Lil B’s influence was strongly felt in 2017, not least on the scrappy eccentricity of so-called “Soundcloud rap,” plus hit-making disciples such as Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert. But Lil B’s much-anticipated Black Kenshows the mercurial East Bay artist staying ahead of his followers. No singles, no music videos, and next to no guests — Lil B produced all of Black Ken‘s 27 tracks himself, and he intended them to be heard front-to-back, a proper album. Lumbering, mean-mugging funk feels at the record’s outset cede to hyphy exuberance midway (he even dons a Keak da Sneak-indebted rasp), with leftfield experiments on the flip. It’s also an ode to the East Bay, stuffed with hyper-local references. Maybe it presages a more composed, less spontaneous Lil B. It definitely foregrounds the doting study of hip-hop history that’s always underpinned his work.