By Chris Garrison,
HUB Reporter —
“What happened to my face?” inquires Berkeley-based rapper Lil B on the opening track of his newest mixtape, Glassface. The profound questions don’t stop there. Over the course of this sprawling, 90 minute album, the rapper addresses serious themes such as street crime, hatred, identity crises, and selling out.
Musically, the album is very conventional hip-hop. Lil B’s loose flow is mostly backed by cloudy synths, pitch-shifted R&B samples, and sharp 808 beats. None of the characteristic elements of what Lil B dubbed “Based Music” are present. Not a single whoop is whooped; not a single “swag” is uttered.
The music is unadventurous, excepting four of the 28 tracks: My Face, I Love Hip Hop, New World, and No Options.
My Face opens with an icy, escalating synthesizer drone reminiscent of Daft Punk’s breakthrough LP, Discovery. The song flirts with elements of ambient and drone music before a snare-heavy breakbeat drumline kicks in. Lil B’s lyrics invoke a new member of the #Based pantheon: the eponymous Mr. Glassface. Glassface is presented as a foil to the upbeat, goofy Based God, instead tackling somber issues and topics.
I Love Hip Hop is an ode to the better parts of the rap game. Lil B breaks the Glassface character to extol the virtues of rap, women, and narcotics over a chopped-and-screwed sample of 100 Proof’s “I Don’t Care If I Never Get Over You” that sounds more like a deranged vaporwave track than a hip-hop instrumental.
New World’s instrumental is lumbering and eerie. Oddly spaced, arythmic chimes on a diminished scale give the song an anxious feeling, which contrasts the lyrics, in which Lil B raps about a world where everything is based and positive.
No Options opens with a jazzy sample and a shoutout to Harlem, which suddenly segues to a dark beat straight out of NWA’s Straight Outta Compton. Similarly, Lil B uses the lyrics to paint the Glassface character as a hyperviolent, misanthropic gangster who kills with impunity. His flow and timbre are inconsistent; Lil B croons like Cam’ron for a verse, then growls like Death Grips frontman MC Ride, before laughing like Hova.
Glassface is Lil B’s most serious release since his 2011 LP I’m Gay (I’m Happy). While the quality is inconsistent and some of the lyrics are cringeworthy, the mixtape is one of his most inspired. The more serious themes and outlook signal Lil B’s maturation as an artist. The mixtape is available for free at DatPiff.com, and definitely worth a listen if you are a follower of the #Based philosophy.