Sunday, March 20, 2011

13. Album Review: Lil B-"Angels Exodus"

It should be "Angel's Exodus" or "Angels' Exodus", right? 

     I am in awe of Lil B. He is fascinating. Not as an artist, but as an personality. He first appeared on my radar when I began seeing memes referencing The BasedGod on the Internet.

Shit like this. 
     Naturally, I was intrigued and began investigating this BasedGod. It was grueling research.

     Turns out, The BasedGod is code for Lil B, which is code for Brandon McCartney. Brandon's in his early 20's, he's from the Bay Area, and seems dead set on proving how totally batshit he is. I began my introduction by viewing the most popular of Lil B's Youtube videos, such as "Wonton Soup", "I'm God" and "Pretty Bitch", all the while laughing very hard. I thought, "there's no way that this is real, right?" But as I grazed the forums and the "Lilbpack1" upload page, I realized that Brandon McCartney has a serious following. These videos are getting a lot of views. And the videos' comment sections are loaded with fervent praises directed towards the BasedGod from his fans, whose incessant offerings for Lil B to "fuck my bitch" are, to put it mildly, disconcerting. "What could be here that's drawing such a significant, extremist fan base? Maybe he's the antichrist.", I wondered.
     I can't stand to be ignorant of something that is potentially worthwhile, or is being celebrated as such by others, and so I perused many more of his music videos, which are one of the greatest things about Lil B. Often, they are nothing more than The BasedGod featured in various locales, poorly lip-syncing along to one of his hundreds of songs. They are extremely entertaining. So, after checking out fan-recommended classics, like "Ellen DeGeneres" or "Suck My Dick Ho", I came to the conclusion that Lil B and his fan base are a part of some elaborate hoax. This cannot be serious. It sounds like he's rapping his songs through a broken microphone in a room full of running fans. The beats range from decent to sloppy, and his lyrical content is wildly hit and miss. On one track, he'll be somewhat earnest, focusing on his position in rap and his "Based" ideology, and on the next, he'll sound like that kid in the neighboring dorm room who tries to freestyle over Lil Wayne instrumentals. Hopefully you can picture that. Hopefully you don't have a kid in the neighboring dorm room who can freestyle well over Lil Wayne instrumentals. Then that analogy would suck.
     Anyway, most of B's followers seem to be drawn to either of his prolific, cook-ready music, or his deep, "real" shit, which promotes the idea of being "Based". Or perhaps a combination of the two. But I've had a lot trouble finding any evidence to support this attraction, and as such, have been fixated on Lil B's body of work and his image for the past several weeks. Which is what I think he wants.
     Because despite any of his sonic shortcomings, Lil B seems like an agreeable, hard-working fellow. It's difficult to rag on a goofball who so strongly advocates being "Based", which is essentially being endlessly optimistic. He epitomizes the phrase "made a name for himself", and has catapulted his persona into the public eye by whatever means necessary, using any insane shock tactic or controversial gimmick available to him. That's a marketing strategy, and it's working very well. Maybe then, by the time he chooses to release a serious effort, he'll have a large enough audience. Well, look here. Angels Exodus, having been released in early 2011, is his most recent solo album. Let's check it out.
     So, going into this, I'm vacillating between the opinions that Lil B is either: the harbinger of a musical apocalypse, a brainchild brought about by the Annunaki, sent to distract humankind, a potentially serious contender with an unorthodox facade, or is perpetuating something on the level of an Andy Kaufman-style prank. If it's the latter, he's a comic genius. No questions asked. Bravo.

1. Exhibit 6
     Hm. Typically exhibits are titled after letters instead of numbers, so already my faith in this track is kind of shot. But what do I know? Here we go.
     Wow. This is actually...not bad at all. What's going on? Where did the Lil B I know disappear to? Who is this solemn rapper spitting over one of the best "dark" beats I've heard in a while? I mean, this isn't anything to write home about, but it's leagues beyond what was expected. Lil B takes his basic rhyme schemes and applies it to more thoughtful subject matter than what I've become accustomed to. My only complaint with this track is that Lil B contradicts himself early on by stating "this is my Exhibit C", and that his lyricism veers towards the nonsensical at moments. That instrumental is really hot, though.
Memorable lines:
"Product of the hood, I was tripping off the chains
Knowing it's the chains, that destroy these niggas' brains
America done lied, they serving false games
You gotta be real to even feel the same"
2. Life's Zombies 
     Using Resident Evil as a metaphor for combating his "inner and outside demons", Lil B continues to keep it real. The concept is laughable, which makes this song difficult to take seriously, a problem further exacerbated by the inane lyricism. Lil B experiments with this technique that consists of laying down partial, loosely related lines. Not quite hashtag, and not quite silence. Just scraps of ideas. The beat is forgettable.
Memorable lines:
The first line, which includes:
"Dead zombies"
3. All My Life (Remix) 
     Lil B sings. Similarly to how the Library of Congress selects works of art to preserve, for they are deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", the introductory chorus of All My Life (Remix) should likewise be locked away, never again to see the light of day.

