Summer ’06 served as more than the title of Vince Staples fantastic debut. Around that time, Myspace became the Internet’s A&R well before Facebook defined social media and YouTube became dominant over audio/visual content. One Berkeley, California quartet utilized the power of technology to produce a track that was pretty ballsy for its time. Lacking a grand statement on social issues or even saying anything provocative, “Vans” simply existed. Years before Macklemore & Ryan Lewis fooled mainstream pop audiences into thinking “Thrift Shop” bucked trends regarding expensive rap fashions, The Pack gave their ode to one signature shoe having more credibility along the lines of skateboard culture than Hip Hop. Plus, they were cheap, comfortable and came in a ridiculous amounts of colors. Kicking off “Vans”’ first verse was none other than Brandon Christopher McCartney or, better known to most as Lil Boss a.k.a. Lil B The BasedGod. Sure, his bars were solid. Then again, none of the verses from even Young L, Stunnaman or Lil Uno mattered as much as the catchy “got my Vans on but they look like sneakers” hook. It was fun to thizz or go dumb too. The Pack had a very difficult time reaching past their breakout hit following the release of their debut Based Boys released on Too $hort’s Jive imprint Up All Nite. Sophomore follow-up Wolfpack Party didn’t fair well either when that dropped in 2010. Splitting, Young L went on to help develop popular street brand Pink Dolphin and Lil B would grow to eventually become a prolific figure in post-millennial Hip Hop.
Once The Pack split, Lil B cultivated a fanbase by starting and abandoning various Myspace pages with tons of music. A fan of young BasedGod even found every track to create the 676 track Free Music: The Complete Myspace Collection. It was essentially mixtape era Wayne on steroids. Surprisingly enough, that ridiculous level of output grew exponentially. The mixtapes including Everything Based, the Flame series, and Illusions of Grandeur. He eventually dropped a video that would become the key statement in the unpredictable world of Lil B. “Wonton Soup” will forever be known as not only the track that break the Bay Area rapper into mainstream, but became one of the era’s biggest blogger-based classics. Most importantly, it introduced the signature “Cooking” dance. Then there were those personification influenced tracks like “Bill Bellamy,” “Ellen Degeneres,” “Justin Bieber,” “Miley Cyrus” and “Charlie Sheen.” Oh, it got weirder. Titled “Look Like Jesus,” the track featured the opening line “I’m God, I look like Jesus and I’m coming with that mutha fucking heater. Bitch suck my dick.” It was morbid, ballsy and without distillation. Rappers calling themselves Gods isn’t really shocking considering Hip Hop’s early base in Five Percentism. Hearing a rapper being so blasphemous and off the wall was oddly fascinating. Considering his rise via the Internet, it made sense for Soulja Boy to sign him to SODMG for a short time.
Rap purists hated him, and the always connected generation loved him. Lil B was the most unfiltered artists of the social media era for better or worse. This ruffled feathers, leading him to beef with everyone from Joey BadA$$ and Game to Kevin Durant. Releasing a spoken word album, Rain In England, with ambient music didn’t help much either. In a strange twist of fate, Lil B became the first battle in the war between Hip Hop traditionalism and progressivism. One sect hated the unstructured stream of conscious rhymes, quantity over quantity approach and uncanny aesthetics while others accepted him for the exact same reason. Between a video emerging of him getting snuffed, this disturbing tweet directed to Kanye West and a failed attempt at joining The Golden State Warriors, Lil B became a character-artist in the rawest form. Then again, he represented a spirit of independence that became extremely popular at the time with Odd Future and even A$AP Mob. For every one person that hated him, there were many more who appreciated his hazy, drugged out extraterrestrial vibe. Lil Wayne gave him a feature on “Grove St. Party Freestyle” from Sorry For The Wait. XXL Mag even recognized him through their coveted Freshmen list in 2011 with Kendrick Lamar, Yelawolf, Mac Miller, Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T. and YG. Amazingly, Lil B managed to create “Based For Your Face” with 9th Wonder, Jean Grae and Phonte after the Jamla head was impressed by his guest verse on Tony Yayo’s “Based.” For a period of time, Lil B became the most divisive artists in rap history. He made huge moves without a major record label and media outlets were all infatuated. Meanwhile his fanbase grew to astronomical numbers, placing the “Bitch Mob” among the same rabid fandom of The Beyhive and Barbz. Anyone who has been to a Lil B performance knows how ridiculous his followers are. If you don’t believe it a simple Twitter search can find someone asking him to “fuck his bitch.” A local Bay Area term, Based meant having no inhibitions and having a carefree attitude. That undoubtedly described Lil B and his fanbase. The end of 2014 saw how far the Bitch Mob would go for the Bay Area representer when they caused a riot after being closed off to a free performance put on by Ham On Everything. Fans endured tear gas, pellet guns and arrest, all for a chance to meet the BasedGod himself. That, ladies and gentle, is true fan dedication.
