Lil B Lil BI’m Gay (I’m Happy)
When Lil B announced the release of “I’m Gay”, he threw open the often uncomfortable subject of homosexuality in rap; he also said it would be something completely different from his previous material. Nobody took much notice - or if they did, they didn't give any importance to Brandon McCartney's description of his new material. Everybody anticipated a record like “Angels Exodus”, an album following in the same vein as “6 Kiss” and “Rain In England” in a more or less orthodox way: based (a term Lil’ B coined, meaning “not being afraid to do what you wanna do. Being positive”. He terms himself as The Based God) rap, mountains of syrup and marihuana alongside impossible and marvellous samples from the Clams Casino factory.
And yes, you could say there are some tracks in his trademark style. In fact, two of Lil B's best based rap tracks are on this record. One is called “Unchain Me” - although to many, it won't be up to par, in spite of the Clams Casino beat. “I Hate Myself” however, is going to be a highlight of this man's career. A 100% melancholic Clams Casino beat - which was actually made by Keyboard Kid 206 (fans of the sound, listen to “BasedRain” and you'll hear how they follow in the Tri Angle kid's footsteps) - proves the perfect base for Lil B to expel his frustrations with remarks as cryptic as they are common (“I see myself in the mirror but I don’t see nothing”); coming clean, with himself and his audience, about the weaknesses of his media persona. The Based God goes all earthy and he shows us the dark side of the world he created. That's one of the strong points of “I’m Gay”: empathy and vulnerability. The subtitle “I’m Happy” is no more than an explanation of the album title (a marketing trick).
The other defining feature of this record is the style change Lil B mentioned whilst we were asking ourselves if he really was the first rapper to come out of the closet (publicly and officially). On “I’m Gay”, the based rap ends with the two aforementioned tracks; the rest is rap as we know it. Rap we would never have associated with the Bay Area: the stuff its detractors refer to, the stuff that is seen as the Holy Grail to old school headz, the cause of the motionless of part of the scene. References to the golden age of DJ Premier and Gang Starr (strings and brass instruments, alongside a couple of piano notes - like on “Game” or “Neva Gona Stop Me”), Nas ( “Trapped In Prison”) and RZA ( “Open Thunder Eternal Slumber”) are all over the production. It’s all well-made - without sounding like a never released album from 1998 - and with Lil B focussing more than ever on his lyrics. Don't get me wrong; he still trips over the rhymes, he continues to slack musically. But now those errors form part of an idiosyncrasy that is more mature in content, so they're less obvious. In other words, there is no trace of “swag” on the album, not an inkling of “cooking dance”.
As a cherry on the pleasant cake Mister McCartney has given us, he includes a couple of rarities that will appeal to the open-minded, non-radical rap lovers: “Gon Be Okay”, a dreamy interlude with a sample from the soundtrack of “Spirited Away”, and the strange and sophisticated “1 Time”, the last of the twelve tracks that form Lil B's most inspired effort to date. Without trying to be, it’s also the most accessible one - “Thank You Based God”, some would say.
“I Hate Myself”