Words by Elijah Watson. Photos by Arturo Torres.
Brandon McCartney, better known by his musical aliases Lil B and the Based God, is an enigma. He simultaneously treads a line of transparency and mystery that makes the rapper difficult to read, but all the more alluring. He’s eccentric; he’s funny; he’s mad; he’s sad—he’s so much all at once, offering this multifaceted persona that a lot of people gravitate and relate to.
There’s a lot to Lil B: not only is there Lil B the rapper, but there’s Lil B the social media philosopher, and Lil B the public speaker. What makes him so interesting is that he’s not focused on giving people one side of himself, but rather all sides. Sure, it makes following this artistic persona of his all the more confusing, but it’s also the reason why we so many of us appreciate him in the first place. He’s bare in a way that not too many artists are.
I spoke with Lil B about growing as an artist, the importance of authenticity and transparency, love and speaking.
ELIJAH WATSON: As a rapper, you’ve become respected and revered for being transparent. You have songs where you talk about sadness, happiness and anger, as well as what it means to be black. How important is it for you to speak about these things, and did it take time for you to grow to be comfortable?
LIL B: It was a transition—everything is a growing period. You’ve got to vibe out and do what you need to do. I grow through music—that’s my biggest thing. It’s like Lil Wayne says, “I am music.” I’ve been art, Lil B is art, so there’s a lot of different lives that people will touch on, because it’s all true. I’m just being myself. That’s my personality. This is Lil B. Lil B has always been the world.
How would you say you are when it comes to communicating in different relationships in your life?
The communication is always as it should be. That’s why I enjoy meeting new people so I can communicate in different ways and get to people.
Do you always believe in telling the truth or are there some things that you prefer to keep to yourself?
It’s about being you and being your true self, and letting people either support that or show their true colors and fall off on that. It’s definitely a gift and curse being yourself and being authentic, so all I think you can do is put yourself out there and let things happen.
In communicating through your art as Lil B, do you feel that’s helped you open up as a person?
Definitely. I think it helps me help the people that are listening to it (my music) and relate to it, because there’s a lot of feelings we put through music. It’s a mix of a lot of personality and different stuff. It’s art making, it’s poetry, it’s emotions.
Do you say “I love you” often to people, and how has the phrase changed for you the older you’ve gotten?
It feels good to love and it feels good to put love out there. I’m just a big fan of supporting love, and you’ve got to give it to the people and put it out there in the earth. You’ve got to put love out in order for it to come back.
Would you say that there’s a specific person that influenced your perspective on love?
Yeah, I have a lot of inspiration from my close people that I consider family. I think my personality sprouted from my parents and my life experiences.
Speaking of “I love you,” your song “I Love You” is one of your most well known songs. What inspired you to create that song, as well as the video?
It was an inspiring song because I knew how much love I had put in it, so it was a very emotional time for me in the studio, and I had to put it out into the world. As for the video, I think it was just me being Lil B. I wanted to do things that were close to my heart and reflecting that in my art, and that’s where the video came from.
What would you say your idea of love is, and how has it changed throughout the years?
I think love is just support—supporting people for who they are and what they love.
What was your first introduction to love? Was it a movie, song, your parents?
Me loving music and life. That’s true love.
Has there ever been a standout moment where you were like, “Wow, this is why I appreciate love, this is why I appreciate life?”
Just always talking to people that really care about me, and the conversations are really positive and inspiring and spirit-lifting. Those are always great.