One question remained: After years of mixtapes, loosies, drama and everything else in-between could Mr. McCartney deliver an album? The answer: 2011’s I’m Gay (I’m Happy). Lacking anything near his “Based” tracks like “Wonton Soup,” and “Ellen Degeneres,” the album was more of an artistic evolution. If Lil B was the most polarizing emcee of the era, I’m Gay did more to defy expectations. Those who wanted the wild, irreverent music didn’t attach themselves to the more social political aim and dense production. Then there was the blatant middle-finger to rap’s rampant case of homophobia in the title. And let’s not forget that inspired album cover. Hip Hop heads couldn’t grasp the unhinged structure despite Lil B improving his bars significantly.
Pitchfork’s Jayson Greene said I’m Gay has Lil B doing a “great job of articulating his ethos and appeal in the space of one album.” Till this day, the album holds a solid 73 percent Metacritic score. Despite the hype around the album, he released the album for free hours after it hit iTunes. Months later, R&B vanguard Frank Ocean came out of the closet and dropped his groundbreaking Def Jam debut Channel Orange. Before releasing the Grammy Award winning album, the former Odd Future artists went to his Tumblr page for this post:
“BASEDGOD WAS RIGHT. we’re all a bunch of golden million dollar babies. my hope is that the babies born these days will inherit less of the bullshit than we did. anyhow, what i’m about to post is for anyone who cares to read. it was intended to fill the thank you’s section in my album credits, but with all the rumors going round.. I figured it’d be good to clarify…”
Did the BasedGod’s philosophy influence Ocean’s decision? Who knows? That just mean that his peers are watching. Just recently, 2011 XXL Freshman peer K.Dot called him and Lil Wayne the most influential. Lil B has also been seen hanging out with Jaden Smith and shouting out Ty Dolla $ign. At last weekend’s BET Awards, Fetty Wap did the cooking dance on stage during his performance. Everything mentioned above doesn’t match his ascension into pop culture consciousness during this year’s NBA Finals when he allegedly “cursed” James Harden. Does the curse that also affected Durant exist? There isn’t any scientific explanation but, The Golden State Warriors are the 2015 champions and Lil B ended up on ESPN wearing something that could only be considered extremely Based. Is it dumb, ridiculous and adding to anti-intellectualism in Hip Hop? Hard to say when Lil B’s also found himself giving hour long lectures at prestigious universities like NYU, M.I.T. and UCLA promoting his Based lifestyle. What’s known is that there hasn’t been an artist in rap history that has been as carefree, unprocessed and unapologetic as Lil B.
Dropping “Murder Rate” and “No Black People Are Ugly” in the same year comes off odd. On the contrary, BasedGod does this by overwhelmingly embracing contradictions without giving a fuck. Why call him the rap game Buddha? Well, the Based philosophy somewhat seems in-line with the two thousand and a half old religion. Just as Buddha had a transformative experience of enlightenment, Lil B managed to do the same following years of being Hip Hop’s most questionable figure. When he’s not spreading those Basedworld thoughts, his Twitter account became a spiritual motivation for technological narcissism brought by the social media generation. With that in mind, here’s one tweet that sums up how universal Lil B’s message of positivity has become.
Today Lil B makes history because there is no longer self esteem nobody is beautiful! Nobody on earth is sexy or handsome just human – Lil B
— Lil B From The Pack (@LILBTHEBASEDGOD) June 28, 2015