Welcome to another installment of 5 Chances To Convince Me, where a fan delivers five pieces of content to a skeptic about an artist to — hopefully — change their outlook, or at the very least to inspire a second chance. The fan is Riley Wallace, and Jeff Dring is (once again) the resident skeptic.
This time around, we’ll be looking at The Based God himself, Lil B.
Riley: Lil B was the first artist that ever made me feel old. When I first heard “Wonton Soup” seven years ago, I just didn’t get it. But something was different about this kid — although I didn’t get it, I felt like there was something I was supposed to get. He had an incredible following behind him. I was aware of his track “Vans” along with The Pack, so I knew that he understood what he was supposed to do, but it seemed like he was purposely dumbing this shit down.
Then he was named to XXL’s 2011 Freshman class and he bodied his cypher (and had classmate Kendrick Lamar laughing along).
Listen, Lil B — as a concept — is bigger than Hip Hop. He has some questionable music but also has some truly brilliant shit. He straight up just gave his debut album away, and he barely existed on (commercial) streaming platforms until now, almost six years later.
His new project, Black Ken, is his first official mixtape; in fact, unless you’ve been streaming/downloading his music, this may be your first (cohesive) taste of Lil B. You know what, though? At one point it was sitting at #2 on iTunes, just behind 4:44.
It was difficult for me as an older head, but I think I understand Lil B — and I feel as though he’s more brilliant than people realize.
Why aren’t you feeling The Based God, Jeff?
Jeff: Riley, I agree that Lil B — as a concept — is bigger than Hip Hop. Here’s the problem. The man has dropped something like 15 mixtapes, and he’s never moved beyond the childish, amateur flow that he was giving us in 2012. Black Ken is more of the same. It’s 90 minutes of rambling, simplistic Hip Hop. And while he even produced the tape himself, that doesn’t save it from being too trashy for words.
Lil B the enigma, the true Internet celebrity, the Based God of light and positivity, the man who (somehow) has spoken on large college campuses across the country: that’s the Based God that entertains me. The NBA superstar curses and the wild following, all that is priceless. But Lil B the creator, rapper, and producer of Black Ken — arguably the worst project of 2017 — that’s the Lil B I just can’t fuck with.
Here we go.
9th Wonder Gets It
Riley: If you look at his records that have a message in comparison to his tracks like “Wonton Soup,” you’ll notice a huge difference in plays — as 9th Wonder pointed out during an interview back in 2011. He was approached by The Based God for a collaboration, which he put off, at first.
“He knows what he’s doing,” 9th said. “He’s fooling you.” He further describes his conversation with Lil B as the best he’s ever had with a person his age (21 at the time).
One of the few ultimate collaborations was “Base In Your Face,” which features Jean Grae and Phonte. A must listen.
Jeff: Lots of people get it, and I’m one of them.
Lil B has spent years cultivating a joke of which he’s the butt. And for better or worse, it’s made him absurdly famous. He’s fooling us cleverly and insultingly. Lil B believes in dumbing it down to a fault.
The New Yorker did a piece on him called “The Dumb Brilliance of Lil B” around the time of his infamous N.Y.U. speaking engagement, which did a phenomenal job of highlighting his bright personality while simultaneously exposing readers to his insanely simple approach to music. There’s an occasional bar here and there, but Lil B’s career hasn’t been defined by what he’s said on the mic, but what he’s crafted from a public relations standpoint.
He Can Rap
Riley: I guess, Jeff, that an argument for The Based God’s career can be broken down into a chicken or egg argument. However, I argue that it’s the egg. His music is what ultimately helped him build the platform to do everything he has.
From that standpoint, he does have some pretty fantastic music. I always like to direct people to his sophomore mixtape, 6 Kiss. It’s full of actual Hip Hop music — namely consistent, on-beat bars/flows. The best example is “Myspace,” followed closely by “B.O.R. (Birth Of Rap).” Remember, he did get XXL Freshman honors based namely on his 2009-2010 run — an honor he shared with names like Kendrick Lamar and Cyhi The Prynce.
The whole album is here.
Jeff: While listening to “Myspace” the question becomes crystal clear. Why turn it on and off? If his music was the actual building block for his platform today, why regress?
There’s no denying B’s fun-loving, positive spin on life. It will serve him well someday when beginning his second act as a full-time motivational speaker. But in the meantime, his body of work feels like a game of hopscotch where the squares are fifteen feet apart.
For every Lil B banger (which are few and far between), there’s an equally puzzling track like “I Am A Bird Now,” which is nothing more than a rambling, stream of consciousness rant set to an ambient backdrop you’d hear while waiting to get your teeth cleaned. Art imitates life; I get that. But Lil B’s routine feels like a gimmick. Very Un-Based.
