February 21, 2019Feature

Try to imagine what modern hip hop and trap would look like without the influence of Lil B. It's tough. Cited as one of the most important artists of a generation by the likes of Earl, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Uzi Vert and Metro Boomin, Ed Fay was blessed with an interview with him for Issue 005. Photography by Chicago's Jacob King.

“If you’re reading this or hearing this, don’t hesitate to send me love, and I’ll find it and I’ll find you and I’ll send that back.”

 

When we think of the state of modern hip hop it’s hard to trace the steps that led up to the surreal, minimalist, experimental sound that is currently dominating the charts. One artist that is often regarded as the godfather of ‘mumble-rap’, or whatever reductive term you want to use, is Bay Area-native Brandon McCartney, better known as Lil B The BasedGod.

I’ve been following and supporting Lil B’s progress since his 2009 album ‘I’m Thraxx’. He followed that with 42 other mixtapes and albums, some with over 100 tracks. If this intense work ethic doesn’t highlight the efforts The BasedGod has put into moulding modern hip hop, then please direct me to any other artist who can compete with that output. I’ll wait.
I discovered Clams Casino through Lil B, at the time I’d never heard such a bizarre hybrid of styles. His cryptic lyrics, lazy flows and excessive adlibs paired over hazy, hypnotic beats blew my mind. Tracks like ‘I’m God’ could be released by tomorrow’s flash in the pan Soundcloud rapper and shoot up the charts, 10 years on.

Lil B became an internet god by using MySpace and 4Chan during their peak years. His YouTube channel showcases his almost impossibly positive personality, his untraditional interests and the creation of the famous cooking dance.

He didn’t care about how he was perceived. He was just being himself, speaking his mind, and people loved him for that. He bragged about wearing tiny pants and pink t-shirts and let his fans fall in love with his adopted tabby cat Keke. In the face of a genre often associated with homophobia, he titled his 2011 album ‘I’m Gay (I’m Happy)’ as a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. He loves everyone and wants them to know.

It’s harder than I thought to encapsulate the diversity and endearing character of Lil B on paper. If you didn’t watch it all unfold on the internet over the years maybe there are elements that won’t affect you the same way they do me. The BasedGod has given me and my friends some of our favourite and funniest memories. After years of fan mail and love heart emojis sent in Instagram DMs, I was finally blessed with the opportunity to talk to him.

“I always look to that higher spirit and that calling to let me know that the tape is finished”

First of all, thanks for taking the call, I’ve been a long-time fan so it feels really good to be able to get in contact. Look man, it’s all love man. Are you still based in the Bay Area?

Yeah, I’m still based in the Bay Area of Berkeley County in California, I’m from out here, West Coast right near San Francisco, Oakland, all that. Yeah man, just living it up.

Are you choosing to stay there for the love of the city or does it suit with work?

Yeah, you know I grew up here, I love the environment, the nature, the weather, the people, the great vibe… I like how the real estate investments are out here too.

How has the location impacted your music?

Everything out here helped me shape my music, I’m inspired by everything. In some way shape or form if I come into contact with it, it will register inspiration or vibes. Definitely being out here is very inspirational.

Your roots as a musician go back to the MySpace days. You were probably one of the most active users on the site back then. Was MySpace a better platform to promote your music on than what’s available for artists today?

Nowadays, it’s much easier. It’s much better. This is the best time ever to be in music and make the most money. There are a lot of ways to get money, a lot of ways to get on the internet. It’s a real good space.

Do you think we’re saturated with new music, especially hip hop, now that it’s so easy to self-promote?

I think it’s good. I think it’s good because it gives more people the opportunity, it’s easier to make more money and to work together. To sell tickets, to fill out stadiums, venues, clubs, bars, houses, it’s really good.

Is there still life left in trap music?

I’m continuously innovating and I took these last two to three years off to really learn how to produce and get deeper in the music, and that’s a gift from me to the world, to bring more innovation, to invent more music, more sounds.

You produced your last album ‘Black Ken’ yourself. What’s the process?

Yeah, ‘Black Ken’ and ‘Platinum Flame’. I produced both of those entirely. Sometimes I have direction when I make beats like, ‘Imma go this way’, or I have a beat in my head. A lot of times, I just went there with an open palette and I was ready to do whatever I needed to do, and whatever felt right. I never forced it.

