(While I'm off on my vision quest, Michael submits his relatively short and surprisingly to-the-point thoughts on Lil B the Based God's first officially released album, I'm Gay (I'm Happy), a project with an intentionally polarizing title that has received its fair share of accolades, even though the artist's fanbase isn't exactly as large as the Interweb would like you to believe. Leave your thoughts for Michael below.)
True story: about this time last year, I fucking hated Lil B. But as my friends became completely enamored by the man and his popularity gradually began to rise, I couldn’t help but give him a second chance. And guess what? Nothing changed. But then, late one night, as I sipped on a cup of black tea, I found myself on YouTube.
“What should I watch next?” I said quietly to myself; I looked at my teacup for a response.
After giving me a blank stare, my porcelain friend finally gave a short answer. “Lil B.”
My eyes widened. “I wouldn’t dare!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, tears starting to stream down my face.
“Don’t give me that!” My teacup’s eyes pierced my own. He cleared his throat and spoke softly. “Just do it. Trust me.”
I wiped the tears away and exhaled deeply. I typed in Lil B's name and searched through numerous videos. I stumbled upon one for a song entitled “The Age of Information.”
“Huh, interesting title,” I muttered beneath my breath. From the corner of eye, I could see my teacup nod in triumph.
Video fully buffered, I braced myself for the worst. Images of pain and eternal suffering suddenly clouded my head. But then the music began. A beautiful beat graced my ears, followed by some surprisingly deep lyrics from a mellowed out Brandon McCartney. “By jove!” I whispered to myself. “Why, this is incredible!”
“It is, isn’t it?” My teacup flashed me a menacing smile.
I slowly nodded, my mouth agape…
Ever since that surreal experience, which really did happen, I have been a staunch supporter of the former “The Pack” member Lil B. I have since shed my initial ignorance: I now feel the man to be an absolute genius. All of that “Swag, Swag!” and Gucci Mane-flavored noise that most people are aware of is a goddamn front (he even admitted as much in an interview). Beneath the rugged, mainstream coating of Lil B lies an extremely intelligent young man. Songs such as “Wonton Soup”, “Charlie Sheen”, and “Like a Martian” serve as the appetizers for the main course, which consists of entrees such as “Real Life”, “Cold War”, and “Cocaine Killer” (which are all great tracks and should be checked out).
By releasing hundreds of songs for free on the Internet (mostly through his MySpace page), Brandon has amassed a humongous following and has also gained the attention of the hip hop genre as a whole. This strategy has also created a smaller subsection of fans, those who recognize the sheer genius of the duality of this rising star. I would place myself into the latter group. Yeah, I can’t believe it, either.
Things seemed to be going just as planned for Lil B: bitches were being fucked, concerts were being arranged, and the man was simply living a life that was almost too good to be true. But then, in mid-April, all hell broke loose, as Lil B announced that his upcoming album, his first to actually be sold nationwide (his previous projects were all given away as free downloads, thus adding to the myth) would be entitled I'm Gay (although he seemed to forget about the accompanying apostrophe).
The media swarmed towards this story, because being gay is, apparently, a big deal. Who knew? I vividly remember an article on NPR entitled “Can Hip-Hop Handle I’m Gay?”, which made me laugh quite a great deal, because as I was reading the title, every single instance of hearing the word “faggot” in a rap song instantly popped into my head.
Lil B caught a lot of flak for this career choice, and even wound up receiving homophobic death threats, among other jolly concerns. Lil B was quick to explain that he meant to blur the line between the actual definition of the word “gay” and being homosexual, a bold move from a man operating within the fucking hip hop industry. And then he added the parenthetical thought (I'm Happy) to the official album title, thereby diluting any potential controversy right from the get-go.
But I assume that most of you already know the rest of the details behind this story, so I’m not going to waste any more time explaining it. Now let’s get to reviewin’!
