Outside of Louisana, Lil Boosie has never achieved the same level of fame as his once-incarcerated peers, Lil Wayne, Mystikal, T.I. and Gucci Mane. Only one of his tracks has ever cracked the Top 40 – 2007's "Wipe Me Down Remix," which is actually credited to the rapper Foxx, a labelmate of Boosie's on Trill Entertainment. But within the Bayou, and particularly in Baton Rouge, Boosie is an icon, emulated by both Catholic School preps and kids in the hood who rock a haircut known as the "Boosie Fade." The reason: his music strikes a street-hardened three-dimensionality rarely seen since Tupac Shakur. For every song about the murderous slums of Baton Rouge, there are moving paeans to Boosie's mother ("Mama Know Love"), rollicking dance songs ("Loose as a Goose"), and struggle anthems with universal themes ("Going Through Some Thangs.")
"Boosie is to Baton Rouge what Tupac was to California," says Ya Boy Earl, a popular DJ on the local radio station MAX 94.1 FM, and a highly influential figure in Baton Rouge rap. "Whether he's [rapping] about something negative or positive, everyone can relate to it. Everyone in town is talking about the trial. The news is probably getting ratings they didn't even get during Hurricane Katrina."
Prior to this trial, Boosie was locked up on charges of marijuana possession and possession of a firearm. And while at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, he was sentenced to an additional eight years for attempting to smuggle codeine and illegal contraband into prison. During the initial nine-hour-a-day sessions held last week, one excused juror after another proclaimed their absolute belief in Boosie's innocence or guilt. In an attempt to filter out bias for the Boyd murder trial, the jury selection process lasted five days.
The prosecution depicts Boosie as a cold-blooded killer, but among many Baton Rouge residents, he's also known for his philanthropy."When you think of Baton Rouge, the first name that comes to mind is Boosie. For the individuals going to work every day, the people still out there hustling in the streets, trying to make a living for their family, Boosie is the person who they most identify with," said Ashari J. Robinson, a budget analyst for the state of Lousiana. "But he's more than a rapper – he gives out turkeys on Thanksgiving, bikes on Easter and toys at Christmas. He'll write letters to children urging them to stay in school and not make the same mistakes he's made."
Not only does a substantial portion of the under-30 population know every word to Boosie's songs, but they know the street he grew up on, the shops he frequented and the make of the caravan of cars with which he used to cruise through town. In a city with no other national figures, save for maybe Bobby Jindal, Boosie is an ambassador of Baton Rouge rap – a beacon of pride for his admirers, and a pariah for his enemies.
Consequently, the streets of Baton Rouge radiate with talk of the trial, from the front pages of the city's newspaper, the Advocate, to clerks at the local Ramada Inn whose Instagram and Twitter feeds swell with updates. Inside the courtroom, the atmosphere is hyper-intense. Judge Michael Erwin has banned cell phones and all electronics under penalty of mandatory six-month incarceration. On Monday afternoon, a 21-year-old man named Dedrick Green was booked on felony counts of public intimidation and terrorizing for writing on Twitter, "I got a sniper rifle for Hillar Moore when he walk out the courthouse." Police deputies found him sitting inside the courtroom.
Outside of the 12-story glass bivouac on North Boulevard, speculation and hearsay abound. On the surrounding downtown streets and everywhere else, you will hear talk about dirty cops, Bible Belt bigotry, and blood vendettas. When locals are pressed for further explanation, the usual response is: "Welcome to Baton Rouge."
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