Image by Lia Kantrowitz
Where does the story begin? Where does any story begin? It’s the battle between Order and Chaos, force and counterforce. It’s there in the ancient religious texts, the stories of nations, the myths and legends of great peoples. In this case, it is a twisted theology of action and reaction, metaphysics, the spiritual made manifest in the physical world and on our TV screens.
From the moment that Chance the Rapper blessed the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, hours before their crucial Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, we have known that a war is raging in a higher realm, one that has rumbled down to Earth, threatening to consume all before it. It is between God and The Based God. This war will decide the outcome of this year's Finals, but its impact will be felt far further afield, a ripple effect becoming a tidal wave through the fate of all humanity.
This war is being fought by two young men forced to stare into the eyes of the Immortal; they are rappers, friends, illuminating talents. But above all, they are prophets, forced into a spiritual battle that they had no part in starting.
But it really begins with The Blessing and The Curse.
We’ve made much of The Based God’s Curse at Noisey. We knew it was real two years ago when Kevin Durant slipped in the fourth quarter of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Since then we’ve seen too many instances of The Curse’s existence to take it as mere happenstance. We’ve witnessed great men, modern gladiators who flirt with perfection, reduced to little more than pawns in The Based God’s game, slipping, stumbling, struggling against the whims of the hex. We, like so many others, have accepted that The Curse is real, that it is no longer a comedy aside to be thrown around with an ironic grin at a local sport’s bar.
The Curse has already turned the seemingly mighty Oklahoma City Thunder into little more than rubble in these playoffs. 3-1 up in the Western Conference finals against the historically great Golden State Warriors, they threw it all away, losing three games in a row against the odds and choking on their shot at greatness. The Based God had not removed The Curse from the Thunder’s Kevin Durant, The First Offender, and thus there was no other path.
It left us with the Warriors facing the infinitely less troublesome Cleveland Caveliers in the NBA Finals, a random assortment of basketball men scurrying around the supernaturally brilliant LeBron James.
And that’s when it got personal. What started as a hex on those that lacked respect and reverence for The Based God had morphed into something more personal for his Messenger. Lil B attended the series’ Game 2 on Sunday night to witness the Warriors lay waste to the Cavs and take a 2-0 series lead. A proud and vocal Warriors fan, Lil B was clearly trying to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies. He succeeded.
And so the Cavs faced a horrendous uphill battle against a superior roster of frictionless, algorithmic basketball avatars. They were as good as ready to be swept by their more perfect, more polished rivals in four games, a heavily-publicized embarassment for all the world to see. Lil B had used the curse to his own ends, it seemed. With nothing to fight the curse, its impact now irrefutable, The Warriors had it tied up.
But Wednesday, June 8, at 11:57 AM, The Curse met its match when Chance the Rapper conjured light and deigned to fight:
Blessings. Let’s think about those for a moment. They are the Hand of God reaching down from above to nudge humanity towards Truth, a prayer answered or a challenge presented by a Higher Power that promotes our happiness or wellbeing. They’re not always easy, they’re not always perfect, but we, as mortals, can acknowledge our blessings and converse with them, accepting our fate and basking in the Higher Power’s will. To quote Chance himself, we must “know the difference between blessings and worldly possessions.”
The Blessing is the anti-Curse. It is opportunity over damnation, hope over fear. What Chance the Rapper did Wednesday, in one tweet, was present a counterweight to The Curse, a Batman to The Curse’s Joker, through a Blessing of his own. His friend Lil B, spiritually at one with The Based God but not, in himself, The Based God, had held sway over the world of basketball for too long. Something had to be done.
It wouldn’t have been important had the Cleveland Cavaliers not done what once appeared to be the impossible by rolling over the rampant Golden State Warriors Wednesday night, but they did and so it is. Chance The Rapper knows this better than anyone. When the buzzer sounded its lonesome, inevitable horn at the end of the fourth quarter, putting the Cavaliers’ 30-point victory into the history books, he tweeted this:
“When the praises go up,” he sang on Coloring Book, “The blessings come down.”
The Duality of The Based God
To fully understand the implications of Chance’s Blessed Intervention, we have to first understand the metaphysics of this situation, its existence in a realm outside of our own, pathetically physical world.
Let us begin here: Lil B is not, truly, The Based God. This is not blasphemy, it is fact. He himself has acknowledged and promoted this rapper-god duality on a number of occasions, often in reference to The Curse. Lil B never placed The Curse, he consulted with The Based God who then informed him that, indeed, The Curse was now in effect.
To see this duality in action, we need look no further than Lil B’s appearance yesterday on ESPN's Sports Nation. Carried in on a throne, wearing a cowboy hat and dangling earings, it was there that Lil B, the prophet, announce that Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell was officially cursed. And that is what the headlines said. “Lil B Officially Curses D’Angelo Russell,” they read, almost in unison.
These headlines not only ignored the inherent duality of Lil B, they ignored the evidence of the video itself. Watch it again. “Right now, is he [Russell] cursed or not cursed?” asked one host. Lil B, The Messenger, does not respond immediately. He stammers and forces out some non-sequiturs. Nine seconds pass before The Messenger holds up a card and announces that, yes, “He is officially cursed.”
