Lil B

As a rule, Lil B’s name is usually orbiting somewhere in the blogosphere thanks to sheer output: arguably the most prolific rapper ever, he seems to have tapped into the subconscious brainzone where most humans supposedly never venture. (Has anyone given dude a positron emission tomography scan lately?) Not to perpetuate B’s own ever-expanding repertoire of similes,but it’s well established that he’s something like rap’s Grateful Dead, with apologies to Hov — constant creativity, constant improvisation. He’s a one-man jam band. A grip of people feel obsessive love about his LSD-free-Kesey mic romps, and/or find him inspirational for his based positivity. But he undeniably stays in our timelines in part because there’s simply so much for people to write about.

Last week’s Lil B saturation was exceptional, however: New York University announced they had employed him to give students a speech/lecture, and the music internet went insane. A “Lil B NYU” Google search yields 50 blog posts and news stories, ranging from the auspicious (MTV! Fuse!) to the left-field (New York socialite website Guest of a Guest?). According to Max Mellman, Chair of the Lectures Committee at NYU’s Program Board (and Tisch junior studying film), tickets to the event sold out in around 17 hours (“or something”).  “There was a really crazy email day when it first broke,” he says. “We figured it would probably sell out, but it kind of exploded.” Suddenly, NYU’s events program designation of Lil B as a “cultural icon” materialized from #based tweets to the physical universe. (And yes, everybody, the programmers obviously knew what they were doing when they called his appearance “rare.”)

It was interesting reading the reactions of 50 music sites at once publishing pieces about NYU, and the reason they were doing so wasn’t just SEO: it was about the internet’s Lil B obsession, yes, both as musician and as meme, but it was also about perception. Some media outlets seemed to be incredulous that this rapper, who basically puts his entire self online, bad spelling and all, could possibly speak at one of the most prestigious and pricey universities in America. The incredulity was otherizing, disturbingly so, as though Lil B is a savant or a performance artist, as opposed to an extremely enthusiastic person and rapper with an unorthodox (cough) sense of timing whose catalog is bound to be hit or miss considering he Pollocks his work and puts everything he makes out for public consumption. (His most recent tape, #1 Bitch, includes some gems like “Whodie,” and the early LL-homage “Yee Yee Dreams,” along with some misses.)  En masse, the reportage became a sort of clusterfuck, and much of the media was reporting about him in essence the way that media treated Daniel Johnston or Wesley Willis: a curio.

That’s exactly what he’s not. For Mellman, he was enthusiastic about booking Lil B to speak in part for his power to make people feel great. “Every morning, I wake up and go on Facebook to see his messages, and it makes me smile in the morning,” says Mellman. “We just thought he would have some kind of motivational inspirational stuff to say to us. He has this really interesting perspective on the world.” (And with looming loan debts and a tiny job pool on the post-grad horizon, one thing that college kids desperately need right now is a dude around their age to inspire positivity, no?) I interviewed Lil B in 2009 and, aside from being exceptionally optimistic and kind, he was remarkably ordinary and chill. It’s uncomfortable to imagine people looking at him as a kind of Sideshow Bob.

Enter Tracy Garraud’s excellent Lil B profile in the latest issue of VIBE (disclosure: I wrote about 150 words in that issue on raving internationally, which was obviously unrelated to Garraud’s Lil B piece). In her piece, she approaches him as one should — a human dude! — yet tries to mine the spot that makes B such a font. And she might have found his center. He tells her:

I like that I’m weird. ‘Cause I have nothing to hide. I guess I’m weird. So really I’m not weird. I’m just normal. Everybody else is, like, picking and choosing what they show. I’m just like, ‘Well, you do this? I do this, too.’

Hopefully the reason we love Based G is cause there’s a bit of him in all of us.

Lil B’s NYU appearance is sold out. The school is still working out how and whether to make video of the lecture available.

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Comments (6)
  1. “It was interesting reading the reactions of 50 music sites at once publishing pieces about NYU, and the reason they were doing so wasn’t just SEO.”

    Hilarious. I know it happens, but my personal feeling is that if you’re a music site and are posting stories just to score SEO points and not so much because you’re responsibly endorsing an artist, you probably aren’t a website I want to trust.

  2. I appreciate the link to the Interview with Lil B where he explains “Based”.

    I had it all wrong. Since Lil B’s name has always been synonymous with Clams Casino, I figured the “Based” term had something to do with Clams blown out bass sound.

    Love Lil B… just kinda wish Clams Casino put out as many mixtapes as B.

  3. Nice post, but I respectfully disagree with the assertion that most of the press about B at NYU treated him as an outsider/curio or was approached from an angle of “what’s this weirdo doing speaking at NYU?” Maybe we’re just looking at different sites, but most of what I saw was genuine enthusiasm and excitement for one of the most well-liked dudes on the internet.

    • I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but every one of these columns has worked by construing the consensus opinion on an artist/event as uncharitably as possible so that the author can “tsk, tsk” the entire internet and set herself up for a couple of hasty paragraphs where she drops some insights that are not totally off-base but have also definitely been said elsewhere and not infrequently. I guess every author has to think they’re adding something new to the conversation, but I have to think she could do that better by engaging the perspectives of other good writers rather than exaggerating the influence of the bad ones so she can save the day.

  4. Thank you based god

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