The title of Lil B’s latest is easily 2011’s most prominent “See what I did there?” moment. And, sure, B’s fifth-grade sense of humor (topped by a Marvin Gaye-referencing album cover) is a publicity ploy that barely leaves a dent in hip-hop’s fire-forged homophobic armor. Yet listeners who buy into B’s unique worldview on I’m Gay (I’m Happy) will quickly discover that while he’s far from a political trailblazer, at least he’s completely sincere.
There isn’t a hint of irony on I’m Gay—not even the flip of Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” on “I Hate Myself.” Unfortunately, the hooks aren’t plentiful, either. Like the YouTube freestyles Lil B posts with alarming frequency, I’m Gay is a psychedelic stream-of-consciousness trip into a free-range psyche. The opener, “Trapped In Prison,” samples “Leaving Shire” by Swedish prog god Bo Hansson, while B distances himself from Martin Luther King Jr. in the album’s first 40 seconds. In place of the civil-rights legacy? “We gotta get one thing together / and that thing I don’t know / But peace is the first step.”
The self-proclaimed Based God will never be confused with Dead Prez, and Huntsville, Alabama’s G-Side does Internet-famous verses and cinematic sweep better. But while B’s message is muddled, his earnestness and self-conscious naïveté can be downright beguiling. He’s the first to admit that he has a long way to go, but Lil B is clearly overjoyed to have reached this level.