We got a tie: In praise of closed circuit mixtapes
Sorry, I just couldn't decide between Big K.R.I.T.'s 4evaNaDay and Lil B's God's Father. They have a surprising amount in common, anyway. Namely, here are two Internet-rap veterans completely in their respective lanes, providing very few concessions to those not already indoctrinated into their worlds, and only acknowledging everyone else when it's time to lash out. At the same time, these confident, comfortable releases confront the ceiling you hit when you're no longer "cult," not yet "mainstream," are taken for granted by even the most invested rap fans, but unwilling to compromise to take yourself to that next level.
Think of Big K.R.I.T. as hip-hop's Hunter Hunt-Hendrix. Like the Liturgy frontman, who has attempted to turn black metal — hateful, nihilistic heavy rock of the church-burning, Satan-celebrating sort — into something more sane but just as awesome, K.R.I.T. takes drug slanging, misogynist, pussy-popping Southern rap, keeps the trunk rattling signifiers, then twists the content to fit a kinder, gentler worldview. To some, this is probably blasphemous or whatever, but K.R.I.T.'s a great producer who is only getting better, and he has a clever way of acknowledging the tropes of the Dirty South while politely saying, "not for me."
His trip to the strip club song is called "Temptation," and on "Insomnia," a sweet song to a girlfriend he doesn't get to see enough ("you help me sleep," goes the gentle hook), he confesses, "I talk about pussy a lot, and getting money, when I get unfocused." When he's down and out is when he starts spouting cliches. Here is K.R.I.T., introspective and alone, talking about relationships at their breaking point, remembering dead relatives, trying to escape (he calls going to the club "overrated" on "Sky Club") and yes, quasi-beefing with Def Jam, who just keep on delaying his solo record. I mentioned "Handwriting" last week, but also consider "Alarm," a wailing banger about how maybe, he won't make it.
There's also some humor on this mixtape, which suggests K.R.I.T.'s getting more comfortable and feels like he has less to prove. The part on the Sade-sampling "Sky Club," where he goes, "Krizzle, can you sing?" and then beautifully croons, "Yes I can," is really funny! "Package Store," describes an interaction with the local preacher/pussyhound and finds K.R.I.T. parodying his tendency to find profundity in damn near everything: "He... said that I should cut my grass because I'm surrounded by snakes / Not sure if that was metaphorical or if he had seen one today." Dude spends plenty of time soul-searching, so it's nice to see him mock the sincerity a bit here.
Many of you already know that I am not the biggest Lil B fan in the world. His "based" philosophy seems more like an excuse to do whatever he wants than something truly profound or edifying. Like, the hippie-dippie guy at college that steals your weed and then blabs on and on about communal living and sharing and how he'll hook you up next time, bro, when you call him out for it. But God Father finds the Based God angrily addressing a rap scene full of rip-offs and opportunistic MCs, so, the peace-and-love facade's breaking up a bit here, and that's really fascinating.
"I Own Swag," is a snarky response to David Banner's Internet rap mocking "Swag," and it's just fun to hear Lil B goofily rap his ass off and make Banner's beat into the silly party song it should've been in the first place. "February's Confessions," seems like the success of A$AP Rocky — pretty much a market-tested, industry-approved version of ground up acts like Lil B and Odd Future — made Lil B beat himself up a bit for having too much integrity to get those RCA dollars. "Keep It 100" and "Breathe Slow" are aimed at Triple Six Mafia tribute act Spaceghostpurrp, who has a bizarre habit of going after rappers for biting him when his entire style is a rip-off.
Despite the shade thrown out to Internet rap copycats, God's Father is still swallowed up by good vibes. Thanks to Kanye West wannabe beats that chipmunk-ize soul, Hall & Oates, M83, and more, this mixtape sounds like the impossibly sunny style of I'm Gay on happy pills. It ends with "I Love You," a sing-song, sort of rap over "Besaid Theme" from Final Fantasy X. There are 34 tracks here, and the thing goes on for more than 90 minutes, so it's just a massive, impenetrable .zip of songs, and the moments when Lil B's just being bizarre ("I'm Just Livin") or confessional ("I Ain't Neva Won") or dare I say it, "conscious" ("Fed At My Doh"), feel more powerful and way funnier because every once in a while, he deigns to drop the "based" bullshit and get pissed off like the rest of us mere mortals.