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Hip Hop 50

TO (LIL) B, OR NOT TO (LIL) B: Pondering the Mysterious God of SoundCloud Rap

Seeking better understanding of the DIY online hip hop cosmos and its constellation of stars requires studying the Gospel of the one true BasedGod. We suggest parental advice before reading
"I look like JK Rowling," raps Lil B, center. (Credit: Chris McKay via Getty Images)

Written and published in 2012, this prescient throwback of an article examines the prolific, enigmatic, Dadaist, ‘BasedGod’ Swag Rappist, Lil B, who has inspired (and confused) multitudes of emerging and now famous rappers with his prolific online output.

To grasp full understanding of Lil B’s BasedGod philosophy is an experience akin to meeting a unicorn—the moment is so ineffable, so bafflingly unutterable, that any attempt to describe its transcendence can become a death waltz with cerebral hemorrhage. It’ll give you brain bubbles. I’ve passed out twice writing this thing. All the same, having seen the light of his ‘Based Swag’ philosophy, I feel a great social responsibility to spread its truth. But if this article ends mid-sentence, don’t call the medics, just call my family, for a Swag OD is instant and always fatal.

Auto-cannibalism is an efficient and healthy way of life. Lizards, snakes, and punk rock are living testament to the efficacy of eating your own ass. When the former outgrow their skin they instinctively eat the moulted husk, and in doing so, repurpose and shit out their former selves. In like fashion, the Ouroboros snake that is the music world lives, breathes and progresses by repetitively making a grand meal of its own ass.

For evidence, follow the trail of punk’s teeth marks: in the mid-70’s, the first strains of punk beat down and scarfed up wanky arena rock and disco. When quirkily melodious new wave tried to make punk cute, the Bowery gobbled it all up and puked up atonal filth-art no wave. During the ‘80’s, punk power chords were nibbled upon by coked-up lady-boy hair metal, and in the early ‘90’s, the moldy leftovers of that bloated L.A. rock scene were trashed by a grumpy Seattleite who cooked, then refused to eat, his own meal. Let’s stop before we get any closer to the bilious flavor of Nickelba-

As hip-hop goes, by the early 2000’s, the musty boom-bap that ran the ‘90’s had run out of dollar store ramen; promised a buffet, it was hijacked by Corporate America and shackled in the sham blingery of club rap. Imaginations became liabilities, and by the time auto-tune reached ubiquity, rap had become a fantastically impotent and artistically irrelevant shadow of its former self.

As the decade ended, the famished rap Ouroboros could wait no longer; jaws soon met ass, and shortly thereafter, the great winged lizard shat forth the brilliantly brainless cartoon gangsta art of Swag Rap, and its head protagonist, Lil B.

Lil B at the 2006 ”Vans” video shoot in San Francisco. (Credit: Ray Tamarra via Getty Images)

At age 16, Lil Brandon McCartney gained notoriety as the leadoff member of The Pack, a Cali rap group whose breakthrough hit “Vans” was a mainstream love letter to slip-on skate shoes set over a minimalist club beat. Here we are 6 years later and something transformative has sure as hell happened to the once-marketable Brandon (multiple concussions?…sexual dalliance with aliens?…beer funneled liquid LSD?). These days, at will, Lil B from The Pack morphs into the BasedGod, a neo-spiritual Swag-being, with the vocal intonation of an elderly sloth mainlining cough syrup.

His namesake rap style is an ultraviolent, pornographic stream-of-consciousness beat poetry that often eschews the burdensome formalities of rhyme, rhythm and meter. Clinically, it all resembles some type of sin-soaked cognitive collapse. Now, make no mistake, when Lil B follows the rules he’s a gifted MC, but when he’s Based, he’s Wesley Willis strapped with dual automatics sleepwalking through a cuss dictionary. It’s frigging god-awful, and I shit you not, it’s genius. No, no, wait for it …

“Fuck my damn ring.” Lil B backstage at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. (Credit: Roger Kisby via Getty Images)

30 on my dick on that court like Spalding
Bitches suck my dick because I look like JK Rowling
Harry Pot my bitch, I fuck my ho, her brain is awesome
Fuck my damn ring, bitch I’m paying what it’s costing

Lil’ B “Wonton Soup

Okay, and here’s a taste of Lil’ B’s “Suck My Dick Hoe

That .45 caliber make you look like Fran Drescher
Sex with yo’ bitches, head game so cozy
Yo’ bitch look nasty, she look like James Posey
Suck my main bitch wit’ the Glock 9 in 10k

When done ‘well’ (which is to say ‘terribly’), Based plays an absurdist performance art in-joke on mainstream rap. It’s a powerful mind game; where backpack-rap battles commercialism head on, Based refuses to even acknowledge the enemy with a traditional attack.

Instead, by ignoring every rap rule and (seemingly) embracing the four pillars of rap stereotype (dope, gats, hoes and dough), it projects a hilariously grotesque Jumbotron parody of the mainstream form; herein, the artistic legitimacy of the enemy is compromised, and the war ends before it begins. It’s all precariously theoretical, and Holy Sweet Moses is it ever offensive, but do the math and the equation works.

In the glaucomic eyes of the old guard, Based is the death knell of hip-hop culture. What these types fail to recognize is that with a guerilla mix of self-sabotage and perverted civil disobedience, Lil B is actually resurrecting the subversive spirit of “real hip-hop”, the spirit that fell into sloth during the great buyout.

“Ultimate Bitch”: Lil B’s 2014 mixtape.

The Based Ghandi is a one-man social media Voltron: he maintains 100 separate MySpace pages, each with different “rare” and “exclusive” tracks. Over the last four months he has released four mixtapes worth of material, two of which could be considered double albums. Last year he released an archive of 700 tracks, a collection that according to Lil B completists, is far from a lifetime discography. And as of this morning, his total number of YouTube videos outnumbered rats in the New York subway, living and dead, 5 to 1.

While we’re talking city, consider Lil B’s product as the Canal Street bootleg of big-industry club rap. It’s gaudy, plentiful and hella cheap. At first glance, it looks just like the real thing. Its hawker is a loud, bold and shameless salesman, his stock is endless, and the streets eat it like pigeons and popcorn, all day e’ry day. And I don’t know about you, but I love my 12 multi-colored pairs of fake $5 Ray-Bans, as well as the shouting, deal-making Asian guy who sold them to me.

As a vocalist, not unlike Kurt Cobain, Lil B treats words like lingual playdough, slurring his choruses into phonetic amoebas that everyone hears differently; thus, each listener’s personal perception becomes reality. In a nutshell, this is the Based philosophy. Lil B defines the lifestyle as “doing what you want at any time you want, saying anything, and making it mean what you want it to”. For example, he declares the word “bitch” to mean “whatever anybody feels the word bitch means, it’s whatever. To me, it’s just a feeling of respect.”

“Basedworld Paradise”: another of Lil B’s 2014 mixtapes.

Hence his new (in 2012, at least, when this forward-looking throwback article first appeared) group, Bitch Mob, and his fresh (ditto) mixtape, #1 Bitch. Last year, he released an album called I’m Gay (I’m Happy) while simultaneously declaring his heterosexuality. He went on to announce that to him, “gay” means happy, and therefore, the word “gay” can mean nothing else.

The cover of I’m Gay takes the dancehall art from Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album, I Want You, and adapts it into a triptych. The first image, labeled “slavery”, depicts a black man and woman bound in chains, in a dark basement. The second, labeled “mental slavery”, is the same image, but in this frame their restraints are iced-out rap chains rather than the rusty, dull kind. The third picture, “mental freedom”, features the same characters outside, free and loose, dancing in a crowd beneath a bright blue sky. Ok, I get it now — you get it? We get it.

When (rather, if) you make it past Lil B’s colorful shit-bitch-Glock-weed-cash preoccupations, you’ll find a concerted purpose and depth of Glock-ass-weed-dick thought, the likes of which popular rap music dick-bitch hasn’t bothered with for a long bitch-ass long cash-fuck-weed-ho time.

His Based theology is fibrous and apocalyptically liberal, but yes my wodie, when taken with discretion, it does help the masses free their minds and define their own reality. But what the masses proceed to do with those newly self-defined minds?

That is another story entirely. That story has nothing to do with this one.