On the verge of his debut New Zealand performance, Martyn Pepperell talks to Lil B The Based God about music, life, love and internet memes.
Most rappers claim to be real, but Lil B (government name: Brandon McCartney) claims to be, amongst other people, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Charlie Sheen. And as a whole, contemporary hip-hop is richer for the vivid, unchained freedom he has brought to the genre since first emerging as a member of San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop group The Pack in 2006. This freedom has been most apparent through keynote works such as ‘Motivation’ and ‘I’m God’ (produced by Clams Casino), ultimately resulting in the idiosyncratic cloud rap template which has been co-opted by so many of hip-hop’s young rising stars recently. As The Village Voice’s Drew Millard put it, “Lil B cooked so that they could eat.”
Hailing from Berkeley, California, Lil B began releasing solo works around 2009. In the years since, he has become one of the more singular figures currently operating within music and online culture. A prolific twitter, facebook, youtube and tumblr user, while he’s heavy on social media, he’s also an insatiable creative, with over fifty mixtapes available for free download online. Alongside this, he has been literally plastered across the internet through multiple well known memes, connected and recorded with the likes of Tony Yayo, 9th Wonder, Lil Wayne and Souljah Boy, lectured at NYU, and toured America, Europe and the UK to much acclaim. Lil B is also a published author and the architect of the “Based” lifestyle – a philosophy that encourages positive thinking and creative expression in the pursuit of happiness and helping others.
On Wednesday the 12th of June, Lil B will make his New Zealand debut at Bodega in Wellington. In celebration of this I connected with him for an extensive and wide-ranging interview.
On being mentored by Too $hort during The Pack days… Too $hort is the O.G. He reached out to us when we were younger. He gave us our first real shine, that real look, that motivation. It was real big to be some young kids, I was like fifteen, sixteen, and to have the chance to work with Too $hort and have him help us out. That was big. There were definitely a lot of learning experiences with him, you know?
On using Myspace to get his music out there… It was good. It was definitely fun. I brought my power and my creativity to Myspace and just my brain, you know? I kinda just used what Myspace gave me, and made it better in my own way. I did something historical that no one else did. I had over one hundred and fifty five myspace pages that I owned, and I had at least five songs minimum on every page for free download for my fans. So, that, you know, whatever math that is. That was way back then too. Myspace was great.
On the ‘Thank You Based God’ and ‘Based God Fucked My Bitch’ memes… It was a lot of love. I have got a lot of support. People are really out here supporting, and it was great to be a part of history. I was the first. There was nobody else. After me artists started doing that. You know, after me people started really caring about the internet. It is a different game now, and I am really glad I propelled it to be that way.
On working with Tony Yayo… That is major love man. Definitely major love to Tony Yayo, he is definitely someone who reached out. He hit me early and it was good to talk to him and get knowledge. That was love. Yayo hooked me up with 50 Cent. We sat down with 50 and had a real good talk, and it was great to just meet 50 and talk to him. Yayo is dope though man. Yayo is the dude man. He introduced me to Danny Brown a long time ago, before Danny Brown was who he is today.
On working with 9th Wonder… He is a cool dude. It was definitely a blessing. I reached out to him and it was great, because he respected me enough to do some music with me. I respect his artistry. I’m a big fan of his music with Jay-Z, and the underground tracks that he has done. It was just great to have that addition onto my list of legends that I have worked with. It was great to have him on the checklist for my rap legacy. Me and 9th Wonder had some long talks early. It was good to just really talk to him and get some information. We were really just talking for some hours man. He’s real cool.
On being featured in and appearing on the cover of The Wire magazine… It was definitely an honor. Smart people like my music, smart, good people. When you are a good person and smart, it stretches and travels on wavelengths. It touched Wire magazine and you know, I represent them correct, because it is about being yourself and really doing what you want to do. Really just being yourself and living your life.
On giving a lecture at New York University… The NYU lecture was very very historical. Shouts out to NYU and all the staff and students. It was just a real historical day in the world for the humans. Just to show that all types of intelligence can be respected. I don’t have a college degree, but I do my own grassroots research with the people. I get my experience first hand. I really just talk about things I am passionate about and feel like I have a leg to stand on with. We were talking about love and helping people. Those are things I care about. I can definitely talk about those things for a long time. A lot of people want to hear me talk. Just outside of my rapping, a lot of people want to hear me talk and hear what I think. People really want to hear me, so that is what keeps me going. People just really want to hear me talk. That is what is great about the lecturing side. There are also people who just really want to hear me rap, and that is really where it started from, that side.
