In a previous BlocBoy JB review I mentioned that James Lee Baker got his big break thanks to the song and video for “Look Alive” featuring Drake going viral. At the time I said the clip had done 300 million views, but as of the time of publication it has gotten close to 400 million. Unless there’s some reason for the video to be taken down, it’s conceivable it will reach a half BILLION this decade. While some of that can be attributed to the same people watching or listening to the song multiple times, it’s still an impressive and quite frankly astounding amount.

As much as Drake’s cameo deserves credit for making JB super viral, the simple but memorable Tay Keith piano instrumental is just as important. It borders on being repetitive in the same way radio ads and TV infomercials repeat the same phone number multiple times. You don’t want to remember it but in the end you hear it so much you can’t help but know it. I’ll even say the beat is more memorable than anything JB or Drake had to say. “I’m only chasing after bags.” Okay, thanks Drake. “That nigga brown like cinnamon.” Okay, thanks JB. The individual elements of this “SIMI” song are entirely unremarkable, but in gestalt they become more than the sum of their parts.

“Bitch, I ain’t with none of this shit!”

I wish I could say that for the rest of JB’s songs. Given this mixtape came out two years before “FatBoy” I had different expectations. I assumed (which is always a dangerous thing to do) that this would be a somewhat less refined version of the JB I knew. Lil Pump doesn’t say anything I haven’t heard him rap before in his “Nun of Dat” cameo though, right down to his “ooh” interjections while bragging about how much money he has and how many drugs he does. His words were not a surprise and neither were JB’s. “Hoe, betta not say no mo’. Bitch, get me some ‘gars from the sto’.” The song is completely interchangeable with the rest of his catalogue right down to the celebrity guest stars.

These two tracks set the tone for “SIMI” perfectly. The most popular and most viewed songs from this album are produced by Tay Keith and feature a big name guest, such as “Rover 2.0” featuring 21 Savage and “Nike Swoosh” featuring YG. The latter even has JB copying Lil Pump’s tendency to punctuate bars with “ooh” which isn’t a good look in my book. Every one of these songs has the unintentional effect of making me like the Tay beat and the cameo more than the billed attraction.

There are a lot things I respect about BlocBoy JB though. For a mixtape this is in all respects a fully realized album, clocking in at 48 minutes long and 18 songs total. Even the “Outro” isn’t a throwaway — it’s another Keith production with a real verse on it. JB also has a mesmerizing accent befitting his Memphis origins that adds more spice to even the most banal of flavors. He throws things in the “urr,” not the “air.” It’s even funny to hear him mimic Mannie Fresh. JB may not paint outside of the lines but he uses a lot of color inside of them to make things more vibrant.

For better or worse this puts me in the same position I was at with BlocBoy JB the last time. There’s nothing extremely hate-worthy about “SIMI” but it’s not necessary to go out of your way to hear it. If you’ve heard “Look Alive” you’ve already heard the best and most important part of it, and if you’ve heard any of the duets you’ve heard the rest. JB is well connected — perhaps too well connected. Having so many high profile friends and a top flight producer relegates him to second tier status on his own albums, and I genuinely believe he deserves better than that.

BlocBoy JB :: SIMI
6Overall Score