Hip Hop Happenings: The Based Phenomenon: Lil B and social media
Words by Magnus Gillberg
Considering how tech-savvy you must be to have found this column, I presume you’ve heard of Lil B, otherwise known as The Based God. At the very least, you may have seen the memetic “Thank you Based God” or its more common abbreviation, “#TYBG”.
This cult figure is a rapper, with an online presence that stretches across almost every social media platform imaginable. The first thing that would strike any person viewing Lil B ’s Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr for the first time is the flood of what appears to be genuine devotion and love from his fans. He started on Myspace, where he had to create multiple pages to upload all of his content. From those now-ancient days he and his disciples have spread across the internet.
The disciples of The Based God inundate his pages with photos of devotion and messages expressing their deep appreciation for the positivity he continuously espouses. Drake has even adopted the “Based” creed, posting using Lil B’s signature slang. Even veteran rappers Lil Wayne and P Diddy are both fans. His strong following rides off his interaction with fans, which sees him following almost everyone who follows him on Twitter, as well as reposting fan art and letters with messages of thanks and appreciation.
His musical output also never leaves his fans wanting. So far in 2014 he has already released a mixtape of 30 songs, less than two months after releasing the much-anticipated mixtape “05 Fuck em” at Christmas, which contained 100 songs. This is typical of Lil B, who over the period of 2010 to 2013 released 44 mixtapes and 5 albums, containing hundreds of songs, all covering similar themes of loving and caring for his fan base. In a genre where rappers can be ridiculed for simply singing the most basic of love songs, Lil B bravely pronounces his love for his fans and even proceeds to cry in one of his music videos. Regardless of what you think of the song, this is quite a brave move for a rapper. His attitudes of love and care even extend to the cesspit that is the YouTube comment section, where the typical conversation with a naysayer goes:
Youtube commenter #1: “This song sucks”
Youtube commenter #2: “Lil B loves you”
If all it takes to improve the resounding justification for internet censorship that is YouTube comments is Lil B making music, I can forgive his shortcomings.
And there are some shortcomings when it comes to Lil B. It can be easy to get caught in the aura and mythos that surrounds The Based God and not realise some of the holes in his image. Firstly there is the quality of the music. The drive for quantity, while admirable, does lead to a distinct lack of quality. While his music may not necessarily be bad, it’s hard to argue that Lil B is actually up to the standard that he purports to be. He released a “Control Response’ track months after Kendrick Lamar’s controversial diss verse in Big Sean’s track ‘Control’, even though Lamar didn’t mention Lil B at all. Similarly, in the same year that Eminem released ‘Rap God’, Lil B released ‘God of Rap’. Both are questionable moves and attempts to roll with the heaviest hitters in Hip-Hop, which only served to illustrate how much he lacks. Some of his songs deliberately use simple lyrics and silly or corny concepts but even his best serious work is not up to scratch.
Lil B also publically participates in some questionable fan interaction with many young women. These fans, often barely eighteen years old, write messages like “Thank You Based God” on parts of their body and submit the pictures to Lil B’s Facebook page. The sexual undertones of many of the poses and the lack of clothing makes these pictures rather unsettling at the very least, especially for a page that is responsible for a lot of his fan interaction. Then there are all the pictures of famous people doing things unrelated to Lil B and still having “#TYBG” plastered across the image. This practise is sometimes funny but often inane.
Even Lil B’s seeming all consuming positivity is applied selectively. Like all rappers, he has feuds. Most recently the Lil B/Kevin Durant feud resurfaced with the release of Lil B’s song ‘Fuck KD’, all of which stems from the one time the NBA basket baller called Lil B, “wack”. Lil B’s Twitter also doesn’t purely spout positivity, with some bizarre shout outs to the very far right, and the threat to “Fuck Kanye West in the ass”.
Regardless of the quality of his music Lil B represents something very important in the history of hip-hop and the internet. His expert use of social media and utilisation of his fan base has created a phenomenon that is truly of this time. Whether you like the music, think it’s a joke or just find the social media aspect interesting, checking out Lil B is something anyone wanting to stay up to date with internet should do. The sheer weight of numbers behind him and volume of traffic created means that whether or not the main hip-hop scene ignores him, he still has a significant presence and influence on hip-hop’s listenership. So, go forth and check out Lil B, you may become Based or you may not, just don’t diss him on Twitter.