Lil B Blue Eyes

[Amalgam Digital; 2011]

Styles: based, impressionistic rap, spoken word
Others: The Pack, Soulja Boy, Lil Wayne, Tupac Shakur

Blue Eyes is not “high art.” It’s fraught and filled with weak and disjointed, almost haphazard metaphors; it has no imagery, nothing of a conventional narrative, no embodiment of to know the Berkeley that wrought him; and Lil B certainly doesn’t evoke a feeling in that ‘wow, that’s me’ audience’s-seeing-of-self-through-artistry sense that those with any taste (or ear, here) seek. But it also never pretends to be. The mixtape abandons all lyricism the old-guards spent the better part of three decades honing, sharpening tongues and thoughts ill. The Nases and their and society’s Ill Wills, the Rakims and Wu-Tangs flipping words in ways and into stories so vivid of a you-the-listener with a mouth hung dumbly in dead-eyed anhedonia, only then first woken to all the ifs and all thens of Living In The World Today — Lil B heeds none of it. Or does he?

Yes, save for the third track’s soulful Dionne Warwick sample loop, Blue Eyes’ ‘Based Music’ is fairly impenetrable. And yes, you’re hard-pressed to hear not just slant, but any definite end-rhyme outside the likes of “My life is a daily watch/ Just bought a new home/ But I don’t feel at home/ Why you let your baby wrong?/ When they feel grown, I gotcha back, that’s why you feel this song.” B’s consistently unpredictable, so reflexive that he’ll lament materialism and crown himself a wealthy pussy-magnet in the same breath. Tupac, anyone? As another critic rightly put it: “The comparison would undoubtedly be sacrilege [to] hip-hop heads…” — note on the fifth track Lil B does explicate “I’m all about uplifting the black man, uplifting the African-American man; the #1 thing is black men hate on they-selves” — but “[both] share a certain kinetic ricochet between hero and villain, between life and performance. Both look the black male stereotype squarely in the face and embrace it in the most extreme possible way, only to immediately counter it by snapping their character right back to its antithesis.”

Blue Eyes, though, on its more soulful (by Lil B’s catalog’s standards) and less preachy tip gives but hints of B, and the black man more generally, as both a god and maker of his own mire: “If you charged with what I’m charged with you fall/ …I’m a sick raccoon, I’m out in the day/ Do bad then be back at noon/ Remember every single time I was in my room/ Damn near got saved when the po-lice raided/ I ain’t even mad, I was doing the crime, and I’m damn sho doin the time/ You niggas is lyin.” Read as is, he flows. But heard, B often pauses mid-line or slurs words; his phone’ll vibrate with a text too close to the mic and he’ll pause again, with you hoping he’d think through what’s to be said next and how best to say it, but no, you hear mobile buttons punched instead. Such is Based Music and its God at his barest, a 21st-century everyman he’ll have you know, addicted to information and conscious only through communication. Where Pac and his forebears, of times and rhyme schemes before the worldwide web, at least flowed linearly, Lil B base-freestyles as seemingly even he himself can’t explain, much less predict. How is anyone to at all assimilate the strewn-everywhere fragments of information-glutted society today and its workings wherein technology furthers the mess exponentially, outstripping the capacity of well-defined art to define much of anything? He feels his information-retrieval-, techno-mania is what everyone has but denies, and that insanity is the only rational response to an insane world. Indeed, in interviews, Lil B admits of his own addiction to computers and the internet, in a tone fully aware and only not caring because it were those very hundreds — literally, hundreds — of MySpace and YouTube pages that made possible the sensation he’s become. He knows such is the illusion of free-will and nothing other, that the addict will invariably choose the substance; for him, his persona’s successes root in social media, because the alternative of not being heard is horrifying.

And yes, what the Based God has become is not hip-hop in rhyme-riding-the-boom-bap as it was for generations, as when such was bred, quite simply, in simpler times. But more the yes, he is everything of the only impetus hip-hop has ever always been — to Express Yourself. Freestyle. Before albums and labels and money were to or could be made, what use was a written rhyme? Written is thought; and thought, of but only within the head. Freestyle, Base Freestyle, is off the head, part of an impulse too of and quick for the self for the thought to think of what’s spat next. The Based God knows that attempts to relate rhyme to sayer, signified to signifier, in any meaningful way is futile and dumb. For B, values and ethics and meaning today can no longer be described by language; they’re only evident through it. Lovers of art at its most basal ‘thank you Based God.’

Links: Lil B

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