It was surprising to hang with a rapper who literally tells you he loves you the first time you meet him, but it's not every day that you get to hang with a split-personality internet rapper like Brandon McCartney.
Shot by Connor Olthius and Sam Zaret. Edited by Sam Zaret.
When Lil B "The BasedGod" rolled through Toronto last week, we fought our way through a thousand sweaty eighteen year olds with their foreheads wrapped in pink bandanas, feigning the act of cooking while screaming "swag", just to talk to Lil B for a few short minutes. Luckily, a few minutes with this guy is really all you need to delve down the rabbithole of reincarnation, the air quality in Canada, the possibility that we are living inside of a computer program, and Japanese girl groups. Not only is Lil B remarkably friendly for a rapper, the guy is more gracious and positive than most regular ol' human beings we've met.
If you don't already have it, you can grab Lil B's latest mixtape called BasedJam, one of about a hundred original tapes he's put out this year, right over here.
Here's Holly MacKenzie's take on the show:
I pitched a story to VICE about the experience of going to Lil B’s very rare and based show in Toronto a week ago. And then I went to the show. Mind blown, I had no idea how I was going to be able to write about something so strange.
Not strange in the, “Well, that was weird,” kind of way. Strange in the, “Oh my God, that was magic. Was that magic? Did this really just happen?” sort of way.
In short: An evening with Lil B is an incredible evening.
From the jump, I felt too old for all things based about seven seconds after getting in line for the show and realizing the average age of the people around me was illegal. So many under 19 year-old boys. In so many different color Odd Future cat t-shirts. Talking about skipping school in Chicago to get to Toronto in time for the show, about how based the night was going to be, about where they were going to find weed once inside.
Once in the venue, everything changed. When BADBADNOTGOOD took to the stage, the fans who came early were amped to be there. Watching BBNG is always an interesting experience. People going absolutely crazy, moshing, screaming and making the room bounce to jazz covers of your favourite rap songs (“Flashing Lights” is a personal favourite) is an experience that feels almost spiritual. It’s beautiful and strange and sometimes when you hear the pretty strains of the piano, it makes you want to cry. Oh. There was also a guy in a bear mascot costume stage diving, too. Obviously, this was the perfect lead in to the Basedgod in Toronto.
When Lil B finally took to the stage to face a mostly full venue, he came out in a puffy winter jacket. That didn’t last long, as he tossed it into the crowd to reveal an un-buttoned polka-dot silk shirt (the shirt was soon tossed aside as well. Immediately launching into conversation with the audience, he told us how special a night it was going to be, asked the crowd if someone could tie his shoe and then gave a shout out to Justin Bieber, Drake and The Weeknd as people nearly trampled one another to get the opportunity to touch his based laces.
I had started my night on the “Over 19, allowed to drink alcohol” side of the venue, but couldn’t help making my way toward the front of the stage. There’s something magnetizing about Lil B. I say this with minimal creepiness: You just want to be where he is.
The energy he brought to the stage was impressive. He was entirely focused, even as fans started jumping up onto the stage to race around, do the cooking dance, pose beside him while he was rapping and then wrap him up in hugs, he didn’t miss a beat and still managed to tell each and every one of the fans who had decided to interrupt his show that he loved them.
While bodyguards were working to try to keep people off of the stage, this continued to happen all night; there were a couple of instances where Lil B had to stop the show to ask people to leave the stage for their own safety because the mob on stage had grown to 10-15 bodies dancing in a frenzy around and beside him. Girls hopped onstage and smiled at the crowd before finding Lil B and grinding against him while he continued to rap as flashes went off and the crowd cheered.
It was a madhouse.
I wasn’t able to go to NYU for the lecture that Lil B gave last April. On this based, rare evening, Lil B was sure to engage with his fans constantly to spread energy and his trademark positivity. He also showed his love and appreciation for the internet where he grew his fan base, asking “How many people rock with me on the internet?” before continuing, “I’m taking my talents to TV and radio real soon.”
Of course, the term “based” was used approximately 2456 times during the show, with Lil B explaining “Based is keeping it positive doing what you love to do.”
This 23 year-old weirdo California Boy had all of us under his spell. Including a friend I hadn’t seen in seven years who randomly found me in the crowd to tell me he’s working on his Ph.D in bio chem while showing the passport he got B to sign while performing “Like A Martian.” Lil B will make you crazy in the best way.
I wish I could tell you in detail how the night unfolded, but it all sort of blurred together in a magical haze like those summer nights with your friends where you can only remember random moments, but know it was a wonderful night. The crowd was a complete melting pot of races, sizes, ages, styles. People looking for a good time, people needing a dose of positivity, people just wanting to have fun.
Lil B somehow makes everyone in the audience feel like he is there for them individually. He also makes you feel important. This is probably his greatest talent and it isn’t a bad one to have.
Watching the room freak out when Lil B performed “Woo Woo Swag” was phenomenal. I made it a point to stop dancing long enough to look around me at the bodies swaying and moshing and dancing, some trying to get on stage, a few others crying from some mix of happiness, joy and other substances. It was pretty beautiful.
With stoppages in the show so Lil B could say things like, “There’s something real important I have to tell you. I love you. That’s all,” how couldn’t we swoon over the attention he was showering upon us?
Above everything else that happened in the show, Lil B shone his brightest (even brighter than his hot pink bandana) when encouraging his fans to live the right way. “Respect other people,” he said. “Everybody is just trying to get by. We’re all just trying to get by, you know?”
As the show slowly came to an end —there were times where it felt as though he was going to perform all night, the energy from the crowd and Lil B never seeming to wane— he told the crowd to do what we want, fuck the haters, know that he believed in us and to stay positive.
We all believed him.
When each person entered The Phoenix Concert Theatre to watch The Basedgod, they left their worries, issues, bitch-ass attitudes and drama at the door. We were all under the Lil B trance, feeding on his energy, taking his positivity in, and feeling lighter than we’d felt in a long time.
Looking around the venue at the deliriously happy faces, it was clear that Lil B was onto something. We're all truly just a bunch of golden million-dollar babies.