Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Boosie Blues Cafe, the first blues album from rapper Boosie Badazz.
It’s been the subject of so many Intro to American Music 101 midterm essays that it’s something we take for granted: Rap music is the evolved version of the blues, a musical form invented by disenfranchised Black musicians who made songs that cataloged the ways the world is unfair to people, men and women are unfair to each other and people are unfair to themselves. What is “99 Problems” but a rewrite of Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More?” So bear that in mind when I say this: the Baton Rouge legend Boosie Badazz made a blues album, and it actually rules.
Boosie announced the album, Boosie Blues Cafe, just a couple days before Thanksgiving, and dropped it in the midst of everyone’s meals. One of the delights of this past weekend was watching my Twitter feed realize the album 1. Actually was a blues album and 2. It was lowkey amazing. On the surface level, most of Boosie’s discography, going at least back to when he got out of jail in 2014, has all been blues albums in their themes. He chronicled life in Angola — one of the most brutal prisons in America — he rapped about being diagnosed with kidney cancer and diabetes, he rapped about taking care of his eight kids, and trying to get back to a regular life. He was basically making updated versions of Leadbelly albums, so it stands to reason that he’d eventually find his way to the blues. And he does on Boosie Blues Cafe, as Boosie croons over bluesy, guitar-filled beats about rappers that have died, indulging too much in sin and, in a standout song, about how there’s always a devil in his bedroom, ready to coax him into doing his worst.
Boosie’s always been more emotionally resonant, but the highlight of Boosie Blues Cafe is listening to him tear himself open on songs like “Devil in My Bedroom,” “Rap Star Heaven,” “That’s Mama” and “Love You Family.” But it’s not all heart-rippers. Boosie’s blues bears a lot in common with modern day Bobby Rush, a musician who’s lived nine lives (or more) and recorded for something like 70 years and still hasn’t stopped making songs about getting into jams with women. “Miss Money” and “Too Much For You” fit right in with the canon of horndog blues classics.
I’m not sure if Boosie is going to make another blues album, or if this is even the best blues album out this year. But I do know that I spent this long holiday weekend thankful that I had this delirious and risk-taking album to listen to.
Andrew Winistorfer is Vinyl Me, Please’s Classics and Country Director, and an editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection and The Best Record Stores In The United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 20 VMP releases, and co-produced Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.