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Thank You Based God: 10 Reasons Why You Should See Lil' B This Weekend

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Lil B. (Courtesy Brandon McCartney)

Are you one of the thousands of music fans who’ve routinely found themselves wondering, “Where are all the Bay Area rappers who release hip-hop videos of themselves crying inside pet stores?”

Well, wonder no more. This Friday, the enigmatic Lil’ B, born Brandon McCartney and raised in Berkeley, performs at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma. With his one-million strong Twitter following, his vast recorded output of over 1,000 songs, critical accolades calling him “The Most Important Rapper of the Decade So Far,” and the fact that he hardly ever plays shows, it’s sure to sell out.

Here are 10 reasons to go see the wondrous miracle that is Lil’ B.

1. He Loves You and Believes In You

Ask anyone who’s interacted with Lil’ B—promoters, journalists, radio producers—and they’ll tell you that Lil’ B comes off as entirely sincere in his unrelenting positive promotion of all human beings. He’s posted hundreds of tweets with this essential message:

Lil’ B loves you so much that he gets overcome with tears on stage just thinking about it. How can you argue with that?

2. He Wrote a Charting Hit at Age 15

During the hyphy era, Lil’ B helped found The Pack, four oddball rappers who rode skateboards and wore dayglo bandanas. No one really knew what to make of them until their marvelous, razor-thin single, “Vans.” A hypnotic ode to the shoe brand that skirts along a spare backing track of hi-hats, finger snaps and gloppy synth octaves, it reached #58 on the Billboard Hot 100.


3. He Doesn’t Care About Your Curfew

The last time Lil’ B played in the Bay Area, over a year ago, he serenaded a sold-out Regency Ballroom for over two hours. And then he kept going. And going. Someone emerged from the wings to tell him to stop. Instead, he motioned to his DJ to drop the beat and kept going. Eventually, after even more songs, right at midnight, the house lights came up and the mic was cut off. Lil’ B responded by jumping off the stage into the crowd. One by one, he hugged his fans. That’s how the show ended.

4. His Curiosity About the Natural World is Endless

Again, this tweet is representative of dozens of others about animals and nature—humans reincarnated as dogs, for example, or the blessing of the gluteus maximus. But this particular one contains a special sort of wonder and awe:

5. He Put Out a Spoken-Word New Age Album

One day in 2010, I walked into Aquarius Records and heard what sounded like Deepak Chopra on mushrooms over an Enya B-side. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be Lil’ B. Rain In England was released by Weird Forest records, who specialize in experimental noise and free jazz, and it’s basically a constant stream of Lil’ B’s stream-of-consciousness philosophies.

6. He’ll Stop the Show to Meditate in the Corner

No, really, he will. At that Regency Ballroom show, he wandered over to the side of the stage, sat down with a shirt over his head, and stayed like this for a good three minutes:


7. His Anthem of 2014: “No Black Person is Ugly”

You don’t really need to know Lil’ B’s songs to enjoy his shows, but it helps to know a few hits (“Wonton Soup,” “Ellen DeGeneres“). Beyond viral jokes and into the realm of anthems comes “No Black Person is Ugly.” This year, while the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice by police sparked outrage, unease and marches nationwide, Lil’ B came through with this simple, empowering reminder. (His follow-up, “I Can’t Breathe,” was released today.)

8. He Gets Asked to Lecture at NYU and MIT

What’s more, he tends to win over new converts each time he does. Here is an account of his MIT lecture by Vice‘s Neil Martinez-Belkin, a former Lil’ B skeptic who discovers profundity and beauty and leaves with a newfound appreciation. (Note at the end, when a campus policeman agrees.)

9. His Rap Meme is the Best Rap Meme

The phrase “Thank You Based God” has swept the likenesses of Glenn Beck, President Obama and James Van Der Beek. It even wormed its way into Fox News’ coverage of Osama Bin Laden’s death. What, exactly, is “based,” you ask? Here we turn to Lil’ B himself, from a 2010 interview in Complex magazine:

“Based means being yourself. Not being scared of what people think about you. Not being afraid to do what you wanna do. Being positive. When I was younger, based was a negative term that meant like dopehead, or basehead. People used to make fun of me. They was like, ‘You’re based.’ They’d use it as a negative. And what I did was turn that negative into a positive. I started embracing it like, ‘Yeah, I’m based.’ I made it mine. I embedded it in my head. Based is positive.”

10. Oh, Just Let a 15 Year-Old Explain It

Here’s a text exchange from yesterday with my friend Evan, who’s still in high school:


That basically sums it up, folks. Lil’ B: All the decent things on the internet in human form. (And yeah, Evan, no problem on the ride.)

Lil’ B plays Friday, Dec. 19, at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma. Tickets, $30, can be found here.

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