“Free,” Lil B & Chance The Rapper’s based freestyles mixtape is a unique thing. An inspired project celebrating positivity, acceptance, friendship and having fun. “Fun” is the operative word here, because both rappers are obviously having a great time on “Free.” It’s impressive how they manage to be pretty poignant while joking around and freestyling.
It is kind of perfect timing that Lil B and Chance released this tape at the height (or maybe the better way to put it is the nadir) of Drake and Meek Mill’s petty beef. “Free” is anti beef rap. I was listening to Lil B and Chance spit lines like “this is what I care about: people, love,” while reading about Meek and Drake bullying each other. Chance and Brandon teaming up for this tape and promoting positivity is the polar opposite of bullshit like Meek saying he’ll tie up Drake’s mom and Drake trolling in his “#FreeMeekMill” shirt.
My friend Ronald Metellus and I have been discussing music at length (rap especially) since probably the very second I first met him. We live in different cities–Ron’s in Philly and I’m in Boston–so we talk mostly via our phones now. The night “Free” dropped Ron and I had a lengthy conversation about it. I wanted to share our discussion and, in the spirit of this “Free,” have this be a collaboration.
Ronald Metellus: The Chance/Lil B Project is rare. So many positive lessons.
Nick Vogt: Yeah it’s great! So cool they did that! Definitely has me wanting to do some based freestyles of my own haha
RM: I think their freestyles are really aided by going back and forth. My favorite tracks are “What’s Next,” “Do My Dance” and “We Rare.” But, I like the whole thing. Lil B actually reminded me of you. He talks about death a lot on the tape. [note: Nick talks about death a lot]
NV: haha! Oh yeah when he says “what if I die today? Would they remember me? Would I be history?”
RM: Yeah, and there’s all the stuff about it being his “last chance.”
NV: Dude, When Based God says “we living in misery” on “What’s Next” that is such a crazy line to just freestyle.
RM: I know. “We gon keep spraying…spraying for peace” is a great line, too.
NV: What a great image, “spraying for peace” amazing! I never heard Chance freestyle till this tape, but he is really good, too. And, that makes sense. His raps are always pretty stream of consciousness.
RM: Yeah the melody he comes up with for “What’s Next” is great. His Sway freestyle is an actual freestyle and it’s really clever–gonna find it now.
NV: I was actually wondering how much Chance was gonna sing on the tape. It’s harder to freestyle sing than rap, but he sings a lot on “Free,” and he really kills it.
RM: Chance freestyle sings for four minutes straight on “Amen” and the time flies.
NV: They compliment each other so much. Chance says Lil B has the “most mixtapes listened to in the world.” Which is a great compliment and also might be true.
RM: haha and Lil B thanking him all throughout the intro.
NV: He tells Chance “you already a god of this booth.” Which, coming from Lil B, is huge.
RM: My fav part of chance’s freestyling is how he uses every possible meaning of a word:
“or just better/when you spell it b-e-t-a that means it’s on trial/ that means that for a while/ it won’t be finished/ but when that shit’s finished/just look at that finish”
he did that on his sway freestyle too, “ripley’s…believe me/ I be getting off…like, this is my [bus]stop”
NV: Yeah for sure he has a really different way of freestyling. What song is the “Better” line on?
RM: that’s from “what’s next” which is my least favorite B verse on the tape. but then you get to the “we living but it’s misery” line at the end.
NV: Yeah Lil B takes a while to hit his stride on that track. I like the “running so fast I be chasing a laser” line but yeah besides that and the “misery” line it’s not Lil B’s best. Chance is so good on “What’s Next”
RM: I like the laser line too. The hooks on “What’s Next” and “We Rare” are both solid.
Would you say “We Rare” has a drake flow on the hook?
NV: Yeah it definitely has a Drake flow. I think “We Rare” is the most fun track on the tape. You can tell Chance is loving it when he’s doing that hook. It’s really catchy I’ve found myself yelling it to myself the last couple days haha
“pulling up in that foie gras”
RM: it’s very catchy. the drake song it reminds me of is “trophies”
NV: Yeah it’s great he just freestyle that hook. I think on “We Rare” Chance is just letting loose. He kinda does a Big Sean flow a little bit too. Chance and Lil B both have a lot of different voices they use which is another reason they make a good team for this tape. Chance kinda does the “JUICE” yell when he says “WE RARE” haha
Also “I Made it to a new thang!” is great you can kinda take it to mean anything but it’s always positive
RM: Yeah that’s good songwriting. Lil B said “shout out Mack Maine, shout out Lil Wayne.” It’s never been said in that order before. Also, there are some (maybe) strategic shout outs to Kendrick and Kayne. Kanye should bring him in the studio.
NV: It’s hilarious that Lil B says “Kanye, you the bro.”
NV: There’s so much positivity on here, but what do you think about the transphobic tweet rant Lil B went on recently? That seemed so out of character for him.
RM: The transphobia reminded me of that Hilton Als book White Girls. Lil B is so obsessed with women and trans women might throw a wrench into that obsession.
NV: What is strange is Lil B’s apology saying stuff like “I’m still learning…” I’m not sure how to feel about that. You can’t take back the things he said, but I do think it’s a genuine apology.
RM: Yeah it wasn’t a complete about-face. He acknowledged it was something he was still working through.
NV: Yeah, you’re right. He wasn’t trying to take back what he said as much as just apologize. He didn’t dismiss or get defensive when people called him out. He realized what he was saying was fucked up pretty quick. That’s based. And self-aware. I guess they are the same thing…I mean obviously that whole rant was ignorant and hateful. But, Lil B really does not want to be that guy. He wants to be the Based God. I think the idea is that the Based God is this truly positive, accepting being. He’s said so many times that Lil B and Based God are separate.
RM: Yeah the Based God is like his ideal form that speaks to him. i just pulled up the hilton als
essay about michael jackson–which is outstanding btw. this passage stuck out to me:
“ a number of black gay men began to refer to Jackson as ‘she’ and, eventually, “a white woman”—one of the slurs they feared most, for what could be worse than being called that which you were not, could never be? As his physical transformations began to overshadow his life as a musician, Jackson’s now-famous mask of white skin and red lips (a mask that distanced him from blackness just as his sexuality distanced him from blacks) would come to be read as the most arresting change in the man who said no to life but yes to pop.”
It made me think of Lil B’s performance of femininity via #GirlTime, “Ellen Degenerous” “Miley Cyrus,” dressing like a church-going grandma on ESPN and how there might be some dissonance when encountered by someone who was born a man saying “this is not a performance for me, I identify as a woman.” i dunno.
NV: Lil B’s sense of humor is complicated which is one of the things that makes him fascinating and great. I think, for him the performance of femininity is a joke, but also sort of not. And that is maybe why he feels uncomfortable about transsexuality. His transphobic tweets started out as an attempt at a joke that wasn’t funny. That was a very strange moment for him and it’s good we’re talking about it more at length tho because I feel like most people just forgot about it.
RM: Yeah we might have covered this as much as the actual tape now, but I’m glad we did talk about it.