Stream Lil B’s 33 Track ‘Hoop Life’ Mixtape

2013 Pitchfork Music Festival - Day 3

LIL B continues to ask more questions than he is able to answer with his latest rap mixtape ‘Hoop Life’. At an immense 33 tracks, the first question we have to ask ourselves is how do we listen to this?

The schizophrenic organisation of so many songs with nothing in common apart from the fact they all centre upon basketball, means it is almost impossible to consume this creation in one sitting. The arrangement of tracks is at times bizarre, for example the second tune “At the Freethrow” technically finishes at around the 2 minute thirty mark but continues for near another two in silence.

This on the second track? Seriously Based God? Decisions like these prompt one to wonder if the Californian rapper even revises his recorded material at all. Stretches of unnecessary silence exist all over the mixtape, as if he simply forgot to press the stop button after recording.

Like his stream of consciousness rap, the tracks appear here like ideas, quickly relayed from thought to sound without any real reflection. B’s improvised rap delivery is habitually something that divides listeners, as he stumbles over flat rhymes, golden one-liners and sometimes tailing off altogether, his train of thought taking him somewhere else completely. Often these contradictions can occur in the space of a single song. On “Foul Out” he yoyo’s from regretting sex with a cheerleader to outrageously declaring just how he would have sex with a whole squad.

It’s completely erratic, but also completely natural. His ‘based’ style reflects his creative output, existing as a deluge of material from which the listener is left to pick and choose what they believe to be significant. Indeed the rapper is just as likely to spout lyrical garbage as he is to pull brilliance out of thin air. From the virtuoso, faux grandiosity of the chorus on “F*ck KD (Kevin Durant Diss)” (a song as perfectly ridiculous as it’s title suggests) to the sloppy drama of “Pretty Boy Anthem,” Hoop life certainly has it’s highs and lows. Though even on the latter track he pricelessly proclaims his semblance to the Pope and Madonna. It’s this incalculable unpredictability that makes it impossible to turn away from any Lil B product. Waiting for B’s next preposterous outburst or sonic mutation is simply addictive.

The real question all people who hear this mixtape, (as with any Lil B creation) will ask themselves is ‘is this rap music? Should I be listening to this at all?’ The answer is about as clear as Lil B’s claim to seriousness in the rap genre. As with the artist’s bottomless discography, one has to listen to a lot of questionable music in order to discover moments of sheer genius or happenstance (depending on what you think of Lil B).

Only he could bring us lines like those on “Lockdown”: “When I hoop I don’t smoke or drink liquor, off season I’m selling coke, I sell coke when I play overseas, come back with 200gs.” Hoop life is only different to his other mixtapes in that it is basketball themed, and it is interesting to see how Lil B utilises vocabulary from the culture to colour his based world. Though truth be told it often feels trivial to be concentrating so hard on something that it seems wasn’t given a second thought in its creation at all. Even so. As with all works by Lil B, Hoop life is worth your time because if anything it gives a great insight into the workings of arguably the most interesting musical personality of the 21st Century.

While if you’re new to Lil B’s sound, more accessible albums like I’m Gay (I’m Happy) or God’s Father might be a more rewarding experience, if you like basketball, or you like Lil B then you should definitely cop a listen.

Words by Sebastian Henry-Jones