Riley: I love that you bumped “I Am A Bird Now.” You’re taking this seriously!
He Killed Hip Hop, But Not Literally
Riley: When asked by DJ Vlad in an interview what he thinks about the idea that he killed Hip Hop, he laughed it off and replied, “I didn’t kill it … I’m a student of the game.” True, he was one of the earlier examples of the division between the old generation of Hip Hop and the new school of rappers that he helped inspire. Mass Appeal recently drew connective lines from Lil B to names like A$AP Rocky, Post Malone, Drake, XXXTENTACION, Lil Pump and LOTS of others.
In that same interview with Vlad, though, B does allude to the time he figuratively killed Hip Hop on his 2010 Red Flame mixtape, alongside QB vet Cormega. On the song “I Killed Hip Hop,” he describes himself assassinating a feeble personification of the genre. This is a must-listen, and, in the words of B himself, VERY RARE.
Jeff: We finally agree on something, Riley! Lil B is an example of an artist drawing a line in the sand between old and new, but his “new” has become stale, which makes Black Ken even harder to stomach.
If we’re talking “based mindset,” then sure, Lil B is responsible for the wave that influenced plenty of new-school rappers. But never forget that Lil B also made it cool to craft shitty raps over blown-out beats. Regardless of what A$AP Rocky may say in interviews, there’s virtually nothing similar between Lil B’s meandering approach to music and the cohesive and often polarizing talent of the A$AP Mob. If anything, Lil B likely inspired this newest crop of freshman — probably the least-rapping rappers in history.
Regarding characters of the game, artists who deserve cartoon shows and action figures, Lil B is your guy. Musically, he’s fooled us long enough, project after project — most of which were VERY RARELY exciting.
He’s Stood Toe To Toe With Bar-Heavy Rappers
Riley: True to his status of a student of the game, he’s never been one to back down from the competition. Amid a questionable back and forth with The Game, he did have two legit exchanges worth recounting. After a random disrespectful bar by late Pro Era rapper Capital STEEZ, Lil B responded with a shot — and his fans clapped at Pro Era. Joey Bada$$ and Lil B exchanged volleys, although Joey later claimed the beef was staged.
But his often forgotten (and real) beef with Joe Budden was his best. After some disrespectful back and forth on Twitter, Lil Bars dropped an actual flame emoji called “T-Shirt And Buddens.”
Budden’s definitely got bars — but didn’t dignify this track with any of them as a response. But, tell me Lil B didn’t go in here, Jeff!
Jeff: Any back and forth with Lil B (social media or on a track) is a win for the Based God. Attention is what he craves. His humble beginnings as a halfway decent rapper gave way to a lust for online fame a long time ago. From his hundreds of Myspace pages packed with nonsense freestyles to his absurd NBA player curses, it’s all part of a quest to be heard.
As for “T-Shirt And Buddens” — I’m only going to say this once. Lil B dissing Joe Budden is like trying to eat soup with chopsticks. Don’t @ me either. While Lil B may come with the occasional proficient bar, that’s where it ends. Budden is a surgeon with a pen and pad, and if people don’t believe that, they’re probably busy growing out their red braids.
Underneath The Clutter Is An Important Message
Riley: I wanted to get Based-world residents involved, so I asked a question on Twitter that managed to get me some great responses — many to my inbox.
Hey @LILBTHEBASEDGOD, if you could pick just one, what is your favourite song you've recorded? 🤔🤔🤔
— Riley Wallace (@specialdesigns) August 23, 2017
While many were quick to name “A Good Day,” a song where Lil B discusses suicide — and the reasons to embrace life, other great songs were brought up. “No Black Person Is Ugly,” and “I Love You” among them.
Listen, love or hate him, he — when he’s not doing all things that polarize listeners like you, Jeff — is giving his core audience gems. Songs like the above and his book (which is kind of awesome) are packed with positivity and encouragement that is often lacking in the game today.
Jeff: I feared this point was coming, and I’ve got no choice but to concede. His message of peace and positivity is a void in Hip Hop today. For that (and not much else), Lil B gets a pass. You won’t catch me bumping his music, but his personality is endearing and hard to ignore.
Noisey did an excellent piece where Lil B and the host walked around his neighborhood discussing the come-up and struggles of being young in the Bay Area. While the subject matter wasn’t groundbreaking, it was hard to ignore Lil B’s sense of awareness and his unique connection to nature. When he asks “Where do rocks come from?”, you can’t help but believe he’s searching for the answer.
Give me Lil B the daytime talk show host. You keep Lil B the rapper.