Lil B (“the Based God” to his fans) is the type of celebrity that could only exist in this weird, postmodern digital age. Over the past five years, he’s amassed an Internet cult that includes more than a million Twitter followers.
There’s a lot to unpack with Lil B—he’s one of the most mystifying musicians working today, and even fans who think they know what he’s about are likely still scratching the surface. Tonight at a First Ward show presented by ILoveMakonnen, Lil B performs as part of a collaboration called Superchef with Tunji Ige, Sonny Digital, Green Lantern, and Speakerfoxxx. (It’s free, but you’ve got to RSVP through Boiler Room.) In case this is your introduction to the Based God, here are five essential facts about him—soon you’ll be doing his trademark cooking dance with the best of them.
1. Beware the curse of the Based God
Houston Rockets fans unfamiliar with the cult of Lil B got a crash course during the team’s recent Western Conference finals series against the Golden State Warriors. Rockets star James Harden drew Lil B’s ire by refusing to acknowledge that his “cooking” dance was inspired by the rapper. Lil B announced that he had placed a curse on Harden, and the Rockets lost the series 4-1.
But that wasn’t Lil B’s first beef with an NBA star. In 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant tweeted, “I tried to listen to Lil B and my mind wouldn’t let me do it.” Lil B put a curse on Durant, beginning a feud that’s lasted years—in 2014 he released a dis track called “Fuck KD.” Despite making the finals in 2012, the Thunder have yet to win a championship. Coincidence? Perhaps not.
2. His work ethic is legendary
Hip-hop aficionados know that rappers have to be prolific to keep fans interested. But few rappers can compare to the Based God himself: according to his Wikipedia page, Lil B has released 12 albums and a staggering 48 mixtapes, all since 2006. What makes that number even more impressive is the size of some of the releases: one free 2012 mixtape runs to a shocking 855 tracks, or more than five gigabytes of music. Of course this raises questions about his quality control, but there’s no questioning his generosity.
3. He’s lectured at NYU
In what will surely go down as one of the greatest lectures in academic history, in April 2012 the Based God served up a stream-of-consciousness, entirely unscripted performance for delighted NYU students, rivaling even his greatest freestyles. The wide-ranging talk touched on adopting a tabby cat, fracking, ant colonies, and Lil B’s watercolor painting. Listening to it is like hearing Lil B rap: you may have no idea what’s happening, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
4. His “based” lifestyle is an inspiration to millions
Central to the enigma of the Based God is the question of what, exactly, being “based” means. In short, the based mentality emphasizes positivity and a sense of universal love, a message beautifully captured by the track “I Love You.” The Based God’s Twitter feed is a steady stream of positive reinforcement to fans, and he constantly retweets adoring messages from his followers. Still confused? Here’s a quote from the infamous NYU lecture: “What is based? What does based mean? Shwoo. Shwoo. Shwoo.”
While short-lived, Lil B’s involvement in Bay Area rap group the Pack earned him his first national attention. Though the group put out only two albums, they found moderate success, signing to Up All Nite (the label run by rapper Too Short). They rapped mostly about skateboarding (for example on their biggest hit,
“Vans“) but nonetheless provided an important springboard for one of the most impressive and confounding rap careers of all time.