The new fad with silly rappers. The weirdness of artsy hip-hop, mixed with the most extreme offenses of gangsta rap. The confessions, the vulnerability, the thugs with bleeding hearts. The confusion between mixtapes and regular albums. Web marketing, and its role in the advent of new talents. And the atmospheric sounds tagged as "cloud rap". These trends have defined rap music, in the 2010's. And one man, in the late 2000's, heralded all of them; or at least, he represented them. This man, was Brandon McCartney, a.k.a. the BasedGod, a.k.a. Lil B.
There's been several stages in his career, though. First, in the early 2000's, he was a member of The Pack, a band who specialized in hyphy, which was all the rage by then, in the Bay Area. These guys were more or less sponsored by Too $hort, and "Vans" was their hit single. But then, with the next decade, Lil B became an essential - though special - character of the new rap generation. He started being praised by hipster media like Pitchfork, he engaged into beefs with other rappers, and his best marketed release was provocatively named I'm Gay. One of the best times for the BasedGod, however, happened just in the middle. This was in 2009, the pivotal year in his career, the one when Lil B reinvented himself into some kind of improbable sect leader, opening frantically multiple websites, sharing his philosophy in Takin' Over, a book about personal development, and releasing his defining mixtapes, I'm Thraxx, and then 6 Kiss.
The cover art of the latter helped pinning the guy: he pictured himself, bare chested, worshiped by two white bitches. Other rappers did it before, sure, but they were not, like him, depicted as a saint, or an angel, with a halo above their heads. This religious aura was exactly what Lil B added to the gangsta rap macho attitude: he was the head of his own church, and his goal was to share a gospel for a better life. He blended rap with a New Age spirit, which was somehow logical from a native of Berkeley, the epicenter of the hippy movement, a few decades earlier.
This pose would translate into the ambient sounds produced by Clams Casino – "I'm God", "I'm The Devil", "What You Doin'" – the figurehead of cloud rap. Lil B, however, didn't limit himself to foggy beats, or to the ethereal voices of women, or to inspiring lyrics, declaimed in a style close to spoken word. Our guru did not only advocate open-mindedness; he applied it to himself. His music had soul or R&B samples, in a chipmunk mode with "Walk the World" and "What I Mean", or in a more normal one with "Real Plexx" and "Rolls Royce". But he also used fast-paced and swirling electronic beats like with "I Want Your Bitch" or the never-ending "I Got Bitches", as well as some porn-gothic sounds on "Pretty Bitch" and "Smoke Trees Fxxx Hoes". He would talk about anything: big cars on "Rolls Royce", drugs on "Let the Eagles Go", his homies on "Ridin' 4 My Niggaz" and, of course, hoes, on "I Want Your Bitch", "Pretty Bitch", and so many others…
The BasedGod, in his goodness, delivered all of this on this 90 minute long album – or mixtape, but who cares? It was exhausting, but actually, it was also one of the best pieces of his plethoric discography. He asserted his identity and his approach there. The years to come would look like this, and though, Lil B would remain so special and so singular; so apart from all others.