Originally published 18/11/2015 on ReeceListens
There have been far more words written about Lil B the persona than Lil B the rapper. He’s the kind of guy who sometimes rocks up at universities to give lectures but still refer to himself the third-person. He has appeared as a political commentator on CNN and put a ‘curse’ on NBA superstar James Harden within a few months. Oh, he also made an album called I’m Gay (I’m Happy) and also wrote one of the most powerful songs about modern African-American disadvantage entitled ‘No Black Person is Ugly’ and that’s not even scratching the surface on all of the quirks in the Based God’s mythology. So yeah, there’s a lot to absorb in understanding the character around Lil B.
Chance the Rapper, on the other hand, largely speaks through his music. By all accounts Chance is a wonderful and interesting person, most of what we know about him is gleaned through his expressive releases. His off-stage persona is a little more reserved. He appears to be a thoughtful, generous individual who listens more than he talks. As comfortable on a track with Childish Gambino as he was with Lil Wayne, Chance has remarkably steered clear of any notable controversy or beef in his success yet brief career.
It makes their pairing on the spontaneous, recorded-in-one-tape mixtape all the more surprising. The free mixtape is just the duo freestyling over a bunch of beats during a recording session in Chicago. However, as Lil b B goes to great lengths to tell us on the track, they’re actually freestyling – ‘off the dome’, if you will. It’s a departure from what you’d usually hear on radio station freestyles, where artists are usually recycling verses from studio tracks or, god forbid, reading from their phone hidden between water bottles.
What results is a product which isn’t exactly conventional or clean. Lines often trail off half-finished and there are more than a few spots where Chance and B are unashamedly trying to wait out a few bars until a new line pops into their head. On paper, it sounds like it’d make for an ugly listen but somehow it really works.
Perhaps its success comes from all the organic moments that spring up. At one point, Chance claims he and Lil B are “the greatest like Jordan, if he was a twin, Rivers of Jordan” before bursting out laughing. It’s hardly the lyricism of Rakim, but it’s hard not to crack a smile over their infectious bubbly energy. All of this works because Lil B and Chance have the unique fusion of talent and charisma. Even with all their energy, if they weren’t incredibly talented rappers there would be too many awkward bars and long pauses in their attempt to freestyle for it be an enjoyable listen. Conversely, if they lacked in charisma you’d just be listening to some rappers flexing their freestyling skills which alone doesn’t amount to much fun. But they’ve got both and a project that would almost definitely fall under lesser rappers ends up shining.