Lil B @ The Cabooze
September 28th, 2012
Berkeley, California rapper Lil B took the stage a few minutes after 8pm Friday night at the Cabooze in what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most unusual concerts of 2012. He was joined by nobody but a bouncer. No DJ, no live instruments. No stage design or props. Such a large stage might seem awkward to be occupied by only one person, but his personality immediately filled the entire room.
Time for some background info. Lil B is the alias of Brandon McCartney, a 23 year old rapper who first achieved success as a member of The Pack, whose 2006 song "Vans" became an anthem for the Bay Area hyphy movement. Since then he's fashioned himself in to one of the most unique and original players in the 21st hip-hop game. He calls himself The BasedGod, championing a state of mind of being "based". He's released dozens of mixtapes, including one with 855 tracks in July. He's spoken at NYU. He's recorded probably over 2,000 songs by now. Just stating these things doesn't even come close to illustrating his persona, so I'll just get to reviewing the show.
You don't have to be a hardcore fan of the BasedGod to know that he has two distinct personalities - warped pseudo-charicature of hip-hop stereotypes (the side that gets the YouTube hits) and deeply personal visionary with a sense of wonder at all around him (the side that makes good albums). The two are polar opposites. Most of his releases tend to be distinctly one or the other. Friday night he was unquestionably the first of the two. He was happy to play viral favorites such as "Ellen Degeneres" and "Swag Jerry Rice", which got multiple hundred people to chant "I think I'm Jerry Rice!" in unison. He trotted around stage with a huge smile on his face and would occasionally strike triumphant body-builder poses. Between songs he seemed to adopt the second of the aforementioned personas. Shortly after his set began he acknowledged the show's All Ages status and apologized for using profanity while there may be youngsters in the crowd (and there were a few). Shortly after he mentioned that this would be a friendly concert and he didn't want to see anyone in the crowd fighting. Later on he got the crowd to repeat after him: "I love life!" "I'm happy with my life!" "I love you!" Towards the end of the performance he told the audience to appreciate their parents ("shouts out to parents!")
This was when the show took an unexpected turn. He had just begun playing one of his signature songs and what was presumably one of his last of the evening, "Wanton Soup", when he invited the crowd to join him on stage. It wasn't long before it was so packed that he didn't have enough room to actually perform the song. A moment later he cut the song and asked where his sunglasses had gone - apparently someone had taken them off his face. He mentioned that although he loves all of us, he couldn't go on performing without his sunglasses (kind of like Belushi in The Blues Brothers, he only took them off during the performance once for one particularly heartfelt message of his appreciation for the audience). The house lights went up and he promptly exited the stage. He re-emerged a few minutes later with the sunglasses on and apologized for being so "Hollywood" and that he'll never do such a foolish thing again because he realized how insignificant sunglasses are compared to his adoring fanbase. With the house lights still on he went through a few more songs but it wasn't long before he set down the microphone as instrumental tracks played so that he could sign various items being thrust at him by his rabid crowd. He got down in the crowd for a few minutes to take some photos before finally exiting.
Aside from the slight hiccup towards the end, this was a thoroughly exciting performance with as much positive energy as you can find at a hip-hop concert in 2012. For those who have been familiar with Lil B's internet presence for a number of years it was simply surreal to finally see him performing in front of us. Just once, internet nerds and hardcore hip-hop heads united for one evening of peace, love and swag.
Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer