Lil B The Based God
Sunday, April 29
Northern California's Lil B had a lot to live up to last night at Neumos: he's made what seems like hundreds of Youtube videos that capture his "coolness"; he's won the praises of critics across the country; and hey, he just lectured at NYU. For the Based God himself, though, expectations are simply an invitation to act weird--which is to be himself--and as it turns out, he's damn good at it.Seattle producer (and integral Lil B beat contributor) Keyboard Kid opened up the night. Flanked by Mad Rad's DJ Darwin, the two played about an hour's worth of bassy instrumental jams that often blurred the line between original sample-flipped beat and tweaked remix due to the use of occasionally recognizable snippets from around the pop landscape. For the most part, it was hard to tell who's music was being played. I would have to guess it was mainly Keyboard Kid's handiwork since his name was on the billing, but the style of the drops matched Darwin's hard-hitting DJ-set mash-ups also, and he appeared to be doing most of the finger work on the DJ table as well. Either way, it sounded great, and the set appeared to be treating the generally chemically altered crowd just right--well, mostly. One promising young go-getter approached me in the upstairs 21+ over area (which might as well have been the smoking section), and (like kind of viscously) cursed at me for standing by myself when "There are so many girls that want to fuck [me]" in the room. I briefed him on my happy marriage and turned away, then watched him make the same eyes-popping-out-of-his-head speech to a number of other people. Fucking tweaker. Conversely, a girl in the front row was in a much better place, as she drifted in and out of sleep while resting her head on a booming stage monitor like it was her high school chemistry desk. Yet I digress.
By the time Lil B himself climbed to the stage, the crowd had woken up and had been chanting "Based God" intermittently for some time. Lil B proceeded to put on a #based clinic for the faithful in attendance that left onlookers no choice but to utter the cultish tagline "Thank you Based God" in semi-sarcastic, yet whole-hearted breaths. From the first song--his swagtastic "cooking song" "Ellen Degeneres"--onward, the crowd was roped into his set completely, implementing B's signature Cooking Dance and siren-emulating "Whoop"s on the twos and fours of most measures. B roamed the stage alone, which is actually more individually impressive than a full band spectacle when you think about it: if a performer is able to captivate an audience for the better part of two hours with nothing but a microphone and pre-recorded beats (and no readily visible DJ), he must be putting on quite the show.
And like any Lil B-related event, there were big shiny quotations aplenty: "We're making history on the Internet every day"; "I'm trying to set a good example. I'm trying not to curse too much. Is it okay if I curse? Can I be myself?"; "Who really loves me? Who really loves me on the Internet?"; "No means no, ladies. I got sexual lyrics, but that doesn't mean you have to have sex"; "Seattle, Washington, you can fuck my bitch"; "Wear condoms." And many more that I wasn't quick enough to jot down.
This is the draw of Lil B. He's a character so stylistically original that he has the ability to hold his fans' attention with nothing more than his ad-libs. He's so absurdly ridiculous that it's awesome. I've read countless Youtube comment threads that conclude that Lil B is "trolling the rap game", meaning that he's providing criticism on the genre by going so over the top that it makes people stop and wonder "Why?", or that he's creating purposely annoying songs for the hell of it. But to me, all signs point to a well-intentioned, relatively simple-minded individual who is just #based enough to connect with a growing audience of upbeat rap fans. Also, he's actually good at rapping. Just when the crowd was getting all caught up with his gimmicky (but highly enjoyable) singles, B would drop in an a'cappella verse, or one of his more traditional songs to remind us of this fact.
"We're going through all the hits," he said a number of times. Really, the only noteworthy exception from my Lil B wish list was the Clams Casino-produced "I'm God", which I kept hoping to hear after his repeatedly broken promises of "One more song." It was a truly great show though, that otherwise met all of my expectations. And in true Based God fashion, he stepped into the crowd after his last song, and ended the night by offering himself for Twitter-ready photos with his people.
Fun fact: during "Wonton Soup", Lil B took off his shirt and attempted to throw it into the audience. Instead, it got caught in the rafters and proceeded to drip sweat on the audience throughout the rest of the set.