Over the course of seven years and nearly 50 mixtapes, Lil B has built a career on subverting hip-hop machismo (one of his more infamous freestyles is called “I’m a Fag, I’m a Lesbian”) as well as logic itself (see appealingly half-sensical lines like “Swag Paris Hilton, bag Paris Hilton, I think I’m Paris Hilton”). He’s a human thinkpiece generator whose business model hinges on his dizzying productivity, and the Christmas Eve release of the 101-track mixtape 05 Fuck Em is easily his grandest gesture yet. That’s right: 101 tracks, nearly six hours of music, longer than Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors Trilogy. You don’t so much listen to it as survive it.
Lil B’s mind seems to be on the turn of the century, the age of the hip-hop double-disc. He samples 2003’s two-CD Diplomatic Immunity, by fellow left-field wordsmiths the Diplomats, on at least four tracks; “Lil B” resurrects the beat from LL Cool J‘s 1999 FUBU commercial “Fatty Girl”; “Im the Rap God” is a drunken-style karaoke freestyle over the instrumental to System of a Down’s spastic 2001 single “Toxicity.”
The lyrics come with a lot of introspection, thank yous, apologies, brooding, anger at the prison industrial complex, and emotionally conflicted statements like “Through the mic I be cryin’, smile through the speakers.” The mix of confessionals, free associations, motivational speeches, and uncensored sex talk still isn’t suitable for conventional Tupac-vs.-Biggie discussions of lyrical acumen, but the sheer range of the music fits a wildly complex, contradictory, intriguing artist – probably why he remains social media’s cult r@pper of the millennium.
When Lil B is boasting, he can be as crude as Houston horrorcore (“I’m a dirty ass nigga with a clean dick/Fucked a bitch in the ass then she sucked my dick”); but when he’s in “conscious” mode, he can be as syrupy as P.M. Dawn. He’ll preach positive and say “I love you” 11 times in one song (“Rock Up 4sho”) but then take shots at fellow fringe MC Spaceghostpurrp (“From the Bay”). Lil B is compelled to play the social media game and write a response to Kendrick Lamar’s game-changing “Control” verse (“Control Response”), but still plays by his own rules, and doesn’t even bother rhyming all the time. There’s only one guest spot listed on the album and it’s Keke the Adopted Tabby Cat.
At no point does the lo-fi, handmade 05 Fuck Em reach the highest highs of the best Lil B songs, some of which (“Wonton Soup,” “Ellen Degeneres”) could have lit up rap radio if you chipped away some YouTube distortion. But it rarely reaches the low lows of his songs that were just lists of video games (though the off-beat “Kurt Angle” certainly comes close). It’s a shame that the many, many, many id-fueled fantasies (“I need a girl that suck dick”) end up stealing the spotlight from an album that’s at its best when showing its sensitive core. In “Rip Kennedy,” Lil B paraphrases Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison for the age of laptop lonelies, hinting at why he’s constantly creating: “I wonder how many chances that I get to make you realize I exist/I feel invisible anyway/I’m always walkin’ around in a bliss/I wonder if I exist.”