“Most rappers claim to be ‘real’; Lil B claims to be Ellen DeGeneres.”
–Andrew Marantz, “The Dumb Brilliance of Lil B”
Finding words to properly encapsulate Lil B always proves exceedingly difficult. The second a sentence begins to unfold, any number of possible twists and turns rear their heads. Suddenly, something so simple as summarizing the man’s most recent song or tweet becomes an exercise in fandom and hatred, frustration and exaltation–and that’s all before the first period’s been laid to rest.
With the self-proclaimed Based God, the only certainties are that his music will be as hotly debated as his actions, and moments of clarity will invariably be followed by headlong plunges into utter absurdity. During his ascent, this seesaw effect has produced an unpredictable array of entertaining moments that increased or sustained his notoriety (whether for better or worse is entirely in the eye of the beholder).
Check out his new mixtape, Obama Basedgod (because what else would it be called?), then dive into 10 of his most his most awe-inspiring, entertaining moments.
Hit “next” or click the image to watch…
1. Ending racism…and simultaneously beefing with Joe Budden
Lil B: king of infinite positivity and dubious claims. In the summer of 2010–the swell of an ascent that would eventually put his name on the lips of major label executives–Lil B saw fit to take time out of his busy recording schedule to end racism.
That was very benevolent and rare of him, but Joe Budden didn’t seem too impressed, mocking an earnest Based God on the revelation of his new race. So, like all magnanimous rulers, Lil B released a diss song about Budden and reported the “lyrical assfucking” to the Twittersphere:
The contradictions lay themselves bare there, a facet of Lil B’s fascinating persona summed up in three tweets.
2. Releasing a 676 track mixtape…then topping it with an 848 track mixtape
Over the last three years, Lil B’s excess has become a sort of calling card, from the seemingly endless array of MySpace accounts that initially housed his Based freestyles, to the infinite stream of Tweets detailing the Based God’s wisdom. So should anyone really be surprised that Lil B has not only released a 676 song mixtape, but an 848 song mixtape as well? Oh, no one was surprised? Oh ok.
The thing is, we doubt that many (any?) people actually listened to these entire projects. That’s not the point. The point is that Lil B did it, and the fact that he did it was enough to make headlines. Call it stupid if you want, but Lil B knows what he’s doing, and the art of trolling doesn’t get much better than this.
3. Writing a self help book
Nothing can express the intent and origins of B’s Takin’ Over better than the book’s subtitle: “by imposing the positive.” Sometimes the story tells itself, Lil B’s mission in a nutshell: the positive imposition.
The book is described as “a ground-breaking, rule-breaking, heartfelt and very funny book.” If it’s half as funny as his hilarious Twitter account, it’s probably worth a read.
4. Collaborating with 9th Wonder, Jean Grae, and Phonte
Though hip-hop purists found this one a head scratcher for all parties involved, it’s not so outlandish taken in the larger context of B’s catalog (and compared to some of the other things he’s done). Lil B is many things, but chief among them is “rap super fan.” The avalanche of Lil B releases over the last three years has featured such a diverse palette of production choices and genres that it’s difficult to envision a subgenre of rap that Lil B doesn’t like.
By hopping on a record with a few of indie hip-hop’s most championed purists (or at least people championed by purists–so as not to impugn the considerable talents of 9th, Jean, and Phonte), B aligned himself with “real hip-hop” and dared listeners to deny that he could a) at least stay on beat and b) garner respect from peers beyond the blogosphere. As Jean says in her verse: “Lil B’s in love with the music/ So leave a brother to use it, lead the public to new shit.”
5. Rapping over Clams Casino’s beats
While it’s easy to forget that Lil B makes music in the maelstrom surrounding his public persona, he did initially rise to prominence for the sounds he lays down, whether in studio or in iMac microphone. Though he’s often displayed what some might consider galling imprudence in his mixing, selection of beats, and general delivery, B is deserving of credit for occasional moments of reservation and taste. In 2009, Lil B released “I’m God,” a track that would become a signature in an almost innavigable sea as well as a calling card for emergent bedroom maestro Clams Casino–21 at the time the song dropped.