On his first book… I wrote my first book when I was nineteen. It’s called Takin’ Over by Imposing the Positive! and that just opened people eyes up too. It made people really want to know what I have to say. I spread love. I spread a lot of love.
On Rain In England, his ambient spoken word album… It took me a long a time to come up with it, maybe a year and a half? The Based God produced and composed everything. Lil B executive produced that whole project. Rain In England was a huge success for myself being that that was the first classical musical album that a rapper has rapped over, you know? I haven’t heard any others. I know it was the first of its kind. It was big man. Just going back and listening to it, I surprise myself, because I cannot make that same music anymore. It was kind of a once in a lifetime thing. I can’t do it anymore.
On Emceeing… Shouts out to KRS-1. I’m a true emcee. I’ve got over one thousand freestyles. I was rapping to pots and pans from Japan. KRS-1 can rap over recordings of crickets and rivers. I can rap over pots and pans, because I’m an emcee.
On Twitter… It lets the people see me. It lets the people who want to talk to me talk to me. I can participate and connect with the people that love me. That is really all, it’s about letting the people speak to me, speak to Lil B.
On living life… You got to really live your own life. You got to really be in your life and not overindulge in too much. You gotta do what you do, and just stay in your own lane. I think that is the best way. You got to just stay in your lane. You got to do things that you really love. Don’t fake it.
On performing in Europe and the United Kingdom for the first time… It was huge. I was out there performing in the woods in Sweden and people were going crazy. They love me. I was performing in Denmark. Everywhere man. Everywhere I go, everyone knows my words. I don’t go anywhere where anyone doesn’t know me. I can go to Afghanistan and somebody is going to know who I am.
On giving music away for free online… It’s love. I love making music. I never came into music for the money. Everything is one hundred percent authentic for me. That is why I am trying to not break that. If I do something for sale, it will be for sale, but apart from that, I try to stay authentic and just do what I feel. There is going to be some rare physical stuff coming out though, for all my people who want physical stuff, because I know that is very important.
On collaborating with Clams Casino… He’s amazing. He makes great stuff. It’s super fun. Clams made that ‘I’m God’ beat and sent it through. I wrote to it, and the beat was called something else. I chose everything, wrote the song to it, and made it what it is today. It was definitely a huge collaboration. We’ve made some amazing music together. ‘Motivation’, ‘Cold War’, ‘Cry Little Sister’. We got a lot. We gonna get some new work in too. I got a show with Clams coming up in New York. So we’re going to get it in.
On Keke, his pet tabby cat… Keke is very healthy. She’s very very happy. She’s a healthy, happy cat. She’s the poster child for cats. I’m thinking about getting her a friend, another cat. But for being by herself, she’s a happy cat, very friendly, talkative. She’s very alive, very caring. She’s very good.
On releasing the I’m Gay (I’m Happy) album… I don’t know who it was, but there was a journalist who switched it. It was never called I’m Gay, I’m Happy, it was called I’m Gay. The mixtape was called I’m Gay. On the cover, in parentheses you had the words “I’m Happy” because that is what I meant. I’m not a homosexual guy, but I am gay because I am happy. So, you don’t want to mislead anybody.
On his impact and legacy… I’ve made huge contributions to music and hip-hop in the world. Like I told someone else, the world is going to be better after me. The youth is going to have a better and more positive outlook. There is going to be a lot more of people helping each other. There is a lot of stuff of that nature going on with me. It’s going to be very big. It’s very important. I did a lot for the world and rap in the short time I’ve been here. I changed the game, I changed rap, and I changed music. It is how it is today because of me. We just keeping it going and we keep switching the game how we want to. I’m doing this for them, the people who are going to have better lives because of me. And while we’re on the earth right now, people are having better lives because of me. It’s a mutual love. That is what Based is about, loving people and doing what you do.
On the Dali Lama being in New Zealand at the same time as him this month… That is great man. I might need to see if I can hook something up. We’re on the same wavelength and people are always telling me I need to meet up with him. Maybe we will pull some strings and try and get a meeting. That would be huge.
Lil B The Based God performs one exclusive New Zealand show at Bodega in Wellington in the 12th of June 2013. Tickets are on sale now from www.dashtickets.co.nz and other usual outlets. Local support from Totems, Beat Mob and #4Chainz.