A Decade Of Lil B: The Godfather Of Internet Rap Remains Well Ahead Of His Time
A Decade Of Lil B: The Godfather Of Internet Rap Remains Well Ahead Of His Time
Source: Lil B

A Decade Of Lil B: The Godfather Of Internet Rap Remains Well Ahead Of His Time

A Decade Of Lil B: The Godfather Of Internet Rap Remains Well Ahead Of His Time Source: Lil B

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.

STREAM: Lil B's First Official Mixtape 'Black Ken'

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).

By that point, Lil B was the manifestation of so much: of oversharing in the age of the Internet; of deconstructing archaic ideas of what a rapper could look and sound like; of being a post-genre barrier breaker.

Inevitably, the same characteristics fed fascination and polarization all at once. Trying to define him has proved difficult, as the rapper actively challenges precisely that; every part of every persona distorting any concrete understanding one may have of him. One moment he's naming songs after pop culture celebrities (Frasier, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and Ellen Degeneres, among many, many others.) Next, he's speaking on his dependency on the Internet in "The Age Of Information," offering an insightful and poignant perspective seemingly disconnected from the tone heard on hits like "Suck My D**k Hoe" and "Like A Martian."

But therein lies the brilliance of The Based God— being so much at once. Far from a mere manifestation of Internet eccentricities and intricacies, Lil B is being human and honest in his display of emotional extremities and pluralities. Often, this leads to the assumptive generalization of Lil B as "weird" (which he is) but undermines his contribution to exploring and expanding ideas of music, particularly in rap and its ever-changing culture. He opened up rap's sensibilities, and we've seen how his artistry has been emulated by successors in one way or another.

From the cross-dressing fashion stylings of Lil Uzi Vert and Young Thug to the melody and hook-driven songs of Lil Yachty and Lil Peep to even the lo-fi brashness of XXXTentacion, so much is rooted back to Lil B. "The ni**a invented a whole style of rapping — it kind of showed me you didn't have to rap on a specific type of beat — Lil B's rapped on all types of beats," Lil Yachty said in Noisey's Lil B, Beleive in Earth: A Very Rare and Based Visual Experience documentary. "He taught me to not be one way, one-sided."

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo credit: Tim Mosenfelder for WireImage

"If I had to pick one person that really made people not care about how a certain genre of music sounds, it was Lil B," Toro Y Moisaid in a recent interview with Noisey. "He made hip-hop look at itself in the best way possible, and that's a great model for all genres of music. I really admire his positivity, in that sense."

Even the rise of the meme, in how people consume, share, and learn about music can be attributed him, with the "Thank You Based God" and "Cooking Dance" memes serving as predecessor to Rae Sremmurd's "Black Beatles" or the countless jabs made from Migos' "Bad and Boujee."

"I mean the reason why rap is positive and open-minded today, and all the artists that are popping today, and the reason why rap is on the Internet is because of Lil B…I love that the rap game has copied off my positivity," Lil B said in an interview with Paper magazine. "I think that's the best thing that they took from me is the positivity so I'm extremely happy about that."

In a little over a decade, Lil B has transformed rap music in a way that has pushed it beyond traditional conventions. He's your rapper's favorite rapper for a multitude of reasons, an artist who will always be ahead of his time and promotes a core rap principle; something that has always been with it and built around it, but is all too often forgotten — individuality.