Over the past few months, Lil B has gone from member of the relatively forgotten California group The Pack to one of hip-hop's most controversial and misunderstood artists. And even if the 20-year-old isn't on your radar yet (despite his dozens of Myspace aliases and YouTube videos) or his "princess swag" just doesn't suit your tastes, incidents like getting punched in the face for the world to see and a budding relationship with Soulja Boy are making the Berkeley rapper increasingly difficult to ignore. Complex recently caught up with the Based God and spoke about everything from his Golden Era hip-hop influences to why he considers himself finer than Nicki Minaj...
Interview by Ernest Baker
Complex: We had trouble getting in touch at first because you lost your phone. What happened?
Lil B: You know we shooting videos heavily, getting it in. So I was out in the woods shooting a video and I seen these raccoons, and these raccoons was kind of surrounding me—they did not seem to be backing down—and I was like, "Damn." I had my shit on top of my car, so I took a few things, but I forgot my phone was up there and just drove off. I heard something ring and I'm like, "okay, it's in the backseat." Then I heard something fall off the car on the freeway. I kept driving and then I looked for my phone and never found it.
Complex: Are you shooting videos every day at this point?
Lil B: I'm not gonna give the secret out because people copy, but you know I'm getting it in heavy now. You're about right.
Complex: How old are you? I know you were pretty young when The Pack popped off.
Lil B: I'm 20 now. About to be 21 in August. August 17th.
Complex: Are you still working out of the Berkeley area?
Lil B: Yeah, still Berkeley, California. Still Bay Area. I'll be trying to expand by the end of this year or next year and make that move. East coast or L.A. or down south.
Complex: Where do you see yourself most likely?
Lil B: Most likely L.A. to start off. Get that foot in and see how that is. Then probably take it down South. East Coast. I think that's gonna be the the toughest. It's real all around. It's just a pure circuit. You gotta be brutal. Motherfuckers not gonna say "hi" to you on the street or nothing, you feel me.
Complex: Yeah, everybody's real cool out here. You go to a show and dudes don't even wanna get into it.
Lil B: Yeah. [Laughs.] Everybody knows about that too. In New York, even if motherfuckers fuck with you, they won't fuck with you. That's crazy, you feel me? I can't hide it. If I like it I'm just gonna be wild. I might even scream or something. It go through my veins. The music, it hits you. You know?
Complex: What's your setting like in Berkeley? I've gotten a mixed vibe from you. Sometimes you project this 'hood image, but then there's video of you out at suburban soccer games and shit.
Lil B: Right, right, right. [Laughs.] I like the Bay Area because it's very diverse, and I'm in touch with the people. I'm around the 'hood and I can touch the people. I feel like I'm blessed because to this day, I can walk around the streets with no security or anything. I get approached a lot—and when I do, it's all love. We got the 'hoods and the areas that have more finances put into them.
Complex: Was your upbringing more on the 'hood side or the more affluent side?
Lil B: I can't say it was the 'hood 'hood because there's worse places with way more crime rates and drugs. Berkeley is not the 'hood how other places are, but there's people that stay there that still don't take shit. I wasn't in the 'hood 'hood, but I still did everything.
Complex: So were you driving a stolen Lexus like you said in "Rich Bitch"?
Lil B: Exactly. When I was growing up, man, I didn't know myself. I was striving for respect. Trying to be cool for the girls. I wasn't the biggest dude and I'm a nice guy. When I was younger, I was thinking of ways I could get respect so people wouldn't bother me. I was down for whatever. I ended up going to juvenile hall, facing a good amount of time for a first-time offense.
Complex: What was that for?
Lil B: You know, I'm kind of ashamed. I'm really ashamed of myself speaking about it.
Complex: Well, we're talking about what you're doing now. I'm just trying to get a feel for your past. So was that drug-related or—
Lil B: Burglary, man. A lot of burglaries. Breaking and entering. Just a lot of shameful stuff, but I learned a lot. I wouldn't pray for that on anybody. That's why I'm so positive now and really promote my core message, which is positivity and change and learning. I'm rehabilitated.
Complex: You stress this positive attitude but then you have joints like "Robber's Anthem." What are you doing there? It seems like you're celebrating that, but you're telling me that you're ashamed of it.
Lil B: I make music that I would wanna hear, music that puts you in that zone. "Robber's Anthem" is a specific kind of music. With the beat and with how I'm saying stuff, when you listen to that music I want you to go crazy. I want you to scream, you feel me? I want it to be like a rock concert. I want it to be pure anarchy when you hear "Robber's Anthem." I want it to bring you the closest you can be to how I was. With "Robber's Anthem," I was glorifying that stuff because I was doing it for people besides myself. I was getting whatever I was getting for the girls or—
Complex: So you're tapping into the fact that at the time you did rob people because you probably felt like you were doing some gangsta shit?
Lil B: Right, because a lot of people ask for that from me. There was a time when I was putting out hella positive music and really being hella honest. Like, writing a book and crying on songs. So positive I would cry for the people, but a lot of my core fans around were like, "What the fuck, B? What's going on?" So I got a lot of music because it's all different. I'm not just one side. I wanna show you the good, the bad, and the ugly. I wanna be as truthful as I can because I love music. A lot of these artists got one voice, two styles.
Complex: What happened with The Pack? You're clearly doing the solo thing now, but was there a falling-out or are you still cool with those guys?
