Thank you, Based God, for another fruitful year of #based music. The Internet rap phenomenon known as Lil B had his biggest year yet in 2011, putting out eight releases that spanned mixtape, album and Garage Band .mp3 formats, including the 676-song Free Music: The MySpace Collection. Having already compared himself to the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus and, um, God, the walking rap meme upped the ante this year, releasing YouTube gems such as “Justin Bieber,” “Charlie Sheen,” “Bill Bellamy” and “Dr. Phil,” to name a few.
But it wasn’t just his steady stream of output, goofy or otherwise, that boosted his popularity. Following his announcement in May that he would be releasing a record titled I’m Gay, even news publications like New York Magazine and CNN wanted to pick his brain, yielding some pretty hilarious interviews. Lil B’s growing influence manifested itself outside of the World Wide Web, like in the NFL where his signature Cooking Dance inexplicably became one of the league’s most popular celebration dances. And though Lil B remained voluntarily label-less in 2011, his buzzing rap descendants like A$AP Rocky were able to cash in on a style that Lil B pioneered, which includes rapping over the ethereal dreamscape beats of producers like Clams Casino and boasting about how “pretty” you are.
With so much #based music to sort through from 2k11, we picked out a few of our favorites from Lil B’s wildly productive year.
Best Album: I’m Gay
The heterosexual Lil B’s self-proclaimed “statement to the world” had little to do with homosexuality but much to do with fine-tuning his sound in his most affecting release to date. I’m Gay opens to find our hero “Trapped In Prison,” waxing philosophic about the prevalence of “mental slavery,” something he seeks to abolish over the ensuing 11 tracks of fascinatingly warped conscious-rap. It’s unfailingly positive and, at times, genuinely inspirational, especially on cuts like the Obama-sampling “Gon Be Okay.” But the Based God is at his best when going in over luminous soul samples, as on the headnodic “Get It While It’s Good” (streaming below) and the shimmering standout “I Seen That Light.”
Best Song: “Based For Your Face”
When you release as much music as Lil B does, it’s not such a bad idea to provide people with an entry point. This came around in a big way on the 9th Wonder-produced, Flavor Flav-sampling “Based For Your Face,” one of the Based God’s most accessible songs to date. Although backpack heroes Jean Grae and Phonte lay down a pair of first-class verses, Lil B remains the main attraction. As he spits, “Based for your face two times/You don’t see no actin’/All they do is rhyme words/Such typical rappers.” After all, it’s not lyrical skill that has people far and wide tweeting at Lil B that he can “fuck their bitch”—it’s his one-of-a-kind je ne sais quoi.
Worst Mixtape: I Forgive You
The recipe for most Lil B mixtapes goes something like this:
1 strangely captivating intro
3-4 cool songs with great beats
3 meh songs
2-3 awful songs with baffling beat selections
1-2 laughably goofy songs
1 inexplicably excellent song
Sometimes it works out better than others, like on I’m Gay or on his latest, the surprisingly consistent BasedGod Velli. With I Forgive You, however, something went horribly wrong. The songs are uninspired and overly long, plus they sound like they were recorded and engineered by his cat.
Worst Song: “I Got AIDS”
Lil B likes to play pretend. And he’s not so bad at it, which is to say it’s pretty entertaining when he’s “cooking” like a chef or “winning” like Charlie Sheen. But when he tries to put a more serious hat on, like on this failed attempt at an AIDS awareness anthem, it lands more like a naked belly-flop in a kiddy pool—a little uncalled for, awkward, possibly offensive.
Best/Worst Album Art: Bitch Mob: Respect Da Bitch Vol. 1
The cover for Lil B’s throwaway mixtape Bitch Mob: Respect Da Bitch Vol. 1 encapsulates a lot of what makes him so special. Who else has an imaginary posse whose members refer to themselves as bitches…and only consists of one person?