The reason to look back on this release from June 29th 2011 is because too many people know Lil B as a jovial cult leader. I ask the younger people in my office about him and they know him for his social media presence but not his work. He’s been an incredible producer and rap mimic, someone who could release a mixtape as a tribute to the New Orleans or New York or Texas sound and nail it; not just with the beats he made but with how he adjusted his flow(while being deeply California).
One of the knocks you would hear about The Based God back in his peak productive years was that it was all kind of him trolling/joking so you never knew where his bits ended and his real values began. I think that was why I’m drawn back to I’m Gay (I’m Happy) as a project, everyone who loves B now should know. They should understand the context.
In 2011 hip hop had deeply homophobic bones. Lil B got death threats (but death threats are what the internet specializes in) and bitter vicious angry responses from his peers in the industry. Watch DMX’s face on this video when he is told about Lil B’s album title:
He had the whole world watching and he stepped into the spotlight focused. My perspective: the only weakness B ever had was maintaining his focus. He needed to be pushed to reach his artistic potential and baiting the homophobic American structure did that.
The great Clams Casino created an anthem-ready-pop-trap masterpiece in the Unchain Me beat and B smashed it covering racism, capitalism, and our education system. His focus was unlike any other period in his career, saying “And I deal with the haters/Ain’t nobody gonna take away what I built/Fuck the death threats, small impostors”
For those that think this was a publicity stunt and nothing more, I can provide evidence that I’m Gay (I’m Happy) has major stakes. On Open Thunder Eternal Slumber The Based God states at the same pace he states anything else “No sir, I don’t believe in Jesus/He was slaved to the world, the books and preachers.” Point: he can’t believe in Jesus because he’ll never have any real, direct Jesus text to work from. It is all processed through the same world of privilege and ulterior motive.
That was the level of personal exploration being done by Lil B in 2011. On my favorite song on the project(Gon Be Okay) he admits “I came from the top and hit the bottom/I never came from the bottom/That’s just a façade.” He sheds so many old layers of skin on I’m Gay (I’m Happy), letting go of assumed restrictions and guidelines. As a rapper he is supposed to wow you with his come up but he is tired of pretending. By the end of the song he is speaking directly to his fans, thanking them for knowing his words and feeling his spirit. This album bound him to his fan base in a way that carries to this day. Something about maintaining under the pressure of this brush back made their dedication to him the stuff of legend.
Structurally I Hate Myself is brilliant. He articulates all the problems in this world that turn against you and take away self-love but in the third verse he allows the narrator to rebuild himself admitting ,like a mantra, that he isn’t ready to die. It’s one of the best rap songs about mental health.
I forget to mention how groovy this mixtape is. I Seen The Light bangs and has dope background singing. The horn sample in the other Clams Casino produced 1 Time Remix is a wonderful central element. You can turn your brain off and enjoy the crap out of I’m Gay (I’m Happy). This is a project that was supposed to accomplish it all. Lil B was asked about it at the time and said:
“One-hundred years later, people gonna thank me, because people are going to be free. And that’s the main thing. Even if it’s 1 percent of the people that listen to me and are gonna be free, that’s better than none,” he said. “That’s better than not speaking up at all … and I spoke up and I did it.”
After this album Lil B walked a new path; stripping himself of everything that is not love and happiness. It has taken him time and he has stumbled along the way but it was on this project he told the world he wasn’t ever going to be what the design for him was. He wouldn’t be your serious conscious rapper or your hardcore shooter, your pimp, and would no longer stand with those who stood against the Gay and Lesbian community. Of all the times I’ve run my hands through my hair and said “Lil B did WHAT?!” (happened a fair amount) this one takes the cake.
Stream or download I’m Gay (I’m Happy) below: