Review : Lil B - Rain in England
TinymixtapesHype is to the internet as a loaded gun is to a stage play: any good crafter of narrative will make sure it goes off as spectacularly as possible. The orchestrators of internet hype, of course, are the various bloggers and review sites (hopefully, this one included) who spot good things coming and then decide how they turn out. Of course, the metaphor breaks down, because artists, unlike characters, are chasing that loaded gun, always trying to grab hype and point it every which way in order to control it.
Rain in England is the first attempt by ballistics expert Lil B to point the loaded gun directly back at people like me. When I first heard that one of the teenagers from The (Wolf)Pack, who made one of the all-time great summer jams, was breaking out on his own and sampling Elliott Smith while rapping about blowjays, I was ready to throw the dude a parade almost before I heard his music. I checked the sketchy but intermittently brilliant “The World’s Ending” and the genuinely stunning “We Can Go Down” among hundreds of other freestyles and videos, and started making plans to fly to San Francisco to write a 12,000-word essay on ‘based music’ for Granta. Here, it seemed, was a guy with a genuine street sensibility, who was also into really weird, fringey sounds; for nerdy rap fans, it was like blood in the water.
So, I’m one of the hundreds of hungry sharks you can blame for how bad Rain in England is. From the title to the beat-less music and pure freestyle-poetry format, this is an album aimed squarely at punk-noise-loving internet tastemakers. It replaces weird samples with ambient backing tracks and dispenses with hooks and song structures altogether in favor of pure flow. The first problem is that the backing tracks are utter garbage. I don’t know whether Lil B made them himself or had someone do them for him, but maybe I’d rather not know. They sound like they were all produced in the two hours immediately after someone bought a Nord Lead at Guitar Center; they’re pure, unstructured noodling, occasionally out of key, with no overdubs....full text
CokemachineglowLil B has gotten a lot of looks, as of late, and my gut reaction: this is fine. It follows a certain narrative we are used to, where hip-hop’s avant garde of low-brow abstraction edges its way toward mainstream acceptance. Nobody thought in 2008, after all, that Lil Wayne’s ascendancy was the creation of an archetype, but hip-hop just goes, sometimes. The blog-tape phenom is now as deeply entrenched in hip-hop lore as the triple-time battle rapper. We are now accustomed to some mealy mouthed mixtape emcee shocking the hip-hop cognoscenti; we expect online types to clamor both for and against said emcee while said emcee digs in, eventually producing a mixtape that is (rightly or not) categorized as a magnum opus; we loudly anticipate said emcee’s struggles to make a major-label breakthrough. “Lemonade” was Gucci’s Carter 3 (2008) moment; Flockaveli may be Waka Flocka’s O.R.A.N.G.E. (2010); thinking man’s archetype Wale looped back on About Nothing when his major label step-up went nowhere. We can draw lines as high as Drake and as low as Big Sean; the prevalence of this narrative has helped create a climate wherein something like the celestially low-brow brilliance of Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On” might occur. This is a good thing.
And so we have Lil B, the latest innocently named emcee to blow up your RSS feed, burbling to attention, and I too have slithered to Datpiff tapes and to his blithely NSFW website, and have come back a little surprised. Because Lil B—and I’ll happily eat these words if history proves me wrong—is the first of these rappers to be just, like, not very good. And that’s at his best. At his worst, he’s beneath analysis, but I’ll get to that in a minute. It’s not that he’s not lyrical or he doesn’t fit into my stodgy paradigm of what hip-hop can sound like, two arguments lobbed between hip-hop’s low- and high-brow camps online (say, Hipinion and OKP, respectively). It’s just that he’s not interesting, at all, really, and that this lack of talent seems inversely proportionate to public interest in him. His strangeness is aggressive but it feels calculated, as though he’s fitting himself neatly into the blog-rap archetype rather than fitting into it naturally.
Lil B, a onetime member of the barely heard Pack, stands in stark contrast to his former producer Young L, who indulges in furiously misogynistic party rap on the new L-E-N. B is a seemingly Pitchfork-approved art rapper, his tapes full of gushing paeans to women, to family, to softcore drugs, and to God. His “based” style carries with it an almost embarrassingly confessional timbre, flying way off tempo and pitch when excited and rarely seeming to care what “sounds” good. The beats themselves are all cracked drywall, awful shit, but Gucci taught us to relish such filth, right? Still, B feels like a direct affront to mixtape Gucci, who cobbles together thunderous burners from the sparest of beats whereas B cobbles together only a joke-y, unsatisfying sense of bizarreness. Lacking Wayne’s brain-melting micro-literature or any of the seismic drops of Gucci’s crew, Lil B seems to be getting by mostly on this weirdness, which distinguishes his appeal as one not to rap fans but to only those of eccentricity: we envision Wayne Coyne’s huge vagina, Kevin Barnes’s dissonant, black transsexualism. For people who enjoy laughing at musicians, particularly rappers, B’s appeal must be absolute....full text
YayodancingThis is going to be a hard task to tackle. Brandon McCartney’s Rain In England is nothing like the Lil B his YouTube followers and Okayplayer detractors know him to be. There is no cooking here; there are no bitches on his dick. No swag, no tributes to New Orleans, no looking like Jesus. There’s no Squadda B, Clams Casino, or Left Brain production, as it’s strictly produced by The Based God himself. His conscious side is on full display here; those based freestyles he became known for are elevated to another level, with Lil B half-rapping, half performing spoken word poetry in a stream of consciousness manner that falls somewhere between Lil’ Wayne and Saul Williams.
The ambient production, lacking any drums whatsoever that usually allow a rapper to flow, actually compliments Lil B far more than it would his more traditional peers. B has always had an off-kilter flow, sometimes falling in and out of beat, his mind far too ambiguous for straight forward production. When Lil B made Like A Martian, he wasn’t making outrageous claims (okay, he was on that song, but it’s still relevant) of being otherworldly, ala Lil’ Wayne on Phone Home; he was really expressing how he hardly belongs in the curtain hip-hop atmosphere. It’s obvious by Rain In England that he’s merely ahead of his time, though.
On the opening songs, Birth To Life and Everything, this album does seem like it’s poised to become something more than his #rare and #secrete Paint albums, by providing more rap than those albums had. Birth To Life is similar to Birth of Rap and Death Of Rap when it comes to Lil B openers, but only that it’s in a similar vein of showcasing what the rest of the album will sound like. Everything expands upon the idea of Birth To Life, and features Lil B asking questions involving education, such as why don’t they teach us about credit cars, about getting sued, about the men in the suits? why don’t they teach us about Dr. Seuss? why don’t they teach us about Dr. Seuss? I really don’t know, Based God. I probably would’ve continued my schooling if they did....full text
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