Lil Boosie Baltimore Arena

The crowd outside Lil Boosie's Baltimore Arena show. (Keem Griffey / August 18, 2014)

Before Lil Boosie started his almost five-year prison sentence in November 2009, the Baton Rouge rapper and Atlanta trap MC Gucci Mane were, by far, the most adored rappers in inner-city Baltimore. Gucci's appeal was an easy code to crack: flamboyant and innovative street rap that gave no fucks about mainstream appeal; it was music you rode to, got high to, and laughed about with your friends whenever he came out with a new, ridiculous ad lib. Boosie, on the other hand, was subtler. He struck a chord in the soul of Baltimore City. Save for a few tracks that have been able to penetrate rap radio, Boosie's appeal is almost exclusively from his underground catalogue—one that's filled with elaborate stories of hardship and being the underdog (which Brandon Soderberg touched on last week). Fittingly, those weighted songs are what Baltimoreans connected to the most at the Baltimore Arena this past weekend.

Following one of Baltimore's most popular up-and-comers, Lor Scoota, and a random one-song performance by Master P (so random), Lil Boosie ran up the stage steps, letting out squeaky screams of the opening lines from 'Smoking On Purple.' The crowd exploded as if it were his homecoming, reciting each song lyric in-sync and dancing along. It was a rare, yet beautiful moment, prompting Boosie to say, "Baltimore I love the fuck outta y'all" after each song ended. That same energy lasted throughout Boosie's entire set. His strangely touching tribute to women he's hooked up with on the road, 'Distant Lover,' created a wavy pool effect as everybody swayed from side-to-side with their arms outstretched, singing along. The accompanying dances to 'Wipe Me Down' and 'Zoom' saw the crowd give its best shot at collective choreography.

As fun as it was, Saturday's most sobering moment came as Boosie looked into the crowd and picked up his mic to acknowledge the chaos going on in Ferguson, Missouri. He yelled, "I know y'all been watching the news, right?!" In that moment, everybody in the crowd who knew Boosie's work well had looks of bottled-up anticipation. Such an introduction made it clear that he was going to perform the combative, yet necessary 'Fuck The Police,' a loose track that he released with Webbie in 2009. The hook, which goes: "Cities, FUCK 'EM! Narcotics, FUCK 'EM! Feds, FUCK 'EM! DA's, FUCK 'EM!" caused a vibration throughout the arena like no other song came close to achieving Saturday night. At that moment, Boosie's appeal came full circle; his calling card has never been how well he can rap but how well he conveys messages through detailed personal accounts and infectious energy. Yeah, some nerd rappers screaming "Fuck The (insert authority)" is pretty common at shows these days, but when a guy who served over four years in Louisiana State Penitentiary (America's largest maximum security prison) and has constantly revisited stories of harassment from police in his music declares it, well, it holds a lot more weight.