How does one explain God? How does one explain faith? How does one explain Limp Bizkit’s cover of George Michael’s “Faith?” The answer, of course, is you cannot explain that which is ineffable, and also Fred Durst is playing at a club in Long
Island tonight. Either way, the equally ineffable Lil B is playing the after party of our 4Knots Fesival, so in case you’re uninitiated and want a primer on the Based God in all of his considerable glory, we have just what the Based Doctor ordered.
Who is Lil B? Where did he come from? What kind of grades did he get in school? We can answer two of those questions. Lil B was born Brandon McCartney in Berkeley, California, and was discovered by Too $hort with his group The Pack. They had that song “Vans,” which you were probably at least vaguely aware of if you were a high schooler in 2006. If you haven’t listened to it before, it’s pretty a pretty fucking great slice of homemade pop-rap, and the YouTube video for it is literally right above this paragraph so you don’t really have an excuse not to familiarize yourself with it. Anyways, shortly after The Pack rose to (momentary) national prominence, Lil B took to MySpace, creating page after page and releasing track after track, getting weirder and more unhinged by the day, assuming the lyrical guise of nerds, college bros, the captain of a starship (a personal favorite), and rapping about pretty much everything. What you had was a young, creative rapper hermetically sealing himself in the Internet, and emerging a nearly completely-unrecognizable entity with his own world, slang, and philosophy.
Based Discography Primer
It’s safe to assume that Lil B has recorded more songs than most of us have thought thoughts. As of this writing, Lil B easily has over 75 mixtapes, as well as two semi-legit several hundred-song compilations, one of his collected MySpace works clocked in at nearly 700 tracks, and one of 855 of his Based Freestyles. The MySpace files are essential listening in order to understand B’s weirdness and monk-like progression into the rawest rapper alive, and the Based Freestyle collection is strictly for advanced listeners, because while it’s interesting on an academic level to free-associate 855 songs in a row, it actually gets pretty boring pretty quickly to sift through a bunch of Based Freestyles searching for something brilliant. This is the Internet, however, so the a compilation was assembled by Noz on Cocaine Blunts of some of the really good ones. As for the mixtapes themselves, B’s mixtape titles are cryptic and never really let you know what you’re getting, but if you listen to enough Lil B you can kind of guess–another safe bet is to stick to ones in the “Flame” series, as they generally follow the same template. Newcomers should listen to the albums 6 Kiss and I’m Gay (I’m Happy), as well as the tapes God’s Father, and Blue Flame first, because those tend to have more good songs than bad and are a pretty good cross-section of Lil B as a rap artist, and Blue Flame has “Wonton Soup” on it which is the closest thing B has to a single defining song. At the risk of enraging the Task Force for getting this wrong, B’s tracks divide into roughly four categories…
1) Lore Songs (where he perpetuates the hazy narrative/cult of personality he’s developed by laying out rules and regulations and vague hints at a BasedGod narrative and/or explains why he is like a certain celebrity).
2) Tributes/Works of Pastiche (it’s obvious that Lil B really, really, really loves hip-hop and likes to explore pre-established forms while subtly stretching and tweaking them, making us question why those forms exist in the first place).
3) Cooking Songs (aggressive songs in which he yells “SWAG” and “WOOP” more than usual).
4) Nuggets of Motivation and Wisdom (like any deity, the BasedGod must inspire his followers in very overt ways). In a sense, all of Lil B’s songs are Based Freestyles in that he’s just going off the dome when he records, but a true Based Freestyle bucks traditional song structure and finds B saying whatever’s on his mind. If for some reason you aren’t immediately drawn into Lil B’s music, try listening to him for five hours in a row. After that, you’ll understand that he’s way better than anything else you could be putting into your ears and it was you who was incorrect, not Lil B. In addition to strict hip-hop, Lil B has released two classical albums, one ambient spoken word album, keeps threatening to release a rock album (the single is called “California Boy” and it sounds like the band Girls, only better), and has released one really annoying song with his cat that we’re not going to link to because we hate it.
Based Key Terms
Okay, so if you’re completely unfamiliar with Lil B aside from The Pack’s “Vans” or even “Wonton Soup” you might have noticed that we were using a bunch of terms that might be unfamiliar to the non-Based. One of the beauties of B is that he can flip words in a way that has a meaningful impact on culture. “Based” is the most important one, so it gets its own section, but here are a few other Lil B key terms…
Rare: In Lil B-land, “this is so rare” can mean something as simple as “I find this vaguely positive.” B, however, terms his mixtapes and songs rare, which, much like the process of enjoying Lil B, makes you sit back and think for a second. Lil B has a gazillion songs, so Lil B’s music isn’t rare, right? WRONG, FRIENDO. Since there are so many Lil B songs out there, the individual tracks themselves are rare since no two are alike, much like snowflakes or even human beings themselves. Most of this can also go for the word “Legendary.”
Swag: Lil B also brought “swag” back from the brink of whatever gulch hip-hop terms go to die. He yells this a lot in succession, and just like “rare,” it too can be
used as a term of general approval.
Cooking/Cooking Dance: When you’re cooking, you’re eating. It’s that simple, except absolutely not at all. Lil B invented the “Cooking Dance,” which is literally a dance where you cook rhythmically to the music that has infected hip-hop culture because it is easy and fun. It has sort of evolved into the “Invisible Pull-Ups” dance that people do a rap shows, which is also a great dance. You can find an instructional video on how to cook here. The best music to cook to is always Lil B, and the best Lil B songs to cook to are always the ones labeled “Cooking Music” on YouTube. When you say, “Let that boy/ girl cook!” you mean, “Let that person do their thing!”
