“He who walks his own path of greatness will never be ancient” – Lil’B
Hip-hop has a bad habit of becoming habitually redundant. I almost liken it to a series of cliques, not unlike the ones you might find in any high-school themed movie. You have your urban-hipsters, backpackers, street rappers, new age and experimental cats and lastly the OG’s. Now arrange those all into a circle. See that blank space in the middle? If you can get yourself there, you win aka stand out! Notable “middle-sitters”, who inevitably become trendsetters and dictate the moulds of the aforementioned groups, include: Kid Cudi, Drake, MF Doom, Dilla, Tribe Called Quest and let’s say – for sake of argument – Nas. [editors note: yes yes yes – I left out LOTS of names.]
Artists in the outside circles tend be forgettable and interchangeable. They litter both inboxes and the Daily World Star Hip Hop timeline.
Now, success is wholly subjective; I understand that. But one artist I want to discuss is Lil’B. I’ll be first to admit that he’s an extremely acquired taste. That’s an understatement. I’ll also confess that I have been completely obsessed with his phenomenon – and believe me, that word was used on purpose. He is a phenomenon. Assuming my above example stands, Lil’B was in the middle and decided to walk off the field and moonwalk into the locker room. His music is bafflingly bad at (most) times, and yet momentarily brilliant as, excuse my french, fuck at others! It’s as though he momentarily breaks character, then instantly catches himself and reverts. It’s elusive like a Kanye smile at a basketball game.
Even more confusing is the disconnect between his music and his mantra of peace and love. Especially when you watch shit videos like this.
In all honesty, I chocked it up to my age, as I often do when I don’t understand the music of today. The kids seemed to get it, and his following, which is rabid, is real the deal. For That reason, I kept giving him the benefit of the doubt, under the assumption that I was just missing something – and you know what, I think I get it now.
Lil’B is not an idiot. He’s given multiple university lectures, written a book and ultimately been – arguably – the most successful Internet rapper of all time. He had celebrity net-worth of 1.3 million and released so much music that you literally can’t fit it all into one iPhone. Interestingly though, he hasn’t released any in the past few years, and it’s all been free. This means that his appearances and lectures make up a large portion of that fortune.
He’s a walking parody of everything hip-hop has become, yet he’s become a symbol. He’s a living meme. His music acts as a large billboard that reads free sex – and once you’re close enough, you find a smaller sign that read free sex, next to a textbook about tolerance and self-love. How many artists can you describe the way?
Hate it or love it, Lil’B spends 90% of his time connecting directly with a legion of dedicated fans, promoting nothing but positive (and often hilarious) shit. He also regularly quotes himself and curses NBA players. [sidebar: did you see him on ESPN?]
Much like 2PAC’s often name dropped, yet vaguely defined, movement “Thug Life”, we have to realize fully what the ultimate purpose of Lil’B’s act is. I doubt even he knows… But it’s intriguing as hell. Hate all you want, but respect his love of what he does, and his ultimate dedication.