadAzz is forging ahead with this new chapter in his career.

Boosie isn't the only one responsible for this album's release, of course; Louisiana beatmaker Kenoe also had a large role in the album's creation, presiding over studio sessions and tapping connections within his network—producers like Black Metaphor, singers like Akelee and Keyshia Cole, MCs like T.I. and J. Cole—to help flesh out TD2CH's sound. With everyone poring over Boosie BadAzz's new album, XXL spoke to a few of his collaborators to get the stories behind five tracks on Touch Down 2 Cause Hell. Get 'em, Boosie. —Dan Rys

Instagram

boosie-listening

"Intro—Get 'Em Boosie"

Producer: Black Metaphor



Black Metaphor: My manager Kenoe from the Night Ryders had a cool relationship with Boosie; Kenoe from Louisiana too, so I guess they go way back. But when Boosie got out of jail, Kenoe was in the studio with Boosie and Jeezy the first couple days when he got out.

Kenoe: Boosie and I, I've been knowin' him for a minute, since we were young; I knew his brother as well. While he was locked up, his brother had reached out to me and was like, "When Boosie get out I wanna mess whichu, I wanna mess with your team, I want a new sound for him" and stuff like that. He called me right before [Boosie] got out and was lettin' me know that he was pretty much about to come home and they were gonna be ready to work. So as soon as he had got out they called me and he asked me what we wanted to work on, and I just let him know that we were in New Orleans workin'. We laid a bunch of songs when he came out.

Black Metaphor: I make a lot of tracks all the time. That one just had a much harder, high-energy feel and was just real aggressive. I didn't really expect Boosie to rap on that one, but it came out dope. They told me he was gonna use the track for the intro like two weeks after he got out of jail, so this was like last summer; they kept having release dates and pushing it back so I just let it be what it is. I did that beat two years ago in 2013. And then a few weeks ago my homie M15 called me because he was at the listening in New York and he was like, "Yo, this intro is stupid, bro!" So I was like, Okay, it's still the intro, good. I can't wait to hear it, man, I've been trying to envision it all this time.

I just had to make sure the drums was hard; I just tried to envision what would happen if Just Blaze did the drums, how it would hit and then put my own little twist on it. But I definitely wanted it to stand up next to some of the best tracks of all time. That's always my goal. It's big, it's major, man, I'm excited about it. Another notch on the belt. I gotta just keep coming, man.

Instagram

Lil-Boosie-Jeezy1

"Mercy On My Soul" featuring Jeezy and Akelee

Producer: Kenoe



Akelee: My girl over at Motown reached out to me and said, "Kenoe heard you and wanted to use your voice. Can you team up with him?" So that's how it came about; he said to come up with whatever you feel and I just sang on the beat and it was amazing. I guess Jeezy heard it and then Boosie heard it and it was a done deal.

Kenoe: We were just trying to figure out where we were gonna go with it. The song was done; we had two verses on it that he felt were good and I was like, man, we gotta get Jeezy on here and let him preach. [Laughs] I sent it over to Jeezy's people and Boosie and Jeezy already had a relationship. When Boosie got out, Jeezy was one of the first artists, he flew to New Orleans and got in the studio with us vibing back and forth to different records. I was there, man, for the whole time.

Akelee: [When I first got the track] it wasn't even the full beat, it was just stems. So I created the whole ambiance of it and always had my little passionate feels but at the same time hip-hop, and I just sang and they created it. Concept-wise, I'm always big on installing faith and love no matter what I'm singing. I'm not down with the whole ratchet thing—it's cool, it's got its place—but I'm more about being a positive to that negative for our generation. I feel like my job is to help raise the next generation, so whatever I put out there I want to make sure that it's great but that it has a great message. But I'm just a soul singer but I end up doing hip-hop things a lot. And it didn't take me long, that was the first thing that came out.

They called me and asked me if they could use this and I was like, "Of course! That's what I was doin' it for." And when I heard it I heard Jeezy first and I was just like, "This is perfect," and it just matched my whole vibe. And then when I heard Boosie I was like, "Alright, cool, take it and do what you want with it." I respect them so much. Here's how it works: I'm a Celine Dion fan, a Shania Twain fan, I love Faith Hill just as much as I love Lauryn Hill, but then I love Mannie Fresh, I love Juve, I love Boosie and Jay Z. Love Jeezy.