1. TRAPPED IN PRISON
The beat to this song is fucking epic. I don’t even care that the word is disgustingly overused nowadays: it is the perfect word for this song. The beautiful guitar sample weaves in and out between Lil B’s bars, creating a truly moving listening experience. This is the Lil B that many of you have never heard before: the one that’s not fucking everybody’s bitch and shouting “Swag!” at completely unnecessary times. This is the Lil B that delivers subtle and incredibly powerful social commentary, so if this isn’t your thing, then you may want to look elsewhere. Also important to note is that Lil B does not have “flow” in its strictest sense; O.C. or Prince Po Lil B most certainly is not. You should probably get used to it.
2. OPEN THUNDER ETERNAL SLUMBER
Being from Northern California, I appreciated Lil B’s shout outs to various cities around the area. I also liked how Lil B complains about sports stars getting paid too much while doctors get paid too little. He utilizes a more traditional flow on this song than compared to “Trapped In Prison,” so this track may appeal to the more conservative hip hop audience a bit more. This song was alright.
“I must be real wack. How’d I get this car?” More real shit from Brandon McCartney, the clever satirist and undercover emcee. Every time Brandon seems to be trailing off into generic rapper hell, he turns back around to deliver more lines with passionate sincerity. Lil B does say “Swag!” on this song, but he saves it for the end, so by the time you get really pissed off, the next song will start. What an oddity this man is.
4. UNCHAIN ME
I envision Lil B growing wings and ascending to Heaven when I listen to this song. What, you don’t? Well, fuck you! An almost cosmic beat makes this song really interesting to listen to.
5. NEVA STOP ME
The beat is adequate, but the sound bites that Lil B included border on absolute pretentiousness. This song was meh. At least it was short.
6. GON BE OKAY
The mere fact that Lil B sampled Joe Hisaishi's “One Summer’s Day”, which was used in the fantastic movie Spirited Away, automatically makes this song amazing in my book. He spits the same introspective shit he has been doing on the entirety of I'm Gay (I'm Happy) thus far, but the accompanying piano makes you not really care all that much. This song will just make you smile. Nice!
7. THE WILDERNESS
I thought the beat sounded a bit tacky, especially since it is accompanied with a sound bite of our host praising his “Based” lifestyle. This song was pretty bland, although Lil B says some interesting things. Next!
8. I HATE MYSELF
Wow, what a title. This is sort of a melodramatic mess, but since our host actually realizes that he loves himself about four minutes into the song and doesn’t opt out for the cheap “I hate myself because I live in the hood” excuse, I'll give him a pass. This isn't the best song on here (again, it’s way too melodramatic), but it is in no way a bad track.
9. GET IT WHILE IT'S GOOD
Although this was pleasant enough, Brandon’s singing towards the end was unnecessary and nearly ruined the entire piece for me.
10. I SEEN THE LIGHT
Has a very 9th Wonder-esque feel to it: very soulful and upbeat. Another win for Brandon.
11. MY LAST CHANCE
Once again, our host presents some moral dilemmas for his audience to ponder, all over a truly great instrumental. The music behind Lil B does a great job of amplifying the regrets and fears that Brandon shares with his listeners.
12. ONE TIME (REMIX)
A rich saxophone sample laid over a great breakbeat wraps up this album in a most exquisite fashion. This is by far the most energetic song on the album, and it is fucking good. It sort of mutates into nothing more than an outro about halfway through, but this was still a great way to end the album.
THE LAST WORD: Lil B's I'm Gay (I'm Happy) is one of the best albums that I’ve heard in years. Holy shit, did I really just write that? Nearly every song has great production, and Lil B is… well, Lil B! I will admit that I was disappointed with him not rapping like he did on the aforementioned “The Age Of Information” on this album, but those feelings dissipated after a few additional spins. Lil B actually posted the download link to I'm Gay (I'm Happy) a day after he released it on iTunes for sale, as a way of thanking his fans who may not have had the extra cash to spend, but I would still recommend that you actually purchase this album. Yes, that's right, I just told you to buy a Lil B album.
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your notes below.)