Back in 2011, Lil B released his “controversial” fifth album, a 12-track project called I’m Gay (I’m Happy). People were immediately ready to rip it a new one because, well, it’s an album called I’m Gay. After people put their machismo aside and checked it at the door, it was apparent that the album was more about Lil B being in a happy place in his life versus a proclamation on his sexuality. Why people would be so pissed off about a rapper coming out as gay is beyond me, but I digress. Today, we’re going to take a look back at this project (I mean, it was one of the first times an artist with mid-major label support said “screw a proper release” and dropped it for free) and answer the following question: is I’m Gay underrated or overhyped?
First off, apologies to Lil B for taking this Soundcloud version of the album. I was unable to find a stream of it on Spotify or iTunes. Go support the official release.
But, first up, we’re given “Trapped in Prison.” I’ve got to say that when I first heard this track, I was taken aback by its somewhat freeform approach to rap. It wasn’t just ABABAB rhymes, but lots of in-rhymes, freeflowed thoughts that still manage to bring us back to the message (better yourselves to escape the mental prison you’re in), and a comfortable flow. Overall, “Trapped” is a dope intro. You’re given a taste of what to expect from Lil B and you’re given a window view into his state of mind. He’s doing this for the people to break chains, not the numbers.
The idea of mental slavery continues on “Open Thunder Eternal Slumber,” with lines such as “No sir, I don’t believe in Jesus/You’re a slave to the world and the books and preachers.” It’s not exactly groundbreaking material, but B’s loopy conviction helps elevate the message. It also helps that the beat he’s flowing over is sampled from Slow Dive’s “Catch the Breeze.” That’s something I’ve got to point out before we go any further: Lil B, if nothing else, you’ve got to give him the fact that he has an ear for samples that help tell his story.
“Game” is straight boombap, down to the sample. I’m a sucker for that sound, obviously. But, we’re given more mental slavery discussion on top of this production. He brings up a point in the third verse with the couplet “Of course I must be dumb, how I get this far?/I must be real wack, how I get this car?” The man got known for songs like “Wonton Soup,” but still has more lyrically impressive tracks in his arsenal. If anything, the brother’s smart for knowing that you have to sometimes simplify the product to lure in fans, then blast them with the complexities of it all.
The Clams Casino-produced “Unchain Me” is a definite standout track. B’s on beat, he’s spitting fire “elevated” bars with conviction, and he rides the beat so well. If someone ever says B’s not lyrical, show them this song. I was not the biggest Lil B fan, but this track was one of the ones that turned me into a fan in general. “Neva Stop Me” continues the path of self-discovery and betterment. After the man’s been unchained, it’s obvious that it’ll be impossible to stop someone not held down. He sums up his mission on this track with the ending couplet “Remember Lil B, bitch/that’s that dude that’s real.” He’s not changing where he’s going for anyone, and you’ve got to respect that, even if you’re not a fan.
“Gon Be Okay” is the first track that feels a lot more “restrained.” There’s an actual hook along with his verse. The song itself focuses on the idea of change and, while it can be hard, it’ll ultimately be for the better (if done right). We follow that up with “The Wilderness,” a track that speaks on the complexities of religion (specifically how it’s been used to pacify folks, including slaves) and just the general outlandishness of our society (poverty, religious pacification, haters, critics, etc). A piece that hits me especially was his openness on this one. Without naming names, he accepts that he’s played a part in the demise of his neighborhoods and communities in some way. But, now that he’s elevated his mind state, he’s determined to right wrongs and teach those around him the way to better themselves as well.
Now, “I Hate Myself” is simple, but complex in its topic. The topic is hatred, but it’s not just any one form of hatred. There are examples of self-hatred, racism-based hatred, and the destruction of society through hatred. Another standout track, Lil B gently speaks on the complexities of sex abuse (young prostitutes, etc.) and racism in one track. It’s one of his most focused tracks, as well. But, by the end, B’s telling us to say “fuck all the bullshit people have put into you. Break the mirror that they created in their image, see yourselves for the greatness you can be and that you are.” It’s a bit sad, though. People often associate Lil B with outlandish outfits and outlandish antics, such as the James Harden curse, but people forget that the man has a plethora of things he wants to say to better our society in his eyes.
I’m not a big fan of “Get It While It’s Good.” It feels a bit unnecessary after the rest of the album so far. But, the production keeps my head nodding. So, it’s not all that bad. But, “I Seen That Light,” produced by BigBoyTraks, brings everything back to the level. It’s a song that praises his rise and those who helped him get their, including himself. Like “Gon Be Okay” and “I Hate Myself,” it’s more of a standard verse/chorus/verse type of track. The fact that BigBoyTraks sampled Eric Benet’s “Lost in Time” and turned it into an energetic boom-bappy like track is worth the price as is. But, then you have Lil B pulling a Drake (but less mopey) and reflecting on his rise? Man, this song is dope. It’s not the best track off the album, but it’s definitely worth a listen if you want to hear The Based God reflectively talk on his rise in popularity.
“My Last Chance” is a track that lets B talk more on the intricacies of life, down to the level of haters needing “hate” to survive. It’s a simple track in its message, but the BigBoyTraks production, like with “Lost In Time” and “Get It While It’s Good,” keeps me involved in the song. This time around, we get a Johnny Gill sample (so automatic win). As the album comes to a close with “1 Time Remix,” we’re given just flow over a jazzy production that allows B to talk about his life again and the insanity of the world, while still being happy with the progress made thus far (while knowing there’s still a way to go).
Overall, the project surprised me then and it still surprises me now. It’s not the greatest album of all-time or anything, but it is still a great piece of work (a borderline classic in some ways) that covers a lot of material in a stream of consciousness sort of way. If you haven’t checked out I’m Gay, do so now if you’re in the mood for some ramble-esque flows that still have some pretty solid rhymes and lines within them. So, was it overhyped? A bit by devout Lil B fans, I’d say, but not nearly as hyped as it could’ve/should’ve been. It was an album that was, in some ways, ahead of its time with its pro-Black messages, establishment-questioning lyrics, and positive energy throughout. It’s Lil B’s TPAB in a lot of ways, if we’re being honest with ourselves.
Final Verdict: Buy/Stream anyway you can