Lil B: I'm in The Pack for sure. We're still doing our thing. We got The Pack album, Wolfpack Party, dropping. I'm still rocking with them, but I gotta make sure the world knows that I'm a force, because I feel like I wanna be a megastar and that's my thing.
Complex: Do you still have a relationship with Too $hort?
Lil B: Yeah, I just seen $hort last night, man. Shout out to Tony Yayo and 50 Cent. I just met them for the first time. Me and Yayo was chopping it up heavy at the concert. They was out here in the Bay, at Frisco. I seen Too $hort up there. Me and $hort ain't talk for a minute. We talked, exchanged numbers. He's the same old man. $hort, that's pops. He got game and they definitely, definitely respect him.
Complex: Yeah, I was listening to some of your stuff with one of my boys. He's a big Too $hort fan and he didn't even know about you, but he was like, "He's kind of like a new Too $hort." I don't know if you're trying to own that label, but you're from the same area and you talk about girls a lot. Is that influence there?
Lil B: Hell yeah, man. That's definitely a respectable title. There's many sides to me and that's one. I definitely take Too $hort's "not giving a fuck" attitude and I already don't give a fuck what people feel about me. And I love people, trust me, I love people and I respect the hell out of people's opinions, but other than that I'ma say what I want, say what I feel. Too $hort is definitely an influence because I respect how he beasted out. You gotta be a real rebel to not give a fuck. It's hard. You get a lot of backlash.
Complex: Until recently, you haven't been known for much outside of the "Vans" song. How have the past few years been, only having the success of that song? What did that record do for your life, for your career?
Lil B: God blessed me with such a revolutionary song. I'm a trendsetter, especially for my generation. People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now. We fought for the way everybody dressing and acting. We was fighting for that when we was 15 and 16 and had people hating us for it.
Complex: Yeah, I do remember you guys had the whole skate shoe, tight jeans thing going kind of early.
Lil B: Yeah, and it was a blessing that I'm still eating off of "Vans" to this day. I'm still doing shows off it. But then it's like, up until now, when I started really killing, saying "fuck everybody" and going hard, you see your phone calls dropping. People just forget about you until you show some material and they see. It's sad that America's like that. It's sad that you have to show people the money or show some type of worth for somebody to come back and fuck with you. Everybody just leeches.
Complex: Speaking of Vans, have you gotten a new pair yet? Are you still on your—
Lil B: No, no, no. I'm rocking my Vans, these dirty Vans, until I get a million dollars. Straight up.
Complex: How close are you?
Lil B: Man, I feel like I'm hella close. I'm talking some six-figure stuff right now, but it's time to take it to that next, next, next level. I'm trying to do like $1.2 million, $1.5 million. I need at least $2 million. $2 million or $3 million.
Complex: While you're trying to get to that million, what's the average day like for you? It seems like you spend every second on the Internet.
Lil B: Exactly. That's what I am doing. Every second on the Internet. Consistently surrounded by music, music intake, video input, watching the Internet, watching friends, on blogs. Consistently. I'm an avid reader of blogs.
Complex: What blogs do you read?
Lil B: I'd say my daily rotation: I go to Feed Off Rap. They got at least 10 to 15 rap blogs on there and I just check up on everything. The main ones I'm on everyday when I wake up. I go to WorldStarHipHop, RealTalkNY, MediaTakeOut, 2DopeBoyz, Cocaine Blunts, Complex for sure, illRoots, Bossip, Nation of Thizzlam, Soft Money. Ummm, God, it's a lot.
Complex: You're active in the blog scene.
Lil B: Yeah. I love what you do, brother. I love writing. I love all that. I love what other people think. It's honestly an honor, even if it's negative, for somebody to write about me or have an opinion. I love it and it's an honor. Motherfuckers don't have to write about you. Motherfuckers don't have to interview you. No one has to give a fuck about you.
Complex: Do you feel any type of way about not getting more support from the rap community? I know 2DopeBoyz started fucking with you lately and Noz at Cocaine Blunts is a big supporter, but some of the other really big sites—
Lil B: Pitchfork I'm on—
Complex: —That's what I was about to say. You have these big rap sites that aren't recognizing what you're doing, but then you have a hipster-ish, indie rock site like Pitchfork supporting. Do you want more respect from the rap community?
Lil B: Hell yeah, brother. I feel like people are just trying not to pay attention to me. I feel like a lot of these bigger rap blogs are intentionally not trying to, but once they really dig deep, they'll understand that I'm one of the best artists out right now. One of the hardest working. I love music and I got something for them. Whoever they favorite artist is, I have something for them to match that.
Complex: Why do you think like indie rock sites are posting your music?
Lil B: Because I'm a rebel. I'm a punk. I'm like a rocker in the rap world. I'm one of the outcasts. The motherfucking guy that's just fucking crazy. Playing pranks on the fucking football stars and the athletes and then fucking their sisters. I think they see the raw emotion in me, because at the end of the day, I make music at the realest point. I try to convey an emotion. That's why I really got into my production. I really convey emotions over beats now. My sound quality and teaching myself how to do mixing, it's giving me my own style. Some songs it needs to be how it is. Some songs it's not the highest quality and it's not for that. It's for the emotion. Real music. People will recognize what real music is regardless. I got hella lo-fi