Rain in England (Weird Forest, 2010)
by Lil B
originally published at Dusted Magazine
If Lil Wayne is the Shakespeare of modern rap, Lil B is the Walt Whitman: wildly cocky, perplexingly spiritual, sexually overdetermined, utterly confusing ("I’m that pretty bitch, I’ma fuck her all night"). He’s got some flow, some wit, and unexpectedly cool taste in production, but he’s also taken Wayne’s example about off-the-cuff charm past its logical endpoint, saturating the web with barely coherent pseudo-rap content. He just released MF Based, a "rare" (??) mixtape of supposedly MF Doom-inspired "freestyles," and less than a month later his pro wrestling-inspired Gold Dust Mixtape is yours to download (here). Lil B is a quantity rapper.
So are a lot of rappers, but “albums” are supposed to be the venue where they put in a little more time — which usually leads to the albums sounding overworked and obsolete, at least by rap’s breakneck standards. If Rain in England took any more time than any of these, it was time ill spent; even the 74 minutes it takes to listen to it front to back feel wasted, except maybe as cautionary example. It is, briefly, one long humid stream of gloopy, discordant synth noodling over which B waxes transcendental about the miracle of life, not particularly skillfully or imaginatively. It’s like a half-baked motivational spoken-word poetry tribute to Brian Eno’s Ambient series on a department store Casio, with insane cover art.
The minimalist novelty wears off about halfway through track one; the remaining hour and change is devoted to mundane truisms and unearned moralizing, the likes of which never sound good even when couched in legit beats and rhymes. On “All My Life” and “Hate Is Fear” he sermonizes about haters; “I Am The Hellraiser” sounds like Woody Allen’s imitation of rap braggadocio. You can guess what “Death” and “Love Is Strange” are about. "Earth’s Medicine" is kind of charming, but in more of an elementary school way than in a Dr. Octagon way ("Hello, Earth. Welcome to the doctor’s office. You seem very sick. Are you okay?").
We can talk plenty about what this album is not, how it’s self-styled as antithetical to the nihilism of ringtone rap, how it’s theoretically brave for a rapper to make an album that barely even resembles rap. We can talk about how it’s illuminating as a distillation of a cultish kind of stream of consciousness, or about how Lil B is simply telling it like he sees it without conceding anything to conventional standards of listenability. But these are things to admire, not like, and I haven’t found anything to like. To all indications, Rain in England is irredeemably bad. This is what it sounds like when everyone fails to point out that an idea isn’t worth indulging.back