05.07.2011, Words by Charlie Jones

I'm Gay

It’s hard to take a rapper totally seriously when he’s chanting “Bitches suck my dick because I look like Jesus”, or releasing album covers with his face on Elizabeth I’s body. But Bay Area-rapper and internet music godhead Lil B’s new album, ‘I’m Gay (I’m Happy)’, is the most earnest rap record released in an age, a bunch of sketched out thoughts about things like freedom and acceptance.

Childlike in its wording, on ‘I’m Gay’, ‘People do bad things’ and ‘There’s a lot of hate in the world’ and ‘you should ‘stay away from that stuff’. With Wiz Khalifa, he shares a disinterest in either playing the badman or overworking a line, a refreshing quality he brings in bucketloads to ‘I’m Gay’. Despite the noticeable lack of ludicrousness, this aching sincerity isn’t actually that new a venture for Lil B. Because all that junk, that hilarious junk, like dressing up as a chef or creating a whole new bunch of superlatives like #rare and #Based, was never tongue in cheek.

It’s not just phrasing of a kid, it’s the imagination of one: freewheeling, oblivious, in theory beautiful, kind of annoying in practice. ‘I’m Gay’s sanctimonious “Be free” lines get a bit tiring after a while, especially because his trademark drawl never pulls lyrics like “The world say I’m bad because of my colour but they don’t get the fact that I love you” above a mutter. The music risks operating with a similar dull directness. Less the woozy inversions or bedroom epic that characterised his best beats, it leans towards the unctuous on tracks like ‘I Seen That Light’. And as far as the title needs to be discussed, it’s telling that B chooses not to take the bull by the horns and discuss homophobia lyrically, preferring the relative safety of loose liberation theology like “Sorry to all the innocent in prison / You get a second choice when you’re freer in heaven”.

There are some great moments, though – the Clams Casino-produced Unchain Me, the woozy gospel of I Hate Myself, the rough rage of Open Thunder Eternal Slumber and the revealing desire of The Wilderness for the wild are all worthy additions to the every-growing library of “Reasons why one should be profoundly glad Lil B exists”.

Lil B is not exactly an album musician. He’s closer to that breed of what you could call “all over the place artists”, from James Franco to James Ferraro, whose appeal rests only partly on the material quality of their output. So, it should be expected that this album doesn’t hang together, or keep the attention. Rather it’s a set of grasps, memes, sketches and quick thoughts around the idea of freedom. Some of these work, some don’t, but they combine to make a whole that, while you probably won’t jam more than three or four times through, you’re still glad exists.


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