A Decade Of Lil B: The Godfather Of Internet Rap Remains Well Ahead Of His Time
One of the most prolific rappers of the Internet age.
On August 17, 2017, Brandon McCartney, better known as artist Lil B (or alter ego The BasedGod), celebrated his 28th birthday by releasing his “first official mixtape,” Black Ken. First announced in 2010 through songs “Thank You BasedGod” and “Call Me Black Ken,” the 27-song collection pays homage to the West Coast sounds that raised him, finally seeing its release seven years down the line.
In comparison to everything else Lil B has done, there’s a sense of nostalgia to Black Ken. In a post-regional rap world, this album feels and sounds like California. That Lil B would dedicate his “first official mixtape” to the state that raised him is a beautiful sentiment. After all, he’s lived on the Internet, a borderless region of influence and impact, for the better part of a decade, redefining the aesthetic and sound of rap time and time again in the process.
Our introduction to Lil B was through Berkeley, California rap group The Pack and their breakout track “Vans” on the 2007 debut, Based Boys. That same year, Lil B began releasing mixtapes as a solo artist, beginning with S.S. Mixtape Vol. 1 (alongside fellow The Pack member Young L). He started slow, but by the end of 2008, Lil B was releasing hundreds and hundreds of songs (commonly referred to as “Based Freestyles”) through the 155 Myspace accounts he created (although the pages no longer exist the songs still live on in Free Music: The Complete Myspace Collection, a 676-track release of Lil B’s Myspace-era music). The excessive output foreshadowed not only Lil B’s plan of attack as his own everything, but, more pressingly, experimental tendencies as a musician. Songs from that time found the rapper offering freestyles over Kraftwerk samples and spoken word diatribes over sparse techno production.
Then, came the rapid release of mixtapes: 12 in 2010; 10 in 2011; and 17 in 2012 (between 2013 and now, the rapper’s became a more infrequent occurrence, releasing anywhere from two to four mixtapes each year). Accompanying those were a handful of music videos, most of them simple in execution — Lil B rapping throughout Berkeley, in his home, in his car, in a church, in a mall, and in a pet store, spliced with concert footage of various performances. In May 2009, the artist joined Twitter to build his fan base, promoting both his music and a life of being positive (or “based,” a term he coined by reclamation).