There was a time when not ALL Lil B projects were excessively bloated. Take 2012’s “Rich After Taxes” for example, which clocks in at an incredibly modest 53 minutes and 27 seconds. That’s an EP release by Lil B standards. The lead single (can you call it that off a mixtape) “Soul On the Streets” seems incredibly focused too. Brandon raps over a symphonic loop and talks about how he’s got “a whole lot of passion/eating the fruits of Christ.” Even though he’s narrating his day-in-the-life scenario of hustling and surviving, he drops hints that the streets are like war and throws shouts to the Marines and the Navy, begging them to “come save me.” It definitely doesn’t come across like anything that glorifies having to boss up and survive in the roughest of times, right down to the dirty and broken kicks dead center on camera at the start of his video.
“My soul bleed on the streets” quips B, and these heartfelt raps mean more than all of his braggadocious tracks about having mad money and women. B’s tendency to do weird experimental songs is still in full effect though. “Don’t Be Afraid” sounds incredibly medicated even without being Chopped & Screwed, and B leans so far into the mic he might as well be swallowing it. When he raps “I’m too sleep/I don’t even sip lean/I’m drinking Hennessy and Robitussin, right out of the Walgreens” I can’t act surprised. The vocals are so distorted they threaten to blow out his instrumental, making the entire song a dichotomy of genius and madness in one stroke.
The fact B leans on a fist cocked with his middle finger up for the album cover encapsulates his view on rapping then and now. Brandon does what he wants, how he wants, when he wants, FUCK the haters, “fuck if you don’t like this.” Even if you don’t always agree with his music, you can at least agree with how uncompromising he is about his vision. Maybe it’s an accident when songs end up being as good as “Take It Take It,” but I’ll take it. “Couldn’t get my lines so I slowed it down” says Brandon, and perhaps he should take his own advice. When he slows down and produces fewer songs, they achieve better results than his mass produced mega albums.
Even so there are still some positively unlistenable tracks. Would it really be a Lil B album if there weren’t a few? I never need to hear him sing the way he does on “What Do You Do” ever again. I understand his sentiments when he says “fuck rap man I’m too real, fuck the world” because he doesn’t want to be limited by any genre or style. That’s fine but sometimes you’re just naturally better at one thing than another, and if Brandon is perfectly honest with himself and the rest of us CROONING isn’t what he’s good at.
“Rich After Taxes” is not the album to change opinions about Lil B. If you already liked him then songs like the either under or overproduced “Based on a Tru Story” (I honestly can’t decide which it is) will be right up your alley. If you didn’t like him then aimless misogynistic tracks like “Gunz and Strapz I’m Depressed Based Freestyle” aren’t going to improve your opinion of him one bit. I’m still going to rate this one as decent though just off of B being a lot more selective and a little more focused as to what he’d include on one release. It just barely pushes the needle above half full, and that’s only a shame because I know he’s capable of much more. Then again he’s shown so many times that he’ll shamelessly shovel shit that I have to take any restraint on his part and genuinely say THANK YOU BASED GOD.