“The Hood is a lie.”
Recommended tracks: ‘I Hate Myself’, ‘Open Thunder Eternal Slumber’
It seems like it has been difficult to be on the internet for the past year or so without having heard Lil B, but for those who haven’t, here is a brief summary:
Lil B is a rapper (or is he?) who has made his name on the internet by ceaselessly producing music and constantly engaging his fan base; and despite MTV coverage, making the Fader front cover, working with Soulja Boy and Lil Wayne and tonnes more things, he has remained unsigned for a long time and recently signed a 3-album deal with an independent label (he is already 2 albums through). Lil B has many sides to his musical personality, from wide-eyed, woozy ‘Based‘ freestyles on youtube to party tracks about how he is every celebrity ever, and everything around and in-between.
‘I’m Gay’, an album suddenly announced to heavy controversy and released without warning, shows a side of Lil B more rooted in a traditional hip-hop aesthetic, and as a result has significantly more universal appeal than his countless other releases. In this album what you are getting is back-to-back verses about world issues, life and his philosophies, and with that ‘I’m Gay’ is almost definitely his most consistent record to date, and possibly the best introduction to his work.
This is not to say that the album is without Lil B’s uniqueness: beats that sample the likes of Slowdive (‘Open Thunder Eternal Slumber’), Barack Obama speech and Spirited Away (‘Gon Be Okay’), lyrics packed with sincerity with lines like “this thing called life, can I give it a hug?” and a little touch of his now-trademark out-of-tune singing make this very much an album with inimitable personality despite the well-explored trad rap format.
The album is pretty strong throughout, though it has a slight lull in the middle; ‘The Wilderness’ has a vaguely cheesy romance movie vibe and a couple forced rhymes here and there (“expensive / fences”). That said, immediately after that comes ‘I Hate Myself’, my personal album highlight and an outright rap epic, a six minute story of the world he has grown up in (“I hate myself for being taught the rules of the hood / which don’t matter, no respect and no love / they got jail for the real thugs”), set to a sample of Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls.
Put simply this is an album to check out even if you are only vaguely interested in rap, or even if you haven’t liked Lil B’s previous work. This is easily one of the best hip-hop records of the past few years, with super-creative, innovative beats and lyrics that are striking and simplistic on first listen, and which reveal more and more depth with every subsequent listen.