Kevin Harpor Everything Based: The Mystery of Lil B AKA The Based God AKA Black Ken

Beyond the deceptively simple moniker of Lil B lies perhaps the most confounding musical artist of this decade. Over the course of several dozen mixtapes released within the last three years, the former Brandon McCartney, AKA the “Based God” has splayed almost every inch of his id while revealing surprisingly few actual facts about his life. The music of Lil B is baffling to explain, not least because of the biggest recorded output since Merzbow.

Most of Lil B's lyrical content revolves around either getting his dick sucked (he has multiple songs titled on the variation of “Suck My Dick Hoe”), or how he looks like celebrities he doesn't actually look like (“Justin Bieber”, “Ellen DeGeneres”, “Im Miley Cyrus”). The deeper one delves into the catalogue, however, and the more complicated the enterprise gets. B's sole wide physical release is titled I'm Gay as a tribute to the LGBT community, a stark contrast to the rampant homophobia in hip-hop (though one should note B still frequently uses “faggot” as an insult in tracks, one of his many contradictions in terms and elsewhere).

B has popularised his own dance called the “cooking dance”, literally imitating chef moves as a complete deflation of the rap game romanticization of crack cocaine. The lushly futuristic beats of Clams Casino rest not uncomfortably beside the abrasive hats and snares and blown out bass of dozens of unknown producers, as Lil B will rap over basically any beat sent to him. More than anything, his philosophy is that of being “based”, which is to say staying true to yourself and staying positive. The power of this phrase and belief has led to Lil B supposedly recording well over 4000 songs to date.

An invitation to perform at this year's Pop Montreal festival led to a convenient headlining spot at Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre the night prior, as Lil B tends to not schedule more than a few tour dates at a time. Because of this, I felt compelled to attend the show even if I were alone. I also feel as though Lil B won't be able to maintain his insane output for much longer; one would guess he'll either retire, pursue other interests, or meet an untimely end á la Andy Kaufman, an obvious forebearer.

His track “Why They Wanna Kill Me” underscores this paranoia about an early death, fearing an end similar to John Lennon or 2Pac. Toronto post-bop crew BADBADNOTGOOD opened the show with heart-on-sleeve admiration for the Based God. However, their excitement for the man to follow nearly upstaged him, with their explosive, heavy jazz fusion performances of hip hop favourites reaching a feverish climax with the heady build of Gucci Mane's “Lemonade”

One of the main appeals of Lil B is how one never knows if he's completely serious, somewhat serious, or not serious at all, and appropriately enough, his Phoenix performance shed little to no insight in this area. The only element remaining clear on all fronts is the positivity of staying based, as the not-quite-sold-out crowd showed a unique enthusiasm unmatched by anything I've seen in hip hop. Fans wear homemade shirts reminding me of Fugazi, although I doubt Ian MacKaye would encourage wearing pink bandanas or Twitter-baiting hashtag phrases (#THANKYOUBASEDGOD). Performing alone onstage, with the exception of his camera crew and a steadily increasing number of onlookers, B moved swiftly through many of his current “classics” as he refers to his tracks, many of which are performed live for the first time.

Truth be told, B is a shabby live rapper. He regularly forgets lines to even his simpler songs, and his David Banner-destroying double-time rap of “I Own Swag” is a slippery slope. However, his enthusiasm and charm are undeniable, and the effect is returned tenfold from the audience. Countless spectators would leap on stage to cook, grind, or even just touch the Based God for a fleeting hug or high-five before diving into the crowd or be ushered off the stage. Oddly enough, B rarely even acknowledges the frenzy around him with more than bemused encouragement and humble thanks. B ensures the most enthusiastic front-rowers as well as those chilling out in the licensed area are equally appreciated.

His kindly demeanor between rapping about shitting butt-naked with AK-47s and getting his dick sucked like a Martian is only fitting; one would not get this far as an independent artist by legitimately being a smug asshole.

Through the 90+ minute set, B is inexhaustable. As I leave, ambient music washes over the speakers as he becomes completely engulfed by the crowd onstage clamoring for pictures and autographs. Regardless of one's opinions on his music or talent, he has created his own level of celebrity, of which we are not in the position to define. One might call it “based”, though.

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