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Lil B on Confronting Hip-Hop’s Biggest Taboo: ‘In 100 Years People Will Look Back and Appreciate It’

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Lil B — the 23-year-old Bay Area native who made a dent with his group the Pack’s shoe anthem “Vans” in 2006 before breaking out as a solo artist — has quickly become one of hip-hop’s most polarizing figures. He traffics in a self-created genre, Based music, characterized by free-flowing raps steeped in braggadocio, misogyny, and absurdity, with titles like “I’m God,” “I’m Miley Cyrus,” and “Wonton Soup”. He has single-handedly saturated the Internet with content: hundreds of MySpace pages, thousands of videos and songs, and one infamous 676-track mixtape that required three links to download in its entirety. His live shows are even more flagrant than his disdain for your hard drive, with fans offering themselves (or even their mothers) to him as sexual sacrifices, while proclaiming, “Thank You, BasedGod!” for his blessing. But his greatest provocation to date went down at Coachella just this past weekend, when B announced that his upcoming album would be titled I’m Gay. Blasphemer or crusader? Vulture talks to the BasedGod.

Everyone’s arguing about the motivations behind the announcement of I’m Gay. What message are you trying to send?
The message I want to send is that it’s time to stop using words of separation, judging people, and losing lives over senseless acts of violence. I just want all people to be treated equally, all creeds. It would just make everybody’s time on earth easier. Any of my homophobic fans or any homophobic people, I hope that they can see me do this and it bridges a gap.

GLAAD released a statement this week saying, “We hope that Lil B’s album title is not just a gimmick, and is really a sincere attempt to be an ally.” Do you see yourself as an ally?
I’m an ally to the people, and yes, I am an ally. I am a man that loves women, but I am an ally. I am not interested in men, but I do support men and women and any choices that they make that are positive. I don’t support violence and I don’t support negative energy. I don’t support people putting other people down. I’m a supporter of GLAAD and the gay community. It’s major love. I have love for the community and I have love for people in general.

This is not the first time you’ve touched upon the notion of homosexuality. Why have you chosen sexual inclusiveness as your platform?
It’s a very taboo topic in hip-hop, and there are some bridges and gaps that we as a people need to close. It takes a person to be brave enough to do that and wake people up. I wanted to be that first artist to be brave enough to do it for the people. In 100 years, people will look back and appreciate it.

On the other hand, do you worry that a controversial album title will have an effect on your marketability or commercial potential?
I’m not even thinking about that. I’m already commercial. This is not the end of me; this is just a chapter in the big book.

Moving on: You just dropped the music video “Charlie Sheen.” With his one-liners and obsession with goddesses, you and Sheen seem to have a lot in common. So which came first: Sheen or the BasedGod?
The BasedGod, that’s obvious. The BasedGod came before the Sheen; the Sheen gets $2 million per episode, but the BasedGod came before.

You’ve greatly propagated the use of the word “swag.” Birdman once mentioned regret for not trademarking the term “bling bling” when he had the chance. Have you thought of making “swag” officially yours?
Swag is for the people. If the people want me to be swag, I’ll be it. I’m copyrighting “BasedGod,” “The BasedGod,” “Thank You BasedGod,” and “Lil B”.

At your shows, your fans offer themselves, their girls, sometimes even their mothers to you. Have you ever, uh, taken up the offer?
No, not yet. Depending on the situation and what life tells me to do it can happen, but right now I haven’t.

You’ve also self-released an inspirational book, Takin’ Over, which touts “THE POSITIVE, THE LOVE and ALL POSSIBILITIES for everyone.” Sounds very uplifting. Ever tried pitching it to Oprah’s Book Club?
I haven’t tried pitching it to Oprah’s Book Club yet and have just let it live with the people. That would be great to speak to Oprah about it and to speak to Oprah about being the first heterosexual hip-hop artist ever to support the gay community. We do have a dictionary book to talk about one day.

A dictionary book?
I’m figuring out dates right now. I’m working on a few things, but you’ll definitely see more books from me coming out this year.

You promised you’d only take off your signature Vans when you made a million dollars, and you were recently photographed in the New York Times wearing a very expensive pair of boots from Barneys. So can we assume that you’ve hit seven figures? 
I’m going to be honest: I took off the shoes to take a picture and I regret it. That’s that. That’s a very touchy subject for me. I feel like a fucking fraud and I’ll never do it again. I love what I stand for and I’m disappointed I did that.

You’re an independent artist, but if you did go the major-label route, how much would the corporations need to pony up to sign you?
A $10 million deal. Really, though, that’s just for you right now. To put a price on my career and what I do — $10 million is not enough.

So $10 million is where negotiations start. Most likely, it will be higher than $10 million?
Yeah. Way over that. My life’s very important.

Lil B on Confronting Hip-Hop’s Biggest Taboo: ‘In 100 Years People Will Look Back and Appreciate It’