Lil B Thugged Out Pissed Off

[Self-Released; 2015]

Styles: thugged out
Others: pissed off

Following the release of 05 Fuck Em, his sprawling six-hour long mixtape from two years ago, Lil B has shown virtually no signs of slowing down. There are 63 songs on his latest tape Thugged Out Pissed Off, which is approximately 63 ways for the 26-year-old rapper to drive home that very message: he’s thugged out, and he’s pissed off. But if you think you’ve heard it all, Lil B is here with tricks up his sleeves. Although the music retains his trademark sensitivity, he may have used up his quota of “I love you’s.” The tape is unlike anything from his many musical explorations; it seethes with a real-world ugliness — one that’s joylessly cynical, at times even hideous — with Lil B appropriately “keeping it gutter” throughout its nearly four-hour runtime. Somehow, after all these years, this bizarre rapper still manages to keep his niche brand of #based music sounding fresh and exciting.

Over the last 12 months, Lil B has been on a restless motivational tour across the country, discussing everything from the #BlackLivesMatter movement to cultural and spiritual enlightenment on CNN, ESPN, and MSNBC. He even took time out of his busy schedule to raise awareness about animal abuse (#TYBG). His response to all of the seemingly endless good deeds? A nonchalant “it’s okay to be yourself.” But on Thugged Out Pissed Off, Lil B’s humanism has been cross-wired with a seemingly unquenchable rage that manifests in the tape’s moody sonics and provocative lyrics. His cheery persona is virtually nonexistent here, and the tape’s whopping number of songs are brimming with shilling street rap. If the tape’s title were any indication, the songs on TOPO may prove to be difficult to parse for entry-level BasedGod devotees. Long story short, if you’re looking for classic, phrase-worthy songs — Whoop! Cook! Chef! Knife! Swag! — or his trademark cooking music, then prepare for disappointment. But each song is as seemingly necessary as the last in illustrating an increasingly brutal and unsentimental world.

If rap music is a reflection of the times, then there’s no better moment for it to flourish than now. On Thugged Out Pissed Off, Lil B goes beyond just reflecting the times; he’s outwardly contesting them. The hefty content on TOPO largely centers around socioeconomic themes of poverty, black-on-black violence, street crime, and income inequality. The choice of Lil B to address challenging issues facing his Bay Area community on a free tape is certainly an inspired one. While he’s not the most popular rapper to have expressed the shades of gray ingrained in contemporary inner-city life, Lil B’s optimism covers itself in a tapestry of vivid colors. After all, it was just last year when Lil B released his anti-racist protest song “No Black Person Is Ugly” and triumphantly tackled issues of race and identity in America. It doesn’t hurt that he has a weird knack for saying a lot without rapping anything: “I’m gonna tell you what’s right,” he exclaims on the strikingly sincere “I Was Born Poor.” “It’s cool to be a doctor, it’s cool be a janitor.” For Lil B, honesty in music is the only policy.

It’s obvious that Lil B spends a lot of his time on the internet; he’s practically a digital marketing genius in his mid-twenties. He’s very passionate about social media, too — he’s already conquered Myspace, YouTube, and Twitter — and recently praised the online presence of his fervent BasedWorld community, crediting them for bringing various social issues to his attention. Information and, more importantly, shared information is essential to Based music, which ultimately revolve around positivity — one of the main pillars of the “BasedGod” ideology. There’s even a song on Thugged Out Pissed Off called “I’m Positive,” which outlines his higher state of consciousness: “I’m Lil B, I’ll show you what your options is/ Because of Lil B, I’m positive.” He’s still far from a textbook example of a rapper, despite making considerable strides over the years, but for every awful lyric on TOPO — and there are a lot of ‘em — you also get a handful of awesome songs: “Listen Pay Attention” is both a conceptual and lyrical showcase from Lil B, demonstrating his underrated skills as a “traditional” emcee; “Handle Your Goals” is particularly moving, proving there’s actual substance behind his words of encouragement; and “Finess Em” flips a gorgeous soul sample for Lil B to reminisce on his come-up.

These moments, however, prop up indiscriminately on Thugged Out Pissed Off. At 63 songs, it’s another spotty mixtape from a rapper who ultimately drops many spotty projects. Listening to a four-hour mixtape from any rapper is sure to be an undertaking, intimidating even, and unless you’re a daredevil, it’s best to split the listening up into several sessions. Still, no matter how you slice it, you can’t avoid the very worst byproducts of Lil B’s stream of consciousness and bizarre Based music: the incessant and completely random use of homophobic slurs, the baffling references nobody understands (“I’m selling Jerry,” I’m selling Fetty Wap”), and the occasionally offensive composition (like a song being called “Ray Rice”). Similarly to his best tapes, the most fascinating songs on TOPO are often interspersed among ideas so bad that they could only be the work of Brandon McCartney himself. There’s an especially disgusting song about spousal abuse called “Domestic Violence Case,” which reeks so bad — “This is MMA because I love smacking bitches” — you’ll need to scrub extra hard to wash off the stink. Did I mention it’s five minutes long? At first glance, the crudeness of TOPO’s composition seems to be in direct relation to the content, and the production is largely dark, but Lil B fails to provide context for the randomized homophobic slurs and lyrics about domestic abuse.

Make no mistake, Lil B is a deceptive character in the modern-day rap landscape. When he’s not assuming the role of a spiritual rap shaman, he’s casting curses on professional basketball players and getting involved in petty beefs. While the themes and lyrics on TOPO are, for better or for worse, rooted in the experiences of Brandon McCartney, he wisely avoids explicit moralizing. Instead, Lil B simply tells it like it is (“Staying in bed all day, that’s how you die”), with any lessons learned along the way the result of his effortless storytelling and knack for getting inside the listener’s head with virtually minimal effort. By weaving non-sequiturs with personal anecdotes, Lil B makes a compelling argument for TOPO’s four hours. While it’s not quite rap’s answer to Bela Tarr’s epic Sátántangó, the subject matter warrants closer examination — at least beyond the rigid album format. At this point, it’s all or nothing for the BasedGod.

Links: Lil B

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