So it was organic, nearly like a freestyle?

Yeah it’s real hip hop, it’s authentic hip hop. Like what you’re saying, pop music is mainstream, you know, it’s the new sound. ‘Platinum Flame’, it’s that pop music, it’s that new sound. I am mainstream, I ain’t underground. It all takes time, you know what I’m saying? I do this all by myself, no label, management, no agents, none of that.

I think people could be under the impression that you live in the studio because of how extensive your music catalogue is. Are you a perfectionist?

You know I always look to that higher spirit and that calling to let me know that the tape is finished and to tell me when I’m fully ready to write and to be a part of it. I never force music, ever.

For many, you’re the pioneer of ‘mumble-rap’. Arguably the current most popular hip hop style in the world. Do you recognise the impact you’ve had on the rap world and do you get the credit you deserve?

Yeah, I definitely do. All my peers let me know and I know because I’ve been in the rap game for a while now and I see the ways. Ever since I was a kid coming in, I’ve always been setting waves and setting trends. It’s nothing new for me to do. That’s the person I am expected to be… I’m not really accessible, you know? It’s hard to get in touch with The BasedGod, let alone Lil B.

You’ve done some pretty experimental stuff, like ‘California Boy’, or some of your older stuff like ‘I Love You’. Can we expect more music like that, rock and punk-orientated sounds?

Oh yeah, oh yeah. I did a couple features recently, one with this rock artist. I like alternative, and it sounded really good. I produced a couple beats for my ‘California Boy’ album, so a rock album is still in the works. I stopped it for a while to focus on rap, but now I’m in a better space where I can do that. Focus on both.

You’re never just working on one thing. Your cooking series seemed to be a success online?

Yes, definitely. Shout out to AwesomenessTV. Shout out to Colin Tilley. We definitely wanted to come together and make something new, try something different. It was cool for all of us to know it’s a success. I’m working out new shows that I’m going to be working on. The food and cooking, I’m just trying to let people get closer to me. Cooking and food is definitely special. You put your passion and love and vibes into it. It’s another way to show respect.

The world is more careful about what they eat these days. I noticed a lot of vegan dishes on your show. Are you conscious about your health?

I definitely try to be. The world and its marketing is vicious, there are a lot of dead things out here. You gotta watch out and pay attention and try to eat what you feel is right.

What’s your number one comfort meal?

You know, I like stews and stuff like that, vegetable stews. When I think of stews and soups like that I just wanna cuddle against somebody, give somebody a hug and go light a fire and listen to some music.

Yeah in a little cottage surrounded by nature, the dream.

Aw man I love it, a nice cottage with a couple of friends and a couple pots.

Back to music. You’re one of the most positive figures in hip hop, a genre filled with negativity, beefs and sudden deaths. Does it upset you?

It’s not the best, that’s why I like to promote positivity and love… I always want people to do better and be better, even outside of hip hop, in regular life. I love all my brothers, sisters and friends and people that admire me. The people of Ireland, people in America, I love everybody. I just want people to be happy and be well.

Do you have any advice for those who might be going through some issues, who feel like they can’t talk to anybody or open up?

Try to keep your head up. Stay positive. You are amazing, you are loved. I love you and people love you, and people that don’t know you love you. Hip hop loves you and the world and music loves you. So no matter where you are, you can find love, and with the internet now we can find more love. We can get together, so if you’re reading this or hearing this, don’t hesitate to send me love, and I’ll find it and I’ll find you and I’ll send that back.

Would you ever bring your university talks to Europe?

I did want to do that. My mind has been focused on rapping and writing music. I haven’t so much been writ- ing down my thoughts recently, and I haven’t been thinking in that academic mind. But definitely soon, my mind is going to back in that place. Inspiring.

Ok man, just to finish up… Actually, how’s Keke?

Real good, real good, thank you for asking. I actually got sent a picture of her that I need to show the world, but she’s actually doing really good.

How did you find each other?

I went to the shelter, a place called the ASPCA in Berkeley. All the cats were hanging out and she came up and she smelled me and I said, ‘Hey, I wanna hang out’. It kind of went from there.

Love at first sight! Last question, how much music can we expect from you over the next few years?

If the world and the spirit provokes me to, I’ve definitely got a bunch of stuff in the works for you guys. It’s just about letting the vibes come together.

Words: Ed Fay / Photography: Jacob King 
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