Lil B is one of the most revolutionary artists in music, all he has to do is walk and they follow –Lil B
Some know Brandon ‘Lil B’ McCartney as a young rap prodigy from his 2006 hit song Vans, a song in which (then 16-year-old) McCartney, and his hip-hop ensemble, The Pack, rhymed about the rough areas of Berkeley, California; a period during which the bay-area ‘hyphy’ hip-hop movement hit its peak. Others know McCartney as an energetic, unintelligible, and nonsensical MC from his critically acclaimed viral hip-hop songs: Wonton Soup, I Own Swag, and I Cook; however, McCartney, beyond his crazy, kooky musical career, serves as a culturally significant postmodern icon. He is making hip-hop history, revolutionizing the genre with positive messages, deconstructive humour, and tight pink shirts.
The first thing any ‘non-Based’ listener will notice upon listening to McCartney’s God’s Father Mixtape is the objectively poor production. From a technical standpoint, McCartney’s music falls sub-par. Distortion often rings through his tracks, reverberated bass echoes throughout mixes, and muddy, poorly recorded vocals overpower most of his tracks’ instrumentals. Edges are rough, compression is overdone, frequency equalization is off-centre, and for the most part, his songs are poorly mixed and mastered. Despite the fact that, for the average contemporary hip-hop fan, the cultural significance and overall ‘worth’ of a hip-hop song is measured in production value, McCartney’s music still boasts it’s very own artistic credibility and substance. He still remains a cultural icon of the hip-hop community. Big hip-hop acts, such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Mac Miller, are venerated as the pinnacle of hip-hop, with their bumping and clear instrumentals, aurally pleasuring hooks, and high production value. In an industry as production-focused as hip-hop, it is a spectacle and, in many ways, a miracle that McCartney is as cherished as he is.
McCartney’s musical career dates back circa 2005, where he spent his after-school time rapping in his home studio, emulating the style of his favourite famous rappers at the time; they were the creators of crazy fast, energetic, and fun hip-hop labelled ‘hyphy’ by their fans. Musically, McCartney started out as any other young artist would have: giving it 100% and making catchy, smooth, bumping tracks. Vans, a hip-hop hit by McCartney and his group The Pack, is a perfect example of young McCartney’s style. The talented, cocky, young McCartney proves his skill with interesting wordplay, smooth flows, and classic hip-hop egocentrism. Anyone familiar with The Pack would agree that McCartney was one of the most talented in the group. Oddly enough, Vans, in comparison to I Own Swag, is in a whole different artistic domain. How could the talented youngster from The Pack transform into the Lil B? There’s no way to tell for sure, but it is interesting to note that McCartney, even today, has not ‘lost’ any of his artistic talent – some of which he chooses to display in his songs Giving Up, I Am, Motivation, Flowers Rise, and Realist Alive.
Where McCartney’s artistic brand differs from that of his contemporaries is in his message, personality, and celebrity interactions. Whereas most recent hip-hop can be fit into three broad categories: catchy, emotionally appealing, or club-bumping (Thrift Shop by Macklemore, Nobody’s Perfect by J.Cole, and Mercy by Kanye West, are respectively examples of the three categories), a majority of popular verses are lacking in artistic differentiation. They are emotionally insufficient and foggy in idea communication. But as with any artistic medium, our contemporary hip-hop scene is slowly beginning to value abstract expressionism rather than more direct aphoristic communication. At the centre of this cultural shift lies McCartney. McCartney’s music art is purposefully opposite. His art, unlike popular hip-hop music, is surprisingly packed with good messages, positive reinforcements, and tackles issues that remain taboo in the hip-hop universe. For example, one of Lil B’s well-known ‘good songs’, Giving Up, sympathizes with the often-ignored homeless community, and Lil B’s Freedom reflects upon the struggles that lower-class teenagers often put up with: poverty, gang violence, sexual abuse, mental health issues, and surprisingly even more. It is not uncommon for an average hip-hop listener to encounter Based crowds on YouTube arguing that McCartney’s artistic productions are more reflective, deep, and culturally worthy than a vast majority of popular hip-hop acts. McCartney is not afraid to touch the untouched and venture to the deepest, darkest corners of society. He seeks to pull inspiration from the outcasts blasting positive messages into their ears in return. The goofy and careless personality himself regards his music as a joke, and has fun with his tracks, unlike a majority of his hip-hop contemporaries. He blatantly makes shout-outs to celebrities or renowned personalities he finds ‘funny’ or ‘entertaining’, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus, Bill Bellamy, and Charlie Sheen naming songs directly after them. With positive messages, disregard of artistic boundaries, and blatant shout-outs to pop-culture, McCartney established himself as one of the most significant contemporary hip-hop music deconstructionists.
Deconstructionism – not to be confused with deconstructivism – is a form of cultural critique, a method of artistic expression that has been gaining ground since the early 20th century. In the early 20th century, most art was realistic and expressionist. War-era paintings often depicted the traumas of trench warfare with eerie colours and confusing cubist proportions, leaving viewers as disoriented, scared, and tired as the artists themselves. Marcel Duchamp, a famous artist of the era, began his art career with paintings similar to that of his contemporaries: post-impressionist, cubist, and individualist; however, with the rise of deconstructionism, Duchamp’s style of art changed quite drastically. The deconstructionists to first gain mainstream popularity were the Dadaists, members of an avant-garde movement regarded, by author Dona Budd, as a movement “rejecting reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality, and intuition.” Famed Dadaist pieces are goofy, ironic, and satirical, throwing together old styles and breaking cultural barriers for shock value furthering their anti-war subculture’s worth. Duchamp, originally regarded as a talented painter, soon began to disregard his painting skill and technique, focusing on the message, rather than the aesthetic, of his works. One of the most famous Dada pieces is Duchamp’s Fountain – a 1917 sculpture of a urinal flipped onto its back, with the characters “R.MUTT 1917” inscribed on the top. Unsurprisingly, the piece was rejected from display at museums across the world. The piece was critiqued by various international art communities, who claimed it to be offensive to art. Infuriated artists criticized the sculpture, which Duchamp bought ready-made, claiming that artistic value lies in technique, practice, and execution, not in buying a urinal and scribbling letters upon it. This principle spawned generations of cultural deconstructionists throughout the 20th century; however, the movement mainly lay stagnant until the birth of pop-art and postmodern philosophy. Postmodern philosophers praised deconstructionism, irony, artistic expression, humour, and avant-garde art. Sound familiar?
[To] all my people that have mild or severe depression don’t worry because there’s someone that loves you! He’s a rapper with gold teeth. –Lil B
McCartney’s music isn’t hollow, either. Behind McCartney’s ironic musical releases shines the “Based” philosophy; a movement that McCartney founded and figureheads. The movement is continually gaining momentum, transforming its subjects into optimistic, idealistic, respectful, hopeful, and caring citizens. McCartney holds a special place in the hearts of the Based community, acting as a prophet for the famed “Based God”, an omnibenevolent and all-forgiving source of knowledge and wisdom that spreads its message through Lil B. Countless young adults religiously follow the Based movement, spreading positive words, caring for their communities, and valuing each other for their face value and their own existence. A quick peek on McCartney’s Twitter will give you a look into the “Based World”, where McCartney and his fans interact to support, love, and complement each other, sharing between them their common musical interests.
Lil B is changing the frontiers of hip-hop. He’s making optimism fashionable, spreading peace and love, standing up for what he thinks is right and keeping the world eternally Based and positive.
Photography credits to Matthew Jacula.