What happened in those nine seconds? This was not a man in conversation with his own conscience, toying with the career of a young man who made a mistake on social media. In those nine seconds, Lil B was conversing with The Based God. At :15 in the video he smiles and shakes his head when nobody asked a yes-or-no question. In those nine seconds, he is not of this Earth. The Based God is talking to The Messenger and The Messenger is hearing his judgement. Again, at :52, when asked about the possibility of placing a curse on the Los Angeles Clippers, Lil B sharply takes in a breath, consulting again with The Based God to The Messenger. “No,” says the Higher Power. “Not the Clippers. All is well with the Clippers. For now.”
It’s a familiar system—Lil B is a high prophet. He converses with The Based God, spreads His message, takes it to the masses. Twitter is his scripture, writ in real time, a bible of @s and hashtags. To go one step further, it’s the conventional Christian Trinity, handed down from Augustine, of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The Based God is father, Lil B is the Son and we, through trying to better understand the Based existence, walk through our lives in the presence of the Holy Based Ghost.
Speaking to God in Public
If The Curse was placed, then, not by a man but by a god—a Based God—then it cannot be broken by man alone. No, something else would have to step in, another Higher Power, again channeled through something beyond our comprehension. We might think of The Curse as a demon, dooming a person to failure. And in that sense, the matter required an exorcism, a channeling of the Christian God, to counter-balance the whims of the Based God.
The man that was tasked with enacting this was the same man who told us “I speak to God in public.” He’s the same man who imagined God’s Twitter account and lamented that The Almighty wouldn’t answer his calls, a postmodern Job grappling with his faith. Chancellor Bennet, Chance the Rapper; no longer mere Chance, now certainty.
To be clear, The Blessing that Chance offered to the Cavs on Wednesday was not a case of him taking issue with Lil B. It was the start of two prophets acting as vessels for Higher Powers.
It’s clear, too, that both men know it. Last year Lil B and Chance collaborated on the Free Based Freestyles Mixtape, a 6-track collection of quick-hits that both shows the two as friends and knowing vessels. The mixtape is littered with references to metaphysics from the outset. Take Lil B’s opening verse on “Last Dance,” in which he says: “I got my hands open, lookin' to the sky like/ Lord can you take me? I'm alright/ I got my wings flyin', bitch I'm like a Red Bull.” Lil B, like Chance, is talking to God in public. Then there’s the last track, “We Rare,” in which Chance raps, “Out of thin air we made it to a new thing,” flaunting his ability to create something from nothing, to alter the elements and channel something greater.
Most clearly, there’s “Amen,” a gorgeous, hazy track that has both Chance and Lil B taking stock of their troubles. Trying to figure it all out through the cigarette smoke and liquor, Chance clicks into a realization. “It's like God is my… on the side of my ear,” he raps. “And I watch him talk into this shit/I can't get into this shit/But understand that I'm blessed/Blessed, blessed, blessed.”
All well and good, one might say. Yes, these two men are prophets, but surely Chance was simply wishing LeBron James well in return for following him on Twitter. This, you might think, can all be explained away.
Well, it runs deeper than that. Chance also chose to reference the supernatural LeBron James’ teammates, Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert. Shumpert grew up in Oak Park, a few miles from Chance’s Chicago, and has dabbled in rap, so there’s a connection there of sorts. But while Kyrie Irving is a prominent player, he's by no means a Great. Why “cc” those two on this particular tweet? Why not “cc” any of the other players on the Cavs’ roster? And who “cc”s people in tweets?
The answer can be found in a tweet sent out by Lil B this time last year, threatening the three with The Curse for borrowing his cooking celebration without fair reference.
It fell to Shumpert, shaken by the knowledge that The Curse is all-powerful, to relieve the situation of its tension and banish the hex:
A Numbers Game
Chance was keenly aware of this when he tweeted at the three Cavaliers on Wednesday. Chance knew, too, that he was responding not only to the curse as it is today, but that he was responding to its source, its root all those years ago in Kevin Durant's first, dismissive tweet about Lil B's relevance.
The tweet that started this whole thing off was 98 characters in length. Chance the Rapper’s tweet on Wednesday was 98 characters in length.
Coincidence? Unlikely. But let us entertain the notion that it is. Can it also be a coincidence that LeBron James had six assists and 11 rebounds in the game to go with his 32 points? One doesn’t have to be a mathematician to work it out:
Farfetched, you might say. Well then consider this: add James’ box score statistics together from the Game 3 rout of Golden State: 11 rebounds, six assists, one steal, two blocks, five turnovers, two personal fouls and 32 points. The result: 59.
Think back again to “Blessings” and its second verse. “They booked the nicest hotels on the 59th floor/With the big wide windows, with the suicide doors.” This was pre-ordained. Perhaps Chance himself wasn’t even aware when the spirit moved through him and he put pen to paper on “Blessings,” but in another realm, beyond our understanding, things had aligned.
That doesn’t mean that Chance’s Blessing will overcome The Curse. Lil B, The Messenger, has been informed by The Based God that The Curse will not only remain in effect, but that it will grow and expand, now punishing a young man from the Los Angeles Lakers as well as controlling the fates of the First Offender and the Flopping Chef. Its power has not yet been broken, it has merely met a significant challenge for the first time. We will know the victor of this war by the winner of the 2016 NBA finals. And in the interest of humanity and our collective future, we should be watching more intently than ever.
Alex Robert Ross fears for our collective tomorrow. Follow him on Twitter.