Guarded over by the ever present eye of JCVD. 

     Really though, he must know how obnoxious that was. It's not like he recorded that multiple times and felt that it filled some mysterious void within the song and should therefore remain. 

"Alright, that's a wrap. Let's go get some tattoos."

     Thankfully, the rest of the song is solid. The puttering piano and uplifting strings create a pleasant beat, and the lyrics are passable. But Lil B doesn't give up on singing and repeatedly comes back to fuck your auditory cortex into oblivion. Also, I think he mispronounces "psyche" here. I can't really tell, because he speaks in what could be politely called a marble-mouthed manner. I however, am of the opinion that he talks like he has a mouth full of shit. 
Memorable lines: 
"Rooted hatred transferred through the music
To some, it's amusement to listen to it" 
4. Bay Area Music 
     Lil B starts this track off by promoting his West Coast sounds, which he claims can only be found in the Bay Area, and in Based Music. Personally, I think if this sound is exclusive to the West, that's a not indicative of the Bay being artistically fertile, but rather a sign of some government-issued quarantine.

"Hm, Lil B slipped out. Nah, let him go, he won't do any harm. "

     But in all seriousness, this song is nice. Lil B keeps it fresh with his lines, directing his hyperactive gaze towards some pensive subject matter. Unfortunately, it's still pretty vague and lacks thematic cohesion. The beat is simplistic, but mood-building. 
Memorable lines: 
"Ask me if I give a fuck about a life sentence
Most rappers use that quote as their life sentence 
Now the judge give them time, plus the five digits" 
5. Motivation      
     Oh shit! This instrumental is happening. The drums come hard and heavy, with the addition of some vocal sample working like a charm. BasedGod speaks on his haters, a topic on which he lacks credibility, but does it well. I mean, he can't expect to mindlessly pump out massive amounts of shit like he has and not get some negative feedback.
Memorable lines:
"So no talking, plead the 5th often
Finna stay Based, til I'm in the coffin
While I'm on Earth, I'ma spread the knowledge
Niggas learn from the box, they ain't seein' college"
6. Cold War, Pt. 2
    This samples "Cold War" from Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid, an album that's worth your time, money and minor forms of sacrifice.

Good enough. 

     And that's about all this track has going for it. It's unsettling to hear such a recently released song sampled on this album. What if he gets ahold of "Pretty Girl Rock"? Heaven forbid. On the upside, this is under 2 minutes, and the few lines that are here aren't terrible. 
Memorable lines: 
This is a stretch, but...
"Two shots to the body, don't know why he shot 'im
No upbringing, no faith in God 
No place in life, he feel that he option-less
Opportunity, positive, create this shit" 
7. Vampires
     I enjoy this beat quite a bit. It sounds a little mild for even the wimpiest of Hip-Hop songs, but it's nice and spacey nonetheless. Lil B describes his existence as a vampire, and the problems that obviously come with that. The tail end of the song is extremely difficult to follow. I can follow Aesop Rock more confidently than this. I don't know what he's talking about. It's like trying to make sense of Sahara

I've watched this multiple times, and I still have no idea what it's about. If you know, feel free to enlighten me. 
     And I'm sure others have complained about it as well, but the..."singing" the outro is enough to make a deaf person slit their wrists vertically. The fact that this is recorded and stored in cyberspace, where I can't find its source and bring the pain, is going to make me lose sleep. I know he's being silly, but fuck him, that was painful.
Memorable lines:
He says "Shaka Zulu". 
Also, he says "fangs is coming out my teeth". 
One more. "Money see, monkey do, you look like me, I look like you". 
8. More Silence More Coffins 
     A serious take on "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems". Not really, it's some bullshit. Lil B samples "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence, which just made me wish I was listening to Evanescence instead, until I remembered that Evanescence isn't very good either. Lil B sticks close to the beat and rides it well. He actually rhymes most of the time. What about, I couldn't tell you. I think it's the concept of "fake people". This is getting exhausting. At least it feels short.
Memorable lines:
As I couldn't find any lyrics online, I sat through this song several times and transcribed it in hopes of finding something worth mentioning. After 10 minutes, I looked at my completed Textedit document, and realized that nothing of value laid before me. Just words. 
9. Connect The Dots 
     The loop and beat are awesome and again, Lil B stays on the beat to a respectable degree. However, this time around, he's spitting something with some substance. Namely, his determination to stay in the rap game and how regularly he keeps it real, which seems to be quite often. I can work with this. This is also a sample from The Carpenter's "I Won't Last A Day Without You", which is a testament to The BasedGod's ability to pay homage to similar artists.

