A word to describe Lil B? Enigmatic comes close, but doesn't really suffice. Working at a near mixtape-a-week, music-video-a-day clip, the Berkeley-bred rapper (real name Brandon McCartney) has peerless drive. His free-association rhyming is as polarizing as it gets, with just as many people willing to label him a genius as there are willing to deride him for killing hip-hop. In song, he compares himself to a surprising set of pop-culture icons: Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates mixed with Barack Obama.
“People love me, people hate me, people respect me, people are in denial to love me. I’m one of the biggest artists to emerge from American history, and I’ll remain that.”
"Based" is the term he's coined to describe his style, referring to himself as the Based God. From raps that rarely rhyme to his message of positivity sprinkled with tongue-in-cheek misogyny, to his fashion sense (highlighted by his trademark Vans), it seems as if based has become a way of life for Lil B. In anticipation of his November 7 performance at the Middle East, I spoke with Lil B while he was at a "little secret gym getting a good workout on," somewhere in the Pacific time zone.
WHEN WE WERE ARRANGING THIS INTERVIEW, YOUR MANAGER IMPLORED US TO GET YOU ON THE COVER, NOT SO MUCH FOR THE SAKE OF PROMOTING YOUR SHOW, BUT BECAUSE IT WOULD BECOME THE MOST COLLECTIBLE ISSUE IN OUR PAPER'S HISTORY. CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT MAKES LIL B SUCH A COMMODITY? Because I care, people really love me and respect me. There's no other artist that people care about like this and the special way that I do. There's a lot of artists that have platinum records and have a lot of supporters, but there's no independent, unsigned artists like myself. Just with having me on that paper's cover, there's going to be so much feedback, so much emotion. There's a lot of artists that you can put on the cover and a lot of people most likely won't care. But they will care a great amount for me. People love me, people hate me, people respect me, people are in denial to love me. I'm one of the biggest artists to emerge from American history, and I'll remain that.
IF I WENT DOWN TO THE RECORD STORE RIGHT NOW, IT'S UNLIKELY THAT THEY'LL BE CARRYING ANY OF YOUR MUSIC. BUT IF I GOOGLE "LIL B MIXTAPE," IT RETURNS 16 MILLION HITS. YOU EVIDENTLY EXIST SOLELY ON THE INTERNET. IS THIS INTENTIONAL? Thank you. Really, it was a thing where I had to deal with shady management with the Pack [Lil B's first group], dealing with bad record deals with the Pack, and dealing with just having to learn about the game and the business. I was forced to resort to the only thing that I had. People left me for dead — the record labels, everybody. And I created my own way. I was blessed enough to have people like me and care, and to work hard, and I made history.
ARE YOU A MAC GUY OR A PC GUY? I rock with the PC or the Macintosh depending on which loves me the most and gives me the biggest upload speed.