Since lacing Lil B with “I’m God” (alongside “Motivation,” “Realest Alive,” “Turned Me Cold,” and “Unchain Me,” among others), Clams has become a buzz magnet, playing to the avant crowd as well as the major leagues, crafting beats for Mac Miller, A$AP Rocky, and Lana Del Rey, and garnering praise from one of music’s hottest current producers, Paul Epworth (you know, just the guy who oversaw the creation of Adele’s world dominating 21).
6. Demanding 10 million dollars from prospective record labels
Yes, absurdity is B’s stock in trade, but sometimes there’s strategy in his madness, even if it’s unintentional. When labels came knocking on the Based God’s door as his popularity swelled in 2010 and early 2011, he made his requirements crystal clear: you want Lil B on your label? Pay him $10 million. In the ebbing tide of the music industry, handing out a $10 million contract would be tantamount to tolling the final bell. A $10 million dollar contract to a man who proclaims via YouTube that he has hoes on his dick because he looks like Jesus might be a death knell for industry in general.
But B’s outlandish demand marked a philosophical line in the sand, illustrating in an outsized fashion that the new wave of young, web savvy rappers (Odd Future, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar and the TDE crew, Mr. Mothafuckin eXquire) knew their value and the value of the fervent fanbases they were building. Even if B’s proposed contract overestimated that value (in the case of A$AP Rocky, by $7 million), it showed that the younger generation would at least be wary (and, at best, wholly resistant) to the truism of industry rule #4080.
7. Lecturing at NYU
Though as it approached, many wrote off Lil B’s NYU lecture and many others chimed in with ironic glee, the 80 minute discussion sparked a new wave of interest and think pieces at a point when Lil B’s emergent star seemed on the wane. A surprising move at the right time (which seems to be the Lil B way), the lecture placed the Based God back at the center of critical discussion, some takes flatly journalistic, others amusedly optimistic. In his speech, B discussed–what else?–love and peace. The lecture (transcribed here) was unrehearsed and unhinged, starting with B’s expected rhetoric and delving into the expectedly unexpected shortly thereafter, as B encouraged audience members to look at one another “like a golden, million-dollar baby, talked about accepting the voices in your head, professed his love for watercolors, and, of course, his excitement at being the first rapper to adopt a tabby cat (Keke).
8. Announcing I’m Gay
Never one to hold his tongue or err on the side of subtlety, Lil B announced to fans at Coachella 2011 that his upcoming album would be titled I’m Gay.
Lil B announces his new album will be called “I’m Gay.”Then raps over Air France.This really happened. #coachella
— Pitchfork (@pitchforkmedia) April 17, 2011
In his music, B has never shied from referring to himself as a pretty bitch or liberally using the words “faggot” and “dike,” a topic he shed some light on (in typically circuitous Based God fashion) in a 2010 interview with Complex:
Complex: Is your unconscious mindset fascinated by homosexuality? You talk about lesbians a lot. You call girls faggots. You call yourself a pretty bitch. Is there interest in that lifestyle?
Lil B: It’s a touchy subject. I respect the hell out of gays and the gay community. I’m not a gay man. I don’t agree with sex with another man or fucking another man or giving blow jobs to another guy. That’s not my thing. I’d rather fuck a girl, fuck her in her ass, fuck her in the mouth or something. Sorry for cussing.
Complex: It’s fine.
Lil B: It’s a very touchy subject. People get scared when they hear the gay word, but when you truly know yourself, you gonna be good. Say for instance you’re watching a porno, right. And, you’re jacking off and shit, and some gay shit pops up. And you’re like, “Oh, shit!” Either you’re gonna look at that shit, or you’re not gonna look at it and you’re not gonna give a fuck about it. Like, some gay shit can pop up on me, and I don’t give a fuck about it. I’m like, “Oh, that’s that gay shit. Get that shit off. Back to the bitches.” But some muthafuckers are in denial. Some dudes are really in denial. They’re like, “What’s that? Ohhhh!” And they hate themselves for that. They’re like, “What’s wrong with me?” You feel me? And these are motherfuckers that’s around us. That’s not saying shit. So, it’s like, I’m a faggot because I’m so not a faggot. I can say I’m a faggot. I can say I’m the gayest bitch on Earth. And I’m so not gay, it’s obvious. I know from my deepest core that I’m very far from gay. So I can say I’m the bitch queen that fucks cows. I’m not.
