Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Artist of the Day - Lil B

You can say what you want about Lil B, and Lord (or should I say Based God?) knows you probably  have thousands of criticisms loaded on your tongue if you're ever heard Wonton Soup in the back of your buddy's Jeep, but he doesn't care. The 23-year-old rapper and chief practitioner of the #BASED lifestyle, one that eschews negativity, discrimination and anything else that may interfere with the pursuit of happiness, has no time for those who choose not to appreciate his strange approach to hip-hop. In an interview with Complex magazine, Lil B (born Brandon McCartney) explained others harbor animosity against him because "what takes them 10 hours to do takes me 30 minutes." His material is so streamlined and produced so efficiently he needed 33 Myspace accounts to hold all his material. The depth of his library is so incredible it seems, like the oceans themselves, impossible to explore its entirety.

Most people won't bother listening to even one of his songs all the way through: he rarely raps along with the beat, a trait he shares with his idol MF Doom, and his lyrics are purely off-the-dome, full of impossible segues and little semblance of flow- even his speech wouldn't be mistaken as rhythmic. However, these traits still had Soulja Boy calling 2010's 6 Kiss 'one of the best of the year.' Lil B proclaims on Red Flame "listen to Blue Flame first... to understand" and this is the only lesson he can give. His music is rarely as much music as performance art. A recurring theme in his early work is Lil B imagining himself as a variety of celebrities. Everyone from Bill Clinton to Paris Hilton is examined under this uniquely humorous microscope- "I'm Paris Hilton/We're at the Hilton/Limousine driver/Nickname Hilton" is one of the many charming head-scratchers he effortlessly throws out. Later on these taunts turned into calls of encouragement, "shouts to Africa" is a common refrain on Black Flame, and nowadays nothing seems off limits; today's mixtape 100% Gudda takes shots at Rihanna while still propagating the based gospel. With all his time spent recording, it's hard to believe he actually has a life outside the studio but he does: raising his adopted tabby cat Keke, who in a bizarre turn of events has an album scheduled for release on Lil B's label, just the latest act in his forever-expanding cinematic of a life, and creating his own social network when he's not tied down to his obligation.

To love Lil B, one must understand Lil B, which is far from an easy task. His music is so far from accessible not even the NSA would bother with it, his gems are sometimes hidden within a layer of rotten material,one of the malignant side effects of producing more than 3000 songs and counting, but his strange genius proves the worth of your efforts in time; but only if you put in the effort to try to understand the man and the message behind the music. With his mastery of leveraging social networks to their fullest capability (his Girl Time program on Twitter features hundreds of submissions in each 2-minute block) and aversion to performing live in addition to his odd public persona, shrouded in mystique, Lil B often feels like the rap world's Wizard of Oz; a totally ordinary rapper hiding behind the gold-grilled, nose-ringed visage of the BasedGod. Never did it fell more like this than during his speech at NYU, an 80-minute epic very much in the style of his raps- full of ad-libs like 'bruh' and 'swag' but, among all the other thoughts spewing from him as he paced, was the line: "I don’t write my speeches. Any time I speak it will be from the heart. You can’t write down love.

And there it is, the essence of Lil B. He doesn't need a pen or a bunch of punchlines to get his message across, he just needs a podium. Because NYU can't afford to have him on staff as a lecturer, rap is his podium. His delivery isn't relevant, the beats there as a formality. Lil B speaks because he has something to say, perhaps a bit too often, diluting the urgency of his words, and has to use his persona if he wants anyone to listen to his ruminations. Unlike the Wizard, he speaks from the heart, hoping someone will listen to the motley fool who calls himself a god but has few true disciples. All you have to do to understand Lil B is listen, look past the superficial elements like production value and flow, to judge what he has on the inside, not the outside. This is my plea; and I know he would do the same for you. 


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