“Has Hip Hop really come to this?” Whilst it may not be a direct quote taken from anyone, it certainly expresses the opinion of many, many fans who have been abhorred as to what has surfaced in recent years. For all the Dougie-ing, blasphemic and skinny jeans wearing hipsters which have been vehemently argued against, the emergence of Berkeley, California’s Lil B has probably caused the biggest outcries. Creating dozens upon dozens of material composed of ridiculously simplistic rhyme schemes on bizarre topics, the professed ‘Based God’ took it a step further by announcing that the name of his album would be entitled I’m Gay … Well, the less said about the controversial album title, the better, the real test now is whether or not the XXL Freshman’s ‘content’ can fan the flames of disdain from the outside public.
Whilst his previous ‘hits’ such as ‘Miley Cyrus’, ‘Wonton Soup’, and ‘Look Like Jesus’ don’t make an appearance, Lil B offers something different this time around. Totally different. Take for starters the opening track ‘Trapped In Prison’, is an intriguing social commentary piece which is splendidly produced. B’s exploration of poverty, wealth and aspiration is surprisingly good. In what sounds like a total transformation, the artist, who once proclaimed he was Mel Gibson, Elen Degeneres and Charlie Sheen has seemingly done some serious growing up (or alternatively, the spoof like songs were audacious publicity stunts).
As a lyricist, I feel his style still lacks the full conviction – occasionally pausing as if he’s thinking too hard of a line as well as rhymes not flowing well. But content wise, the Cali native has matured. The poetically named ‘Open Thunder Eternal Slumber’ explores the rapper’s disillusionment with religion, justice and the social system, ‘Unchain Me’ is haunted by Lil B’s emotion torn verses and sweeping production whilst ‘The Wilderness’ provides a message of empowering one’s self whilst being broken up by audio of the Based God offering words of wisdom.
Arguably the most powerful track (and unsurprisingly the longest) on the debut album is the strikingly titled ‘I Hate Myself.’ A five minute exploration into black identity, Lil B depicts issues of racial profiling, stereotyping and female identity within the community in his own unique manner, but still exerts much power and feeling as if a rapper more recognised as ‘conscious’ were delivering the message.
What really pushes the album is the exceptional production, which uses sublime Soul samples to really back up B’s ‘interesting’ way of rhyming. With no real signs of bragging, misogyny or more importantly, homophobia, the Based God’s 12 track debut is incredibly more enlightening than anyone could expect. ‘I Seen The Light’ poses direct questions at the fakers whereas the saxophone led ‘1 Time Remix’ closes an extraordinary listening experience with a jazzier production, with the Based God giving shout outs to all.
As far away from the album many expected, Lil B has totally flipped almost every perception of what his album was expected to sound like. Out go the comical and silly sides to the rapper and in come much thoughts and concepts which, for his lack of lyrical slickness, are executed well. Whether it was this side of Lil B which has made the likes of Just Blaze, Jay Electronica and more support him is unclear but what is for sure is that early perceptions of him, topped off by an album title which the often debated ‘homophobic Hip Hop crowd would disapprove of, may strike a critical blow in its reception. But for reviewers, DJs and others who will find themselves listening to the project for work purposes will find an in-depth, emotion filled album which for all its faults can still be applauded.
*UPDATE* Lil B took to his twitter last night and gave a FREE download link to his album to all his fans that couldn’t afford to pay for the album.
“CUZ I LOVE YOU IF YOU DONT HAVE 10 DOLLERS TO BUY MY NEW PROJECT HERE IT GOES FOR FREE”- Lil B
Thank you BasedGod!