Lil B has been little more than a punchline to most people who are not ardent followers of The Based God. The young rapper has released hundreds of homemade YouTube videos of himself (sometimes rapping well, sometimes barely rapping), had several MySpace pages at one time, and been a point of contention in the larger conversation of hip hop.
Some artists like Jay Electronica, Tony Yayo, and 9th Wonder openly supported the 21-year-old. Then he announced at Coachella that his newest project was going to be titled I’m Gay. Blank stares and laughs followed. Some began to argue he was actually being quite revolutionary in naming his album that in the hyper-homophobic world of hip hop, and then others tempered the enthusiasm with cynicism, wondering if it was done instead to cause controversy or in attempts to turn Lil B into the rap Lady Gaga. No one seemed to expect much musically from the project.
This past Wednesday, Lil B dropped I’m Gay digitally, now with a subtitle of (I’m Happy), with no warning. To put it simply, it completely exceeded any expectations this humble critic had for it. The production is pretty damn good, and Lil B is rapping like he actually wants to rap well!
His free flow, stream of consciousness approach is still present, but it’s much more focused. He deals with the same kind of overarching — and at times vague — themes of self-love, the scrutiny a public black figure attracts, and his personal struggles as a young man trying to maintain his own personal integrity. There are no credits with the album yet, so we don’t know who made most of the beats. Internet clamor credits Clams Casino and 9th Wonder for the bulk of it, but regardless of who made them, they sound like the best examples of Lil B’s style of production. Psychedelic ambient sounds, cheesy synths, Goo Goo Dolls samples, and lots of hi-hats done well.
There is much to say and unpack and examine from this album, its presentation and content. For now, just take some time to let one of the stand out cuts from it sink in, and make up your mind for yourself.