Every Thursday, Songs in Pink and Blue will feature Chicago indie rocker/all-around cool guy Anthony Sanders discussing the cultural and sexual politics of modern music. This week, Anthony looks at The Based God, Lil B.
Lil B needs no introduction; he’s famous among rap fans, music journalists, and anyone who’s ever explored the darker canals of YouTube. However, his eccentric personality and unique rapping have yet to crack the mainstream, without much surprise; the real world wasn’t meant to have Lil B, and Lil B wasn’t meant to be a part of said world. In an endless, internet-guided search to stay “based” (his invented word and philosophy), Lil B has worn many hats. Some days, he dons his Thinking Cap, putting soul into his words over spare beats. On worse days, he replaces it with a Dunce Cap, spouting ignorant choruses about fellatio, celebrities, and buying women(!) over poorly-produced trap music. And on those strange, in-between days, the beats are ambient and elastic, allowing him to bob and weave out of them with spoken musings on his outpouring of love, his fame, and his secret sadness.
Gustave Flaubert once said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” With that in mind, Lil B has proven himself to be endearing and funny in his interviews, and he certainly proves to be “violent and original” a good amount of the time. Certainly original. There are plenty of interviews in which he slips into His Hoodliness, but one could think that’s another phase of his rapping persona. Needless to say, who Lil B genuinely is…is hard to say.
But he makes one thing abundantly clear. Lil B, throughout his tangled discography of YouTube videos, mixtapes and proper albums, has myriad sexual quandaries brewing inside him; fluctuating gender, confused sexual preference, self-applied humiliation and, worst of all, underlying suicidal thoughts that may stem from these sexual and social issues.
The average listener (as in, one that connects the art too directly with the artist) would hear a track such as “Think I’m Based God,” hear the line “Bitch, suck my dick, I’m Ralph Lauren,” and immediately turn it off. Who could blame them? It sounds like trash. When that’s the case, it usually is trash. But in “Think I’m Based God,” there is plenty more brimming beneath the surface; he proceeds to call women “bitches,” in that typical misogynist-rapper fashion, but he eventually starts referring to himself as…famous women. (This is a huge Lil B trend; he has songs in which he says he’s Miley Cyrus, Ellen DeGeneres, and plenty of others who are probably squirming because of it.) He also calls himself a “bitch” plenty of times; in fact, he leads a side project called Bitch Mob. One cannot be sure how he views women or that uncomfortable B-word, and it can be said that he doesn’t know either because he is highly confused as to how he feels about it himself.
He also flirts with the idea of a shifting sexual preference, namely in a song that’ll be mentioned further down: “I’m a Fag, I’m a Lesbian,”. The title says it all, but there’s a hint of denial later; after bragging about people “on his dick tenfold,” he proceeds to blurt (it truly sounds involuntary): “God damn, I’m a fag, God damn I’m a fag, I’m a lesbian. The girls love me.” That last line particularly stings, because they do. After all this, the girls still love him. And he has no idea what to do.
This could be interpreted as an excerpt of his masochistic side. Plenty of his disses are assigned to himself. The above line could be interpreted as such, along with songs like “I Hate Myself” (gave itself away, didn’t it?). Returning to “Think I’m Based God,” he veers into sadder territory later in the song. While most rappers brag about their sexual history, Lil B goes to the subject of purchasing his concubines. “Word around town, Lil B bought a bitch today. Yeah, I bought a girlfriend. I think I’m too lazy.” Where’s the pride in that? Absolutely nowhere to be found, because he makes his thoughts ostensible: Lil B thinks he’s just as pathetic as you think he is. Which brings us further into his darker parts…
Lil B is 22 and miserable. After a one-non-hit-wonder with his old group The Pack, Lil B was left directionless, with a confused heart and a bootlegged version of Fruity Loops. He’s proven himself unreachable; in an interview with VICE Magazine, he revealed his love for pictures of girls, not actual girls. He social networks his life away and gets nudes from Twitter fans. He feels alienated due to his invention of “Based Music” having only one real practicer: himself. He mourns the loss of his base of actual friends and is scared of the fact that his rapping is his only skill, and it’s mainly a novelty to the majority of internet followers. One of his most poignant lines comes from the song “I Am the Wind”: “The people you grew up with are the first ones to bring you down.” One can imagine that after his excessive output and questionable words, his old friends are long gone, leaving his confused heart dwelling in all kinds of places he doesn’t understand.
But he won’t stop. He will never stop until he finds himself in the music, an identity without posing, without a defined gender or sexuality: a true Lil B, no add-ons. He won’t stop until he never has to utter the following line from “I’m a Fag, I’m a Lesbian” ever again: “And I’m dumbfounded that I’m so dumb now, and I’m so smart now, and I’m so dumb now…if I stop rapping, might as well just kill me. Might as well just leave me in the ditches, by myself. Most of all, I’m by myself, so I’m by myself.” You may be by yourself because you’re one of a kind, Lil B. But you’re not alone in your sadness, in your silent fury, in your internal wash of sexual misunderstanding. May your journey prove fruitful.