Lil B and the age of digital music fandom
Back in high school, I remember my friends and I once had a contest to see who could get the most rappers to follow us on Twitter. It all started one day, when totally out of the blue, frequent Riff Raff-collaborator TKO Capone blessed me with a gracious follow. It wasn’t much, but it stood as the beginning of something truly special; in the ensuing weeks, my friends and I would scheme and strategize our way to eventually earning the prized Kanye West follow.
I decided I would circumvent all of the mixtape scrubs and jump straight to the big shots. I called the White House Communications Agency to see if I could get a follow from President Obama (not a rapper), but I guess my request was deemed unimportant. When V-Nasty leaked Riff Raff’s phone number that same week, I spam-called him at least 15 times to see if he would follow me on Twitter. He eventually picked up up the phone, but I was only on the receiving end of swear words in his surprisingly authentic Texas drawl (though, it should be noted that he did follow me sometime thereafter).
My friends had begun to rack up all sorts of struggling rappers, and yet, I had nothing. They angled for shoutouts on Datpiff cuts, while all I could do was refresh my page. I felt directionless, worthless — unworthy, even.
One friend happened to become particularly close with Soulja Boy through Xbox Live, and mentioned that Mr. Boy was very responsive to fans that repped his label, SODMG (Stacks On Deck Money Gang). It was free marketing and made the fans feel acknowledged on an individual level. At that moment it became very clear what I had to do to redeem myself. I updated my Twitter handle to include his label, and within a few days, I was in.
The internet proved to be shockingly powerful guerrilla marketing tool for up-and-coming artists, and I think early internet rappers that existed between the years of 2008 and 2011 were most exemplary in their approach. Wiz Khalifa was an infamous Twitter user in his pre-Kush & OJ days, keeping his ears to the pulse of his cargo short-wearing fans. Curren$y typically responded at every time of asking, and all it took was a name-change to receive affirmation from the first guy to ever “superman” on us all.
None were quite as prolific as Lil B, though. Born Brandon McCartney, Lil B ‘From The Pack’ BasedGod was (and continues to be) the greatest Twitter user of our time. Before the cooking dance memes, ESPN appearances, Pitchfork endorsements and university lectures, there were the tweets. My god, the tweets.
From the beginning, Lil B was the most unpredictable and eccentric rapper at the intersection of popular culture and Twitter, populated with a wide variety of characters ranging from Father to Earl Sweatshirt. His tweets were most identifiable by a childlike juxtaposition of vulgarity and sincerity — tweets about mental illness awareness were released in tandem with confusing and offensive takes on feminism and sexual violence.
Alot of people with mental illness are online and in the real world. Make sure to be aware and pay attention i love you - Lil B
— Lil B THE BASEDGOD (@LILBTHEBASEDGOD) December 21, 2014
He was so passionate on issues that most rappers couldn’t give a damn about, and yet, his Twitter presence amplified his status as the poster child of “whack new rap” that his music gave him. His virtual signature gracing the end of every tweet, it almost feels like he’s speaking to you personally when he tweets that he loves you every day.
At this point it’s gone too far to be a joke or gimmick; in a recent interview with Noisey he discussed his challenges of coexisting peacefully with insects. I would love to hear, say, Tyga’s take on insect rights (not that it matters).
Lil B followed me on Twitter on September 14th, 2011. I was a junior in high school, and it meant a lot to me. Having grown up and experienced music fanhood without the direct lines of communication, Twitter was awesome to me because I could hear about Kanye’s favorite movies, Earl’s favorite books, Tyler the Creator’s favorite Roy Ayers albums, etc. It brought me closer to my favorite artists in a way that removed them from their respective pedestals (in a good way). They were regular “music kids” like me, and Twitter made me feel like a genuine part of the artistic and cultural movements I most identified with.
I was 16 at the time and admittedly thought the “Thank You Based God” jokes and cooking dance celebrations were hilarious. I once tweeted a video of an American soccer player celebrating a goal against Suriname with the Lil B cooking dance, and a guy from Lil B’s camp named “Caseeno Truwop” (no longer online) retweeted it. It eventually found it’s way to Lil B, who then shared the video on Facebook. To this day, I still think he wouldn’t have found it had I not tweeted; his incredibly close internet-relationship with his fans makes it possible to influence the artists who most influence us.
A faction of his fans, affectionately known as the “Task Force,” have been responsible for elevating Lil B’s most infamous beefs to unforeseen levels via Twitter. One fan ordered 30 cheese pizzas to Space Ghost Purrp’s home, and collectively, they managed to make Joey Bada$$ delete his Twitter altogether. They are very much a force to be reckoned with, and I think the dedication these fans show Lil B is merely a reciprocation of the respect he has shown to us in every tweet, like, follow and song.
Lil B is the 21st century iPhone-wielding Black Monk of rap, blessing us with aphorisms and criminally underrated music with each extension of his digital consciousness. He generally doesn’t use punctuation in his tweets or music, constantly finding ways to express himself through the constraints of our satellites and keyboards. As a generation of kids typified by a feeling of loneliness from incessant connectivity, Lil B’s resilient messages of all-too-real positivity really do hit close to home.