In spite of B’s comfort with his sexuality and message of peaceful understanding, the announcement of I’m Gay was met with an understandable measure of perplexity and skepticism, encapsulated in a statement by GLAAD spokesperson:
As a lyricist, Lil B knows that words matter…Slurs have the power to fuel intolerance. We hope that Lil B’s album title is not just a gimmick and is really a sincere attempt to be an ally. He has the platform and the voice. We hope he uses it in a positive way.
While B eventually mitigated initial shock by adding the subtitle “IM HAPPY,” using gay’s other dictionary definition to slightly disarm the title’s charge and further confuse the matter of his intentions.
9. Inventing the Based religion and, in turn, the Based God
When you do a Google Image search for the phrase “Thank You Based God,” you might notice something strange: the majority of the images returned have nothing to do with Lil B, save for having his now e-iconic phrase “Thank You Based God” emblazoned across them. Images of Oprah, Barack Obama, Brett Favre, James Van Der Beek and Picachu–a random smattering of the many pictures that aren’t the Based God selected from an astonishing 467,000,000 results. If Lil B leaves us with nothing else, he will have graced the blogosphere with one of its most enduring and versatile memes.
Of course the buck doesn’t stop there. Because a meme has to start somewhere, right? This one began with Lil B inventing the Based religion–the sloppily childish love-all philosophy that guides B and his acolytes. Every religion must have its deity and, of course, that most benevolent ruler takes the form of Lil B’s alter ego, the Based God, who may or may not ask to fuck your bitches as a sacrifice.
The Based God character (and Based-ness as an extension) serves as a testament to Lil B’s impact as perhaps the world’s first meme rapper, a breathing embodiment of the internet that spills into the digital slipstream as much as he absorbs, taking the time to leave cells that evolve into whole worlds beyond his purview and control. People thank Based God without having listened to a single second of the Based God, a blasphemy neutralized by the transformative transportability of the meme.
10. Threatening to fuck Kanye West in the ass on Twitter
Alright, let’s cut the shit.
Although Lil B’s existence possesses the potential to spark fascinating debates concerning identity (digital and otherwise), the use of social media, and the nature of creation in the YouTube/Garage Band/computer mic era, his absurdity and seeming contradictions (preaching peace and love, threatening to fuck and/or shoot your bitch) often form roadblocks for level-headed conversation. These same contradictions also make Lil B ceaselessly fascinating, irritating (if you’re paying attention), and lovable (to discuss the Based God is to engage a paradox and accept defeat before you’ve even begun). Lil B’s crowning love him, hate him, hate to love him, love to hate him moment came in 2010 as the release of Kanye’s hotly anticipated My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy approached. Though B had begun rising in stature, he hadn’t yet amassed the 430,000+ Twitter followers now privy to his every thought. With the label bidding war that never materialized still a few months away, B took to Twitter with this gem:
“If Kanye Doesn’t Acknowledge Me Over Twitter And Work With Me On Music, When i see him im going to fuck him in the ass”
In 25 words, Lil B managed to inadvertently (or hell, who knows, perhaps purposefully) crystallize the elements that make him lovable, hatable, and entertaining. The brazenness, the absurdity, the passion for music, the inability (and lack of desire) to self-censor, the unabashed vulgarity, the sexual implications (even if only metaphorical)–in under 140 characters, Lil B managed to construct as fitting a window as any into his vastly confusing and complicated persona. And, at the same time, he threatened to fuck one of the world’s most prominent music stars in the ass. Which is, of course, just plain ridiculous.