I'm excited, I'm honored 'cause he's a legend in his own right for sure. And just so I can reach those types of fans. The fact that I can bring this message and it crosses over to hip-hop so strong, I'm just so ready for it.

Photo Credit: Diwang Valdez

3-boosie-counting-money-diwang-valdez

"Black Heaven" featuring J. Cole and Keyshia Cole

Producer: Kenoe



Kenoe: I pulled up a beat for Boosie when we were working in New Orleans and he liked the beat but he just rapped a verse and he stopped and the last thing he said was "Black Heaven." I was like, "That's it! This record is gonna be big, watch what I tell you." He wasn't really feelin' me at the time. [Laughs] So I was like, Let me get somebody on the hook and we thought about Keyshia Cole. I ended up getting the record over to them and Keyshia knocked the hook out. I sent it back to Boosie and I still was working on the beat a little bit to get it right. And then when he heard that he was more into it then.

And then we went to L.A. and I was like, "We gotta get somebody on this thing." I was thinking about Nas, J. Cole. We reached out to Nas' people and couldn't get that going, but one of my guys runs thick with Cole's camp. I reached out to Cole and Cole came by the studio. Originally we was gonna get Cole on another record, but when he heard "Black Heaven" he loved the beat so much that he just rapped the whole song to just the beat. And then he was like, "I'm sorry man, I was just feelin' it." Then with label politics we almost didn't get it cleared and it almost didn't make it on there, but we got it worked out.

Courtesy Atlantic Records

boosie-chain-atlantic-records

"Spoil You" featuring T.I.

Producer: Kenoe



Kenoe: Pretty much, him coming home he had fell out of touch with a bunch of people. Like T.I., I had been working on T.I.'s album Paper Trail and me and T.I. had been doing a lot of records together. So when we were in the studio I called T.I. immediately because we had this song on Paper Trail called "Jet Fuel." We had sent it to Wiz Khalifa, we sent it to a few people, Wiz did a verse on it but I just felt like Boosie would have sounded better on the song. I asked Tip how he felt about it and he agreed, so I got Boosie to knock the verse out, then I put him on the phone with T.I. I had another record for Boosie's album called "Spoil You" and I told Boosie it'd be a great idea for T.I. to be on "Spoil You." So I sent that record to T.I., he knocked that out and that's how we ended up having that record on the album.

It's musical, it's beautiful, it has a live bass and live lead guitar with some 808 in it and it's just a feel-good record with Boosie and T.I. talking to the ladies. You know, every album has a girl record on it, but we didn't want to make one of those records that don't really fit Boosie without him losing his street cred. So he had the record "Spoil You" where he says, "I know you got wants/I know you got needs/But tell me girl, do you know what rubber bands means?/Let me spoil you," basically come over here and be with me and I'll treat you right, you know?

Getty Images

BET AWARDS '14 - Radio Broadcast Center - Day 1

"Kicking Clouds"

Producer: Kenoe



Kenoe: "Kicking Clouds" is an old record, man. Me and Black Metaphor, when Jay Z had his last album, we were up there in the studio to work with Jay Z, we were up in New York making beats. And it just so happened that I made the "Kicking Clouds" beat in one of those sessions; this was like two years ago. And so in that session I had a writer come through to just get on the hook, a writer named Asia, and she wrote the hook on there and sung it as well. I had showed the beat to a few people and was getting a mixed response on it. And so finally one day I was near Boosie's house in New Orleans and we was just vibin' and outside of his house I was playing beats. And when I heard that one for him with the hook, he just grabbed his pad immediately and wrote to it. I like that record, I like it a lot.

A lot of people are gonna like it because the music is different than what you would traditionally get from Boosie. I don't think he's ever had the type of production I brought to the table. He had good production, but this is just versatile. None of it sounds the same. He never had these types of features on one album; he's known for just having his camp on his albums. I just think it's a different approach from what you would get from a Boosie album, traditionally.