Tiny Pants: Lil B wears tiny pants and tiny shirts because he is a fashion icon. He also is dedicated to wearing the same beat-up pair of Vans until he makes a million dollars, which is really admirable, and also means his feet probably smell absolutely terrible.
BasedWorld and Bitch Mob: As this Pitchfork piece attests , Lil B’s fans are the most rabid in the world. To be a member of BasedWorld, your heart must be true, you must spend a bunch of time on the Internet, and you must like Lil B’s music a lot. Lil B fans are the Bitch Mob. Bitch Mob is also a several-person rap group, of which Lil B is the only member. Don’t worry, you are the one who is confused, not Lil B.
Task Force: A group of only the most elite Bitch Mob members whose job it is to protect Lil B at all costs. This mainly means commenting on every single Lil B YouTube video and defending him on the Internet. The Task Force is infinitely more awesome than Beliebers.
Ooh boy, this is big. The Based philosophy is a hazy one based on koan-like hints of how to live your life that can be interpreted through B’s lyrics and tweets (as well as his amazingly amazing NYU lecture), but it’s widely agreed-upon that being Based is vaguely similar to many Eastern philosophies in that, to be truly Based, one must be open, positive, totally present in the moment, accepting of others, and show general sense of being in favor of social justice. Living a Based lifestyle will pretty much guarantee that you’re going to be a better, happier person with less stress in your life and a greater sense of calm and control, even when you have no control. While these qualities are not always present in Lil B’s music, they are present in B himself, which is more important because B’s music is a reflection of whatever’s on his mind at any given moment. Sometimes, you’re having a bad day. Even the act of recording a negative song is a positive experience if you’re Lil B, because at least you’ve gotten that negativity out of your body in a positive way. Everything equals zero eventually.
B also once wrote a book through text message and email.
Based Meme Status
Lil B is a content consumer, content creator, and pure content himself. Poke him with a stick, and he disappears into a vapor consisting of pure HTML. A “meme” is “An idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” You know that inside joke that’s only funny to you and your friends? That’s a meme. Of course, the use of the term “meme” rose with the advent of the Internet, where “meme” quickly became shorthand for, “Any joke that spreads on the Internet.” The great thing about Lil B is that he folds the original definition of “meme” into its understood meaning. Cooking is a full-blown form in hip-hop, but it started as a joke that B spread on the Internet.
Meanwhile, the idea of “Based” as a positive term started from B as well, as the original meaning of “Based” was simply being high on crack (Of course, it’s arguable that B’s cooking/based dynamic is modeled after traditional crack dealer doublespeak and is a joke about how his music gets you high, but let’s not bring another angle to this right now). And then obviously, you have the actual Lil B memes, the two most prominent of which are “Thank You Based God” and “Based God Fucked My Bitch.” TYBG is often shorthand when something good happens that can only be credited to a stroke of luck, or more likely the benevolence of the BasedGod. “Based God Fucked My Bitch” happened because one of the rules of being Based is that you have to sacrifice your girlfriend to the altar of the Based God, and after he has sex with her, she has been blessed and you should be happy. While this could be read as deeply misogynistic, we choose to view it as metaphorical because Lil B also once admitted he doesn’t actually like talking to girls in real life, only on the Internet.
Despite having never lodged an honest-to-BasedGod mainstream hit–though for what it’s worth he’s done songs with the very rare trifecta of Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and Andy Milonakis–Lil B is by far one of the most influential rappers of the past five years. Because of him, hip-hop is weirder, looser, and vastly more positive. You can see his style and sonic touchstones in A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown, and especially the impeccably loose style of Chance the Rapper, who is poised to blow the fuck up on a Kendrick/Rocky level in the next couple of months. Lil B cooked so that they could eat. Additionally, B’s willingness to rap over literally anything gave us such producers as Clams Casino and Keyboard Kid, whose pillow-fluffy beats have helped define the sound of in vogue hip-hop these days.
Based Social Media
Lil B once claimed he spends roughly 22 hours a day on the Internet, which, while logistically unlikely, would explain why he is the BEST at social media. I wouldn’t have pushed the “shift” key down like that if I didn’t mean that he is the BEST. B’s tweets are the stuff of legend and along, with RiFF RAFF’s tweets, make up hip-hop’s contribution to the sphere of “Weird Twitter,” his personal tumblr helps spread the best Lil B memes, and if you’re blessed enough to be friends with him on Facebook, he will totally chat with you sometimes, which is a level of unparalleled access. (One time I DM’d him on Twitter and he told me he was happy I was alive.)
All of this sounds great and interesting in a very academic sense, but we haven’t addressed the crux of why this article exists. And that question is…
Based Is He Any Good Live?
Man, totally thought you’d never ask. Lil B is fucking astounding live, his concerts registering more as religious gatherings to the untrained eye rather than actual shows, the faithful showing up in full chef’s gear, parroting B’s vocals back to him before he even has a chance to rap them, offering their bitches to B’s altar, and sometimes even their cats. If you think any of this is meant as ironic, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Lil B fans understand there’s a difference between being funny and being ironic, and they wouldn’t follow a 23 year-old from Berkley with such fervor if they were trying to prove how detached or cool they were. Lil B is all things to all people, both a cause and effect of the way we live now, and a gleaming example of very rare, very legendary, and very modern human perfection.