When I reviewed Lil B's Illusions of Grandeur mixtape earlier in the year, my aim was to open people's eyes and ears to the other side of Lil B as an artist. By now, most hip-hop heads and most music fans who know how to use the internet are familiar with the Based God and his antics, which involve the consumption of Wonton Soup in conjunction with having his way with your bitch. If this was Lil B's ploy to make a name for himself then it certainly worked. However, it also resulted in his more serious projects being overshadowed. There's nothing wrong with a bit of infamy, but when your best work is often overlooked then you have to re-think your strategy, which is exactly what Lil B did with I'm Gay.
I won't go into detail about the album title, because this is a review about the music. But needless to say, Lil B was adequately aware that naming his album I'm Gay would attract plenty of attention, which would result in listeners, which would ultimately result in word getting around that the based god really is a serious artist. Lil B's aim as an artist has always been to let listeners hear the real him, how he feels about the world, how he thinks and how he acts, which is why he and many of his fans often refer to him as 'The realest person doing it'. And in just 44 minutes, Lil B sounds more convincingly real than he ever has before.
Opening track 'Trapped in Prison' does what every opening track on a good album should do- set the tone and feel of the album. A song about dealing with racism, Lil B's confidence in himself is evident from the opening minute. "It’s more than Martin Luther King fighting for a dream; Watch me go against everything you believe". Punchlines are not lost on him either. "I'm nicer than grandma with a cup of iced tea; You see me I got ice like Ice T". Where Lil B really shines the most is when he's talking positive. On 'Gon Be Okay' he says "I'mma ask how you doing today; we gonna win somehow, someway". On 'I Hate Myself', a story about his struggles growing up and wanting to let go of the past in order to be happy, Lil B closes the song by saying "Don't think too hard, free your mind" after reflecting on some of the things he's seen growing up in the hood and how it made him feel. While that may seem like a tired subject in the realm of rap, it works when told in such a direct, no-nonsense manner.
The highlight of I'm Gay is without question the production. The album album sounds raw yet soulful, with a wide variety of well-executed samples, including Slowdive on 'Open Thunder Eternal Slumber', Goo Goo Dolls on 'I Hate Myself', and my personal favorite, a simply terrific sample of Gerard McMann's 'Cry Little Sister' on 'Unchain Me'.
I'm Gay has no guest features, it's just based god on all 12 tracks and no one else. Production-wise this is not an issue. As far as Lil B's rapping is concerned, this can be a major issue for some listeners. Firstly, Lil B can rap when he wants to. I'm Gay is not exactly the prime showcase of his rapping abilities. His style is notable for his unconventional (and sometimes non-existent) rhyme schemes, coupled with a slow flow that is often inconsistent and lazy sounding. Understandably this can be an issue for listeners, especially ones who aren't used to Lil B and his style. I tend to enjoy his style simply because of how convincing he is as a storyteller. The lyrics on this album are great and while he may not spit them in the most appealing way, he still tells his stories well, which is what really sells it for me. And while I wouldn't mind hearing these stories in a more conventional manner, something about the way that they're delivered in Lil B's uniquely odd style makes them all the more real.