The Gospel of Lil B

Lil B‘s religious allegory starts in his birthplace of Berkeley, California. Not much is known about the Based God’s early years, until he came to rise with his disciples, The Pack. He began rapping with them at 16 and found early success with Vans. The song was a staple in the burgeoning hyphy movement, which was spreading beyond the Bay Area and finding its way into homes and clubs all across North America.

He went solo soon after that and launched his career independently via social media. Whether by fluke or his own premonition, he saw the value in promoting through Myspace, and created hundreds of accounts to share his music. He’s somewhat of a trend forecaster when it comes to social media, abandoning Myspace shortly after its peak for YouTube, where he’s been a mainstay, clocking hundreds of thousands of subscribers, who faithfully guard the comments section on his videos.

Somewhere along those lines, he discovered that he was very based, perhaps the most based of all, and decided to crown himself as such. What’s based you ask? We’ve gathered that it’s a positive affirmation, a sort of Mills harm principal, in which you live life according to the pursuit of your pleasures. It’s also a haven for those who can appreciate irony and the sentiment behind being based. Supporting Lil B is kind of a fuck you to the music industry, which tends to churn out the same sort of music with the same super producers and an image that is full of false braggadocio.

It’s there in Lil B’s music too, with songs like “Pretty Bitch” and “I’ma Eat Her Ass” but it’s done in a very lowbrow, and ironic sort of way. It’s okay to laugh with him or at him because he’s laughing too. His high output of work is notable; he’s put out thousands of songs, some deeply engaging (Birth of Rap) and others that are merely repetitive sentences sung with enthusiasm.

He’s a veritable force on social media, especially on Twitter, where he was very proud of himself for following one million people with his own hands (no bots!). It’s social media where his fan base congregates, multiple times a day, to relish in the tidbits of wisdom he offers them.

He preaches love – love for yourself, others and of course for the Based God. We weren’t yet ready to receive it, when we reached out to him via email to set up an interview.

“Love you!” was the simple response we received to our inquiry. Initially we were confused; the adoration from this tiny man was overwhelming. Yet, the most instinctive thing to do was to reply “Love you too”. The week before his show, we monitored his social media, trying to make sense of his constant postings over multiple platforms. He was everywhere, replying to commenters on his videos (love you!), retweeting his fans (love you!) and on Instagram, regramming pictures sent to his direct message by young girls.

That week we saw hundreds, if not thousands of interactions between him and his based congregation. Whether they were all done by him or his team, it’s a level of personal communication unmatched by any other artist. He feels attainable, even if the interaction with him could be seen as trivial. His presence on the internet is one thing but nothing could prepare us for seeing him live.

His show (at Fortune Sound) started off much like any other. He was initially unassuming, starting off in an olive jacket, and his trademark sunglasses. He launched into his set, switching back and forth between songs full of deep emotion, and more upbeat, silly songs. The room started to spin with a palpable energy of excitement and religious fervour as he began to shed his clothing.

The crowd caught the holy spirit as he stripped down to just his pants and launched into a touching rendition of “No Black Person Is Ugly“, screeching “it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, or purple no person is ugly!” as his fans roared approvingly.

Three obnoxiously drunk guys in the back, who’d probably only bought tickets so they could yell “Fuck KD” (Kevin Durant) repeatedly to Lil B and the crowd, made a poor attempt at trying to steal the show. Lil B had been embroiled with basketball player, Kevin Durant, a few years ago, after he voiced his distaste for Lil B’s music. “It’s all love now, we’re past that” Lil B told them, as they chanted “Fuck KD” for the umpteenth time. They spent the rest of the night in an inebriated admonishment at being directly spoken to by him.

The rest of the show flowed smoothly, everyone dopily moving around to the music, the proverbial kool-aid still moving through their brains and body. We tried to maintain a distance from it, to not be taken in by all of the love around the room, where strangers smiled at each other, and Lil B dropped “I love you” at each pause in his songs. It was somewhere after the meditative pause in music that we began to convert, when Lil B asked everyone to close their eyes and take a moment to reflect on themselves and to always protect him.

He finished his last song and once again asked everyone to protect him. He then instructed everyone to form a line so he could meet with each of them, much to the bewilderment of the clubs security detail. We watched as person after person nervously walked on stage, to hug him, to take pictures, to speak with him or to just wordlessly watch him. He was gracious, reaching out to hug and kiss each person, to wait patiently as their phone switched to the right camera setting.

Each person left their brief encounter with him flushed and drowning in excitement – some calling  their friends to humble brag (he told me he loved me!) or speaking to another fan in sped up tones. We asked one based fan why he was so excited, he said his life had been entirely changed in that moment. “He saved my life” was a common reply. Lil B has saved a lot of people, but from exactly what remains to be seen.

An hour went by, and the initial greeting soundtrack of Clams Casino had faded into eerie church bells, as the last of the crowd went to receive their blessings. There were those awkward few that overstayed their visit, with one girl in particular that seemed to want to pray a little more privately. He let them down very sweetly, with a “thank you” and a gold toothed grin.

We went home, completely exhausted from the revelry of the past few hours. On the way home we noticed we had notifications; Lil B was spreading the love and liking our photos on Instagram.

Click here for our Lil B photo series + commentary