Over 30 classic Lil B mixtapes became available on Spotify this month. The first question anyone, myself included, ever asks about Lil B’s music is: “Do you think he’s serious?” The second question follows: “Is it good?” The answer to these questions, is both yes and no. If you want to asses the man on his merit––a man with songs such as “I Am The Ocean,” “Im Miley Cirus” (spelling preserved) and “Woo Woo Swag”––then the answer is, of course, these songs are entirely serious and entirely good. However, I’m inclined to explain why I would also respond to these questions with a no.
I, like many other white kids who were looking for hip-hop study music in high school, discovered Lil B through his producer Clams Casino. Clams Casino is a great musician; his debut album, “32 levels,” which features Lil B, is fantastic and I highly recommend it. The instrumentals are moody and spacy, but with enough happening that the tracks never get boring. Eventually, I listened to the tracks themselves with Lil B actually rapping over them.
But dear God, are some of them bad. The track “Real Shit from a Real Ni***” (spelling preserved) is grating, although the production is immaculate. “Feel like I drunk water/From the holy water” is paired with lines like “we got beef like taco meat,” and the combination just doesn’t fit over the ethereal beat from Clams. At least at first. I’m not saying that any one song of Lil B’s is particularly groundbreaking, but rather, there’s a quality about tracks such as these that feels unique. It isn’t good, but it’s not entirely bad either. It’s like watching a bad cheesy movie; think “Equilibrium,” starring Christian Bale. This movie, as with Clams’ music, is certainly poorly done, but there’s a supreme earnestness to it that elevates it above and way beyond what’s actually in the source text.
Another classic example of an unpleasant track from Lil B is the song “I’m God.” If you made it through life only hearing Clams’ heavenly instrumental beats, you’ve lived a good one. Lil B sounds fairly awful over this beat––at least on first listen. His voice drowns out everything, and lines like “Sorry for the curses/Fuck that, curse mode” are so hilariously cheesy that most people rightfully leave Lil B behind for Clams. And his tone! I’ve never heard someone sing with a voice like sandpaper and a nasal cavity that is entirely clogged, but that’s what Lil B sounds like over this track.
After listening to mixtape after mixtape of Lil B’s work, I have to say, the only way to describe this music is: It’s terrible––and it’s good. There’s a tension here, and despite how odd or trashy some of this music can get, it is never boring. Plus, it’s a fact that popular, modern-day hip hop owes a debt to Lil B.
Two mixtapes that kick off this high streak are the two “flame” ones: the “Red Flame Mixtape” and the “Blue Flame Mixtape.” These are good microcosms of Lil B’s mixtape style. That is, these 30 plus–song tapes have a couple of joke songs and a couple of serious songs, and then, filling up the majority of the album, are what I call beat showcase tracks.
One thing that Lil B excels at, I have realized after listening to him for a while, is seamlessly blending in to the beat of a track. Tracks like “The Trap,” “New Orleans Freestyle” and “Shoot a Gun” all feature Lil B but he just sounds like a voice. That is, his bars on here are so meaningless (mainly consisting of humble brags and truly random rhymes) that all Lil B eventually becomes is just a voice over a track. He’ll throw in something funny occasionally: “No one ever told me how to do taxes on TV,” he says on “The Trap,” but most times his lyrical content is very close to meaningless.
I call this both meaningless and modern because I’m also describing Young Thug’s music. Young Thug almost rides the same type of wave as Lil B, and I’m not the only one to make this comparison.
I say “almost” because there are some differences. For instance, Young Thug’s hype still comes from a pretty wild debut album that pulled heavily from Lil Wayne. Young Thug never cursed out an NBA player, but that’s a matter for another review. For all the hype behind Thugger, he’s never been called a god, or labelled himself a god, as frequently as Lil B, whose name on Twitter is [at]LILBTHEBASEDGOD.
That’s the other part of these mixtapes that I haven’t talked about much yet: Lil B, if you couldn’t already tell, is obsessed with calling himself a god. There’s a mixtape called “God’s Father” that’s one of the better ones he’s released, and his best song is the awful one I mentioned earlier called “I’m God.”
I had a hard time listening to Lil B’s mixtapes in their entirety, partly because of the length, partly just because the songs on them aren’t the easiest to listen to. Still, it would be wrong for me to just say that they make your ears bleed, because there is something here that keeps drawing me back to them.
The mixtape with “I’m God” on it is called “6 Kiss,” and it was probably my favorite of the bunch. It’s an hour and 30 minutes long, and I have never been able to finish it in one sitting. This mixtape probably has the largest number of high-quality songs on a Lil B project. “Beat the Odds,” “Based” and “What You Doin’” have all been songs I have continually listened to since I got into Lil B way back when. Yet the obvious song that reigns supreme over all the rest is “I’m God.”
I talked about this song earlier, and I could easily rave about it for, like, 100 more pages. The beat is immaculate; if you don’t vibe with Lil B’s vocals, just please listen to the instrumental. The instrumental alone is a classic: influential and visionary. But then, the Lil B version is just as impressive in my book.
I’ve talked a lot of smack about the Based God in this review, but I’m a huge fan of this track, and I think that it represents Lil B’s style in microcosm. I can listen to this song on repeat for hours, and I can listen to Lil B on repeat for hours in general. This mixtape re-release is an absolute gold mine for hip-hop that, while not stellar by any stretch, is still classic for all the work it has done for the genre. Even if you don’t take anything else away from this review, just go and listen to “I’m God,” and then go and listen to it again, and again and again.