Friday, February 24th, 2012

Lil B – February’s Confessions



Jer Fairall: My first time hearing this guy, and frankly I was expecting more Wayne-style mania and less Drake-style prettiness. The awkwardness with which his flow, sounding stifled and restrained, clashes against the elegance of the music suggests to me that this is not his natural habitat.

Alex Ostroff: Lil B’s output is too prolific and too spotty for me to keep up, but tracks like this are what make me wish I had the endurance. “February’s Confessions” isn’t as breathtaking as “Age of Information,” which was the first time I got Lil B, but pairing his meandering thoughts with a plaintive beat is the swiftest way to make me pay attention. 

Katherine St Asaph: I don’t understand Lil B. That is to say, of course I do; he’s a juuuust-talented-enough rapper who tirelessly works the Internet and has both phenomenal and populist tastes in beats. But the Lil B adoration feels so much like a no-soap-radio prank no one’s questioned. It doesn’t help that I know D&D and can only giggle at “level two demi based god“; it definitely doesn’t help that I’ve seen people retweet at least two B positivity tweets a week yet still manage to bully or troll people. It means I can’t review “February’s Confessions” out of context. The track is gorgeous, Lil B is fine, but I’d enjoy it so much more if it didn’t feel like listening to someone else’s inside joke.

Michelle Myers: “But do you thank Based God every day?” asked my friend’s little brother as we split an American Spirit in front of a faux-authentic Irish pub. And when I smiled, his face hardened and he said, “because I do.” I’ve been in a lot of dick-measuring contests when it comes to music, but never one concerning my religious devotion to a rapper. But therein lies the appeal of Lil B; he begs us to make a leap of faith. We do not love the Based God because he is good. He is good because we love him.

Jonathan Bradley: The whole based steez is a bit of a scam, really. Lil B’s style isn’t confessional: rather, he performs the act of confession. Where traditional rapppers, ones supposedly unburdened by Lil B’s unfiltered honesty, bare their selves on record, they do so in service of imparting actual emotion: see, for instance, Scarface expressing the mute emptiness of grief, Pimp C aching with weary malaise, or Tupac Shakur fearful and fatalistic. Game is more unfiltered, Tyler more self-critical, Boosie more desperate. “February’s Confessions,” by contrast, reveals undefined people want Lil B’s money, that undefined friends treat him differently now he’s famous, and other undefined non-friends want to be friends now he’s famous. His revelations tend toward hippie mysticism like “Live your own life and be happy for the moment.” But because he raps in a hushed voice in elegiac tones over a slow, piano-driven sample, and claims to have a lot of shit on his mind, he sounds as if he might be baring his soul. His rambling, unfocused style suggests he’s speaking directly, but the lack of structure prevents him from approaching anything meaningful: “Gotta do it for my uncles,” he begins in verse three — what about them, Brandon? — then follows that with, “You don’t even know what’s in my soul” — because you won’t tell us! Lil B performs sincerity without anything he needs to be sincere about. And yet, “February’s Confessions” works, kind of. It gets a big assist from the sample — which I say as observation, not criticism — and even though Lil B exhibits more faculty with signifiers of feeling than actual feeling, he does show impressive facility with those signifiers. The best thing about his con job is that he surely doesn’t realize that it’s a con himself.

Brad Shoup: As is his wont, the second-most prolific artist in the game surprises with a release that isn’t endearingly awful/ephemeral. Massive respect for sampling from the half-awesome Toto IV. The effect of piano ballad, bass whole notes and B’s sleepyhead delivery is super narcotizing, even granting I only got a couple hours of sleep last night. But I don’t think he cares, I think he’s just happy I’m listening. I’m going to go take a really nice nap.

Iain Mew: Speeding up the sample somehow manages to make it simultaneously sadder and more poignant and also much more ridiculous. As a foil to Lil B’s serious and grizzled delivery and declarations about the wonder of being alive, it’s absolutely perfect: slyly undercutting and reinforcing his tone in roughly equal measure.

Edward Okulicz: Proves the competence of Toto was made into genius by Roger Sanchez; Lil B loops the same part of “I Won’t Hold You Back” that “Another Chance” did, extracting the wheat from the chaff and brooding compellingly over it. Even though the sample is the biggest hook, it grates over the course of the track’s length. The sparing employment of it was what made Sanchez a genius for five minutes and Lil B an auteur throwing rhymes and samples willy-nilly… the potential thrills but the execution eventually wears you down.

Asher Steinberg: As Noz often points out, when Lil B gets away from randomly shouting about how he looks just like Jesus or Ellen DeGeneres and actually raps, he exposes his weaknesses as a rapper. This is the case here. But as is often the case when Lil B raps, his overwhelming, almost embarrassing sincerity puts him over anyway. I’m particularly moved when, ruefully and a little hurt, he complains that “all of a sudden niggas acting like we was friends from middle school/that’s why I never spoke on you in my interviews.”

John Seroff: I like it when Lil B is in his deeply earnest and melancholy mode; those downhearted ramblings are consistently more interesting than his trips into self-parody and roleplay. Lord only knows if this song hails from a mix or an actual release or if that even matters anymore, but I’m firmly of the opinion that a proper single should really feature at least one more wrinkle beyond what I’m hearing here to be considered a fully finished product. Even so, as a continuation of B’s evolving first draft, “February” continues to push the bar forward and hold my attention with the artist as a young man.

Andy Hutchins: When Based God lets the song cry, it’s good; when he brags — actually brags, for once: “Last time I fell asleep, I left the game wide open” is true in a few ways, if not as funny as “I’ll be Albert Einstein times a million, bitch” — it’s better. But Brandon giving himself a rare outlet to rap a more traditional rap song is one of music’s most intriguing dilemmas: It’s these songs that show a path to being great in a way that could obliterate his past (and substantial) success, but the B who can make these songs is one who wants to make all of the others. To make “February’s Confessions,” you gotta make “Pussy On My Face,” too.

5 Responses to “Lil B – February’s Confessions”

  1. Brad writes much better after a bout of insomnia (I’m assuming) than I do. See: my entries for today.

  2. Jonathan makes an interesting point. Though I don’t get why being really emo about people wanting your money isn’t valid/interesting/fun. That said, I think (possibly contrary to Andy) that ‘Pussy On My Face’ is a much better song than this.

  3. Good synopsis jonathan

  4. @Tray It’s not that being emo about people wanting your money isn’t valid/interesting/fun, it’s that “people I knew back in the day treat me different now I’m famous” is such well trod ground in hip-hop that there’s nothing particularly remarkable about Lil B doing it. The difference between this and something like Trae’s Restless is that Trae’s coherent.

    (Also, thanks John!)

  5. @jonathan i dont think its so much of a scam as a semi-conscious ambiguity that allows the listener to inhabit the lyrics