No offense to The BasedGod at #50. I just have to start this list somewhere. I wouldn’t be mad seeing Lil B in the top 10. Why not? Lil B is unique. His aesthetic is more like Guided By Voices than G-Unit. He’s released over 50 mixtapes and hundreds of songs and freestyles all over the net, all without regard for commercial appeal. It might seem like a barrier to entry for new listeners, but there’s no single way to understand his genius. That path is yours alone.
The key to Lil B is his sincerity. Otherwise he’d just be a gimmick. Still a good gimmick, and a great rapper with an offbeat style and sense of humor like Kool Keith. But there are no masks in his music, and the goofiness on the surface actually hides uncommon depth. His inquisitive sincerity is layered in with humor and sometimes seems to clash with his odd semi-trolling. Good luck trying to figure him out but that’s the point. The overall vibe is crucial.
“The cost of living is taxes and jail time without time to find your passion/I’m asking the older people how you make it to your status/They laugh because they see reflection while I’m asking questions.”
Lil B’s own path to his status was as unique as his music and even more culturally influential. Make no mistake that hip hop in 2018 owes a debt to Lil B. His first few big songs (“I’m God,” “B.O.R. (Birth Of Rap)“) were passed around as low budget youtube videos. The Clams Casino beat of “I’m God” introduced a new sound that became known as cloud rap, wherein producers began digging through meditation and massage room music for samples rather than old soul and funk LPs. His own raps built on the Lil Wayne stream-of-consciousness style with less punchlines and more introspection.
He didn’t release music so much as dump it on the listener – and god bless him for that. We’re in a new era now. We’re not waiting on big budget major label albums anymore. Just give us a bunch of music and let us figure out what to do with it. (Kanye’s 2016 Life Of Pablo album is an example of this – there was no physical release, the official tracklist was a mess, and the best songs were bonus cuts. It’s a good album but you have to do some cutting and pasting to get there.) Again, this feels like a progression of Lil Wayne’s mixtape run of the mid 2000s – he doesn’t have a classic album in his official catalog because he gave away most of his best music scattered around on mixtapes.
“Scattered around on mixtapes” is Lil B’s lane. And as much as it may have been a progression, it was a new kind of revolution. Lil B isn’t Wayne or Kanye. He had no budget, no name, no buzz. Just some lo-fi beats and homemade youtube videos. But he built his fanbase on the music itself. The irony of this new era is that it’s easy to get your music out there but more difficult than ever to get it to stick. Lil B’s music rewards repeated listens – the gimmick is there is no gimmick.
If I were to give a new listener a map for Lil B, it would start with 6 Kiss and Evil Red Flame. Then on to I’m Gay (I’m Happy) and Obama Basedgod. But you also have to pick one or two tapes and stick with them for a while. Listen closely, let it sink in. Lil B will better your life.
“Treat another human like the person that raised you.”