The man behind the meme

From Berkeley to the World Wide Web, rapper and online innovator Lil B is taking over

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Lil B: "I'm not on TV right now. I don't have a single on the radio, but people know my songs word-for-word at shows."
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY MATTHEW REAMER

arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC When I finally manage to get in touch with Berkeley rap phenom Brandon McCartney, a.k.a. Lil B, he's just landed in Oakland, having returned from a brief — and in his words, "amazing!" — stay in Atlanta with Internet-rap legend Soulja Boy. He played a show or two down South, and got a lot of love from local radio. "It's just amazing the respect I'm getting offline," says, "just from being at a computer, doing what I do."

What does Lil B do online? He has a prolific Twitter account, more than 100 MySpace accounts, a self-published book on positive living (Takin' Over, available from Kele Publishing), and dozens of hastily-made videos on YouTube. Most of the top comments on his YouTube account are from B himself, and he leaves comments on blog posts about Lil B with a blogger account, Tropical Doves (tropicaldoves.blogspot.com). At a recent New York City show, Lil B's status as an Internet star was apparent as soon as he stepped on the stage — dozens of cameras (and one spatula) went up in the air to record or TwitPic the performance, making online footage available to everyone, including anyone unlucky enough to be in the back of the room.

Lil B's friendship with Soulja Boy makes sense; both are young, motivated rappers who have found ways to harness various social media platforms to generate huge followings online. Their songs and dances are, in essence, Internet memes — dances and credos that get adopted and modified by their listeners, the sort of thing ad agencies throw millions of dollars at in vain attempts to imitate. Together, they make some of the most fun, mindless swag rap out there, ideal for watching on YouTube, on repeat. In "Swag OD," a recent black-and-white video directed and edited by B during his stay in the South, they ride around suburban Atlanta office parks in Soulja's black Mercedes. "Ice chain, ice, ice watch, ice neck/ Ice watch, ice, ice, hoes, ice chest (rich!)," B raps at one point. "Swag OD" has this jaded, over-it sound, Soulja sort of yawning between bars. Something's not right.

Soulja Boy's blasé attitude is pitch perfect for the aging child star — how else should he feel? But Lil B, who claims to be a Berkeley hippie at heart, seems out of place putting on this act. Even on crushingly low-brow YouTube hits like "Suck My D*&* HO" (his second most watched video, with about 300,000 views), B brings way more energy. This enthusiasm — on stage, on camera, wherever — accounts for a good portion of Lil B's appeal. You can tell he loves what he's doing.

The "Suck My D*&* HO" video is a great starting point for those curious about Lil B. "Ten on my dick and my girlfriend Persian," B lipsyncs from inside an Apple store. "Bitch sucked my dick 'cause I look like a surgeon." That Lil B gets all sorts of special treatment for looking like people he doesn't actually resemble — Madonna, Mel Gibson, Matlock, Moses, Jesus, Patrick Ramsey, to name a few — is just something you have to accept if you want to enjoy his music. It's akin to the suspension of disbelief you bring to a summer blockbuster.

Comments

wow! amazing article. I really enjoy his honesty

Posted by teamkush206 on Sep. 07, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

The Future The Takeover It's Now

Posted by teamkush206 on Sep. 07, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

well written article... really curious to see where Lil B will be a year from now.. will he burn out? or can he keep up the constant outpouring of content?

Posted by bennett4senate on Sep. 07, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

#BASED

Posted by Guest on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 9:48 am

sept 18th at the continental club in west oakland!

lil b live!

record release party

8-12am!

BASED!

Posted by GEORGE on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

I'm detecting a pattern here: first in Peter Bohler's profile photo of Kisses in the 8/25 issue and now a double offensive by photographer Matthew Reamer in the current issue (9/8). Reference the Lil B pic on page 18 and the Tamaryn photo on page 23.

Will somebody please tell your pop life snap-shoters that when you photograph a subject with the sun setting over their shoulder IT FUCKS UP THE PICTURE....

Posted by Guest MUGGS on Sep. 09, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

Lil B is also the name of my dog, coincidence? I think not.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 09, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

The black Moses has returned to lead his sheep

Please direct us into righteousness, for you are the last string of yarn on this pale blue dot that will give us a chance

Thank You Based God

Posted by five hunnit on Sep. 09, 2010 @ 10:48 pm

Lil B is amazing i think that i had trouble opening up to the possibilities of life when i first started hearing him and his wide variety of tracks opened me up. im 20 and i think that its important for young people to love every thing they have and to put on and work hard for you and the ones u love. B does that thats why i respect and play his songs. yaaaaaaaa boy ivanbigbear and i hope nothing but the best for lil b personally and artisticly. stop tha hate

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

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