In Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball’s first mixtape, “Born 2 Ball,” he raps, “I am a man of many talents.” Rapping is not one of those talents.
The mixtape, which dropped Feb. 15, is exactly as corny as the title suggests.
As a project, it’s similar to his jump shot: awkward, defective and occasionally successful. It’s unconscionably long at 17 tracks and while the run time is only 53 minutes, it feels like a marathon to listen to.
Like everything attached to the Big Baller Brand, it lacks substance. But if the goal of the mixtape is to have people listen to it, then it’s probably successful solely because of the Ball family hype machine.
The first song, “Grind Mode,” is tolerable, despite being lyrically abysmal, thanks to it’s captivating, bass-heavy beat. It stands in stark contrast to the video and accompanying song “ZO2,” which are masturbatory and self-congratulating in the same way his father LaVar is whenever he opens his mouth.
“ZO2,” the third song on the mixtape, is a glorified advertisement for Ball’s signature shoe, the ZO2, which costs $495 and resides on a website with syntax errors and peculiarities that suggest it was designed by LaVar Ball himself.
In most cases, the title of each song makes it far too easy to guess what the content will be. It’s like a middle schooler’s first attempt at poetry: If the title is “I like candy,” it’s not too difficult to guess what the poem is about.
Once the novelty of the first few songs wears off, the reality of the mixtape quickly sets in, and it’s atrocious.
The mixtape is agonizingly repetitive and lacks creativity. Songs like “Get Off” sound like they used a free SoundCloud beat.
Nearly every song starts with a semi-catchy intro before Ball raps a verse entirely of triplets. It feels like he listened to Future for the first time and thought, “Hey, I can do that.”
“It’s a line that would be clever only if it was rapped by a preschool student who just learned that left and right are opposites.”
It doesn’t help that Ball features his friend Kenneth Paige – who has a whiny, Chris Brown-wannabe voice – six times on the mixtape.
It’s not clever or audibly pleasing. The mixtape is dominated by Ball’s obsession with a few key subjects: diamonds (or ice), money, women and of course, Big Baller Brand.
By my count, diamonds or ice are referenced 44 times, women (not including his mother) 84 times, Big Baller Brand at least 96 and money 177.
To be fair to Ball, he does rap about his work ethic and family, but when the overwhelming majority of the mixtape is about other superficial topics – rapped in the exact same rhyme scheme – it’s not redeeming.
Songs like “Gotta Get It” are so repetitive they might as well be elevator music. Meanwhile, lines like “Pass me the ball and I’ll shoot it” in “ZO2” are comically bad. You almost expect Ball to describe how the game of basketball is played in the following lines.
My favorite song on the album is “LaVar,” the one song in which Ball doesn’t rap about himself. It’s mostly introspective and honest, except when he randomly drops in the line, “ZO2, buy the shoe, and the sandals,” as if he can’t shake the urge to ruin an honest song with some product placement.
Unfortunately, in “LaVar,” he also raps, “I don’t always do right, sometimes I turn left.” It’s a line that would be clever only if it was rapped by a preschool student who just learned that left and right are opposites.
It’s worth remembering that Ball is only 19 and this is his first mixtape. The lines, “Y’all can hate him, that’s my pops though… Yellin’ he the devil, but yet you the one who sold your soul,” in “LaVar” demonstrate a self-awareness that will be invaluable if Ball decides to seriously pursue rapping.
Ball’s low-pitched voice and decent technical ability to rap suggest that he’s capable of more than this project.
Unfortunately, the cardinal sin of this mixtape is that it’s boring. It’s not something you expect to be substantive, just like you don’t expect Migos to rap about complex social issues. But Migos is entertaining. It’s fun to listen to. This part-rap, part-product placement monstrosity, is not.