Memorable lines:
"Love me for who I am, who I'm not, who I'm going to be, 
Who is in past, making history" 
"It's our duty as people to be collaborators" 
10. 1 Time 
     Easily, easily, the best verses I've yet to hear B put down. A shout-out to lost loved ones, he doesn't stray from the song's concept and the sample of Washed Out's "You And I" is sick. This feels sentimental and genuine. I wish he hadn't fucked around so much for the most of the album, because this is getting better as it progresses. Unfortunately, the chorus has B sounding like a 21st century Wyclef with his "one time" chants. It worked on "Killing Me Softly". Not so much here.
Memorable lines:
"Feel gifted for the breath that I'm breathing
Living on borrowed time if you need a reason
Niggas say heaven and hell, but I don't believe it
Just believe it spirits, just believe in breathing" 
DAMN. That's pretty dope, relatively speaking.
11. The Growth 
     Lil B welcomed me to Angels Exodus at the beginning of this track. This is a bonus track, at the end of the album. Then again, he's been welcoming me on a regular basis throughout this thing, either formally, or just by blurting out "angels exodus". Maybe he's just really hospitable. Maybe that's why he's always cooking.

He puts the "spit" in hospitable! You know, like how rappers spit? Yeah, you know. 

     Continuing this trend of sudden adequacy, Lil B utilizes a HOT sample from The O'Jay's "What Am I Waiting For" and drops some solid lines. Well, nothing offensively bad at least. Kind of a "through one ear and out the other" thing. That's really the most you can hope for with the majority of this album. The shout-outs to his emcee idols have the unsettling effect of reminding you that Lil B is actually operating on our plane of existence and is aware of other rappers. 
Memorable lines:
(I'm fairly sure this is what he says.) 
"I did a good job for the hand I was dealt
Had a crazy mom, she took her hand to the belt
And her father used to beat her, so the violence passed down
Niggas say the greed is what's making the cash cow" 
12. Frankie Silver 
     Sample from "I'm Your Puppet" by James & Bobby Purify. It's bumpin'. I can't really say anything new about this type of song. On this album, a track is either absurd, with braggadocio to spare, or is somewhat serious, exemplifying the "I'm coming up" Hip-Hop standard. This is somewhere in the middle. Decent closing track. At least his flow is smooth. Get me out of here. 
Memorable lines:
"No glasses 'cause my eyes is red, I wanna show 'em the hell
Back again, put some money in my pocket and smell
All the fresh dollar bills, where the models at?" 
For some reason, that sounds like some cold shit. 
Worth the time?
     Yikes. Here's the thing. My recent revelation that Lil B may not be all bad, rests on rocky ground. Because it's not like he led me on for weeks based on his enigmatic ways, hinting at something better all the while as if he pulled the wool over my eyes, only to suddenly reveal himself as a great emcee. No. He's a mediocre emcee, at best. Lately, we've been in the business of celebrating sub-standard, or unintentionally inept entertainment, and at first I was mistaking B for another entry on the shit list, along with the likes of "Friday", Jersey Shore and The Room. But he's obviously more than meets the eye. That's a nice surprise. Maybe one day he'll reach artistic fruition, but Angels Exodus certainly isn't the herald of that day.
     The best I can analogize my experience of listening to this album is given in the following:
You know how it is whenever your water pump is acting up, and you'll go to pop the faucet, expecting to receive cleansing streams of nature's gift, but instead are treated to some alarmingly violent spurts of brackish brown piss? Okay, that's the initial impression of Lil B. But, say you have shit all over your hands, are fresh out of GOJO, and really need to splash them in some water. So you're rubbing your mucky hands around in slightly less disgusting muck, wincing as you scrub, and are occasionally surprised upon seeing your water pump kick back in and deliver some clear, clean H2O. Those are the solid tracks, like Connect the Dots, 1 Time, The Growth, Exhibit 6, and Motivation. They are a breathe of fresh air. The oases in a desert. Then the water pump will sputter and go back to pouring piss on your hands again. I hope that carries some universal understanding.
     The good tracks are decent, by all relative standards. The bad tracks are wack and uninteresting, even by inflated, handicapped standards. Those tracks listed above are worth checking out if you need an introduction to Lil B's more serious side, but I can recommend downloading the other tracks only if to get some perverted pleasure from sending them straight to the trash bin, promptly deleting their cankerous presence from your computer. 
     On a side note, I watched this video of Lupe Fiasco at a Hip-Hop forum, in which he was questioned about the rumors of an impending collaboration between himself and Lil B. There's a lot of good stuff there, but one thing Lupe said about B that stuck with me, was in reference to his autograph signing process. Apparently, after a show B will sit at the head of a long line of fans, and in order to walk away with his signature you must talk to him for 30 minutes. Not like an interrogation. Just chat with him. Logic would dictate that if you enjoy an artist, you'd very much like a chance to sit down with them. But surprisingly, most of the people in the line are just there for the novelty, and will defect after a short while, leaving only the true fans behind. I think that's really interesting, and indicative of a genuine personality. Which Lil B appears to possess, by all means. The only problem, is that his expression of what he's feeling and thinking needs a lot of lyrical practice and a serious filter to weed out all of the shit.

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