TAMPA -- What do you do when you finish a five-year stretch in the Louisiana State Penitentiary? If you’re rapper Torrence “Lil Boosie” Hatch, you unleash new music, work on a book and movie, create a clothing line and go on tour while your album gets made.
Thousands came Friday night to the Forum to celebrate the end of the “Free Boosie” movement, as well as to hear the opening acts, hip hop singer August Alsina and rapper Mario “Yo Gotti” Mims.
Alsina played tracks from his 2012 mixtape “The Product” as well as from his debut studio album “Testimony,” which was released in April. His single “Make It Home,” recorded with Jeezy, grabbed the audience. With more than 4 million YouTube views, the smoky, smooth vocals set a mood in the auditorium despite the lyrics sung from the perspective of a gang banger who tells his woman his last wishes in case he doesn’t survive the night.
His flowing style was a contrast to the blunt-force rhymes of Yo Gotti, who pumped the crowd with his single with Homie Quan, “I Know.” Prowling the stage in white jeans, black T-shirt and two chunky, iced-out Cuban link gold chains, every gritty lyric he delivered told the story of a man doing what he has to do to survive. By the end of his 60-minute set, Gotti turned the stage into an over-strobed club, complete with dancers teetering on stratospheric heels and skin-tight outfits.
But it was Boosie the crowd came to see. You could almost feel the pent-up demand from his time away serving a 52-month sentence for a drug conviction and probation violation. His latest song, “Heart of a Lion,” is a declaration of toughness about who he is, what he saw, how he survived and how he stands tall, even at only 5-foot-7.
Draped in gold chains, Boosie walked the stage like an angry street prince eager to take his place on the throne.
If he ever worried about losing his fan base in prison, the audience’s frenzied energy Friday night and their syllable-by-syllable echoing of his lyrics on “Betrayed” showed they were happy to wait for his return.