Lil B: I’m Gay (I’m Happy) Review
What makes Lil B interesting? The bulk of the story so far hasn’t had much to do with his music, or at least not the quality of it. He’s a member of Berkeley crew The Pack who scored a hit with “Vans” in 2006. You can go back and listen to his verse on the track (he takes the first one), and you won’t hear anything that sounds like the beginnings of a strange figure in hip hop. But that was before days worth of freestyles that range from unique-and-brilliant to unique-and-awful, endless social media promotion, a great nickname (“Based God”), developing a flow on the mic that he could probably get a patent on, and announcing that his album would be titled “I’m Gay.” Now Lil B is something that hip hop really hasn’t seen before. A true eccentric who’s getting a massive amount of attention. If his output up to this point wasn’t so difficult to listen to and keep track of, he’d really be getting somewhere. And that’s what makes I’m Gay so intriguing. It’s everything he hasn’t been until now. It’s a short and to-the-point hip hop album that’s really quite accessible, with verses that sound like he had an idea of what he was going to say before opening his mouth. It’s almost shocking how normal it is. But it really, really works.
I find it very easy to wonder where “Game” would rank on Supreme Clientele had Ghostface gotten ahold of the beat in 1999. Probably quite high. This is just not a thought anyone would have associated with the Lil B listening experience just a month ago. Actually there are several moments on I’m Gay that sound much more like late 90’s/ early 00’s East Coast rap than anything Bay Area related. Even some of the verses sound like G Unit’s Lloyd Banks could have ghostwritten them. “Unchain Me” sounds like the track Pusha-T needs to jumpstart his post-Clipse career. But what makes it so memorable is that it does so with a brilliant sample of Gerard McMann’s “Cry Little Sister,” the theme from 1987’s finest film, “The Lost Boys” (which was robbed of Best Picture by “Rain Man”). But that isn’t to say that Lil B’s flow leaves me wishing for some other rapper. He proves here that he’s completely capable of writing a verse that demands attention beyond just making his audience wonder what he’s doing. He’s a genuine rap talent, not just an internet gimmick. If you’ve ever heard Rain In England (my best effort at a description – “Rebecca Black as a rapping male reimagines Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music as a new age hip hop album”), you might not have seen that coming. But instead of trying to capitalize on expectations that he’d do something far-out and peculiar on I’m Gay, he followed the blueprint of Illmatic. That’s something to thank Based God for.