In a way that’s hard not to relate to the hullabaloo raised over George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic’s P-Funk doctrine three decades or so ago, Brandon McCartney’s (or Lil B‘s) based “philosophy” is being met with sniggers and snooty derision by befuddled pressmen, YouTube trolls, and everyone in between — and with good reason. Splitting time between rapping about a ludicrous range of celebrities and internet memes and absurd stream-of-consciousness poetry over ambient synth music, the man hasn’t given anyone much room to take him seriously.
The point is, though (and, yes, there certainly is one), that B and his music aren’t for everyone. While it doesn’t completely quash the negative reviews (which are surprisingly sparse this time) and while it may well discount anything this review could say, the key point in B’s music is the audience it’s aimed at. Yeah, anyone can have a laugh with the guy as he swags himself out, comparing himself favorably to Ellen DeGeneres, or try their hand at his patented cooking dance, but most people couldn’t be expected to blink twice at the urban strife and social decay Lil B finds himself fixated on this time out. Suddenly, he’s aiming to be taken much more seriously. Yeah, he hinted at this sort of consciousness on a couple of recordings in the past, but this is full-fledged social commentary. (And he only says swag once!)
Case in point, the record’s most moving track, “I Hate Myself”. The track opens with a distorted sample of the Goo Goo Dolls’ schmaltzy ’90s hit “Iris”, which is about as far as most indie blogs would care to mention the track. The lyrics, though, while delivered in B’s typically boorish flow, tell the tale of a deeply troubled young man full of self-loathing for the caricature he appears to be in the eyes of random passersby, policemen, and even himself.
No, he’s not as poignant, eloquent, or grandiloquent as perennial rap favorites Jay-Z and Kanye West, but there’s little argument about lines like the one Lupe Fiasco highlighted as I’m Gay‘s emotional crux in a great editiorial about the record: “The hood is a lie/Man, you better wake up before you’re dead or surprised.” It’s a line that’s meant to make waves and start conversations but would likely sail right over the head of anyone who isn’t invested in the struggle Lil B has suddenly decided to make the focal point of his music. And perhaps that’s the point. If his complete disregard for rap’s bloated status quo says anything, it’s that he, well, completely disregards said status quo and will continue to do whatever it is he feels like doing, even if that’s declaring Justin Bieber to be his cousin while attempting to lead a revolution in American urban culture. If this is the first taste of that, he’s off to a shockingly good start.
Oh, I almost forgot: thank you Based God.