Words Benjamin Meadows-Ingram

Life really does work in mysterious way. Just look at Lil Boosie. With his buzz at its highest point, the self-coined Bad Ass was hit with a two-year prison sentence this past September. Can his career survive while he's behind bars? You better believe it.

Torrence “Lil Boosie” Hatch is going to jail. And while it would be a stretch to say that he’s happy about it, he’s doing everything he can to stay positive. “They say every real G gotta do time one day,” he says in mid-September, sitting on the edge of a double bed in a room at an Atlanta Hilton. “So I’ma be a G and go on and take a year and let that [propel] me into the biggest star I ever was.”

It’s fast approaching 1 a.m. on this Sunday night in ATL, and halfway across town, the folks at Club Ritz are growing restless, waiting for Boosie to show. In less than two days, his fourth solo album, SuperBad: The Return of Boosie Bad Azz, will finally be released, breaking a nearly three-year drought since his last solo effort, 2006’s Bad Azz (his first with national distribution, through Trill Entertainment’s deal with Asylum/Warner), became a certified classic—at least in the Southeast—while moving 273,000 units. In Baton Rouge, specifically, his popularity has grown so much that local barbershops even offer a “Boosie fade” upon request.

For Boosie, the three-year break has been brutal. In interviews, he openly criticizes Trill and Asylum for not pushing more Boosie-specific product. He calls the collective Lil Boosie, Webbie, Foxx and Trill Fam project Trill Entertainment Presents: Survival of the Fittest—released in May 2007 and featuring the hit “Wipe Me Down (Remix)”— “a bad decision,” and he suggests that if he had been able to crank out three or four solo albums in the interim, instead of sitting on ice, everyone would be considerably more paid. “I’d be getting 50 to 60 grand right now a show,” he says. “I’d have went international by now. I’d have done songs with Rihanna and people like that. It was just a big mistake.”

Trill Entertainment CEO Marcus “Turk” Roach sees it differently. “Artists sometimes have the tendency to get comfortable with their accomplishments. There was a time when Boosie wasn’t recording, then when he was the material wasn’t up to par. We needed a quality product for SuperBad. Once we got that, a release date was set.”

Which brings us to the present. The album’s lead single, “Better Believe It,” featuring Young Jeezy, is hitting all the right notes with Boosie’s core—the Southern streets—and, in his mind, the state of Louisiana is handing him a golden marketing opportunity. “I’m not taking it like it’s killing my career,” he says of his impending jail time. “I’m taking it like it’s a boost to my career. Yeah, jail make everybody fuckin’ hot.”

Nine days later, the news broke nationwide. “Lil Boosie Gets Two-Year Prison Sentence for Drug Possession,” read the headline on mtv.com on Wednesday, September 23, the day after Boosie pleaded guilty in Louisiana State District Court to a third-offense marijuana-possession charge.

It could have been a lot worse. By entering the guilty plea, Boosie was able to avoid trial, where he would have faced the marijuana charge as well as a charge of possession of a firearm with a controlled dangerous substance, all stemming from a traffic stop last October during which East Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputies discovered a bag of marijuana, a rolled blunt and a gun in Boosie’s white Dodge Challenger. The gun charge alone carries a mandatory five-year term upon conviction.