“Being based means [being] positive, doing what you want to do, not caring and just being yourself.”
There isn’t anyone in the music industry who is more enigmatic than Brandon McCartney aka Lil’ B. His non-traditional rapping style coupled with his strict adherence to the “based” lifestyle has inspired thousands and left many “hip-hop heads” perplexed. One of the main reasons I respect Lil’ B is because he dares to be different. He doesn’t allow the narrow confines of hip-hop to restrict his creativity or censor his thoughts, no matter how outlandish they may be. More importantly, I believe the Based God is using controversy to spread positivity.
Lil’ B is nothing short of a rebel. His latest album, entitled “I’m Gay”, is not a coming out party, but rather a show of solidarity with the LBTQ community. In the very limited and homophobic space that is hip-hop, this move is groundbreaking. Moreover, he defies a strict societal gender binary by appropriating many monikers that have traditionally been associated with women.
From a distance it would be easy to write Lil’ B off as just another artist with little substance whose antics are solely about shock value. However, when you take more than a cursory glance and actually delve into the depth and breadth of his music it becomes very apparent that he is a complex individual who may be just as precocious as he is prolific. Lil’ B raps about everything from Black liberation, to becoming a deity, to his admiration for Justin Beiber. His themes can center on new age mysticism, sexual perversity, or even flat out absurdity. A catalogue of his music suggests that Lil’ B’s brain is an esoteric art project that can only be understood by those who don’t allow social constructs to filter the content that penetrates their ears.
The reason many musicians may have a problem with Lil’ B is because from a technical standpoint his rapping can be sloppy and even off beat at times. Yet, what he bypasses in technical proficiency he makes up for in unadulterated emotion. This method stems from the Based freestyle “a formless and stream of conscious style of spoken word rapping that B invented around 2008.” Lil’ B’s “basedness” is the reason that he has garnered a cult like following for which he is the leader. For someone who has never released a solo album in stores and has literally disseminated over 5,000 free songs over the Internet he is a folk hero. He has 217,000 Twitter followers who he often retweets. This small gesture of digital kindness has won him adoration from a motley crew. Many of his tweets express his love for peace and happiness. Never does he brag about a grandiose lifestyle, rather he uses his platform to impart wisdom about chivalry, anti-violence, and anti-homophobia.
Last month I attended a Lil’ B concert at the Chicago House of Blues that was nothing short of psychedelic experience. Often during the show he came down into the crowd to sign shoes, iphones, body parts, and hats. Fans bowed down to him and jokingly offered up their loved ones for sexual sacrifice. At one point during the show he stopped the music and spent close to 10 minutes talking about Chicago’s architecture and why he marveled the city’s skyline. While his thoughts may have seemed inchoate, to his devout fans, the lack of fluidity was the precise reason that they paid $20 to see him.
What I admire so much about the Based God is that he is happily tearing down the last vestiges of conservatism in hip-hop. From defying gender roles, to eschewing materialism (he wears the same Vans sneaker in every show), to even breaking away from traditional rhyming pattern, Lil’ B’s has surely carved out his own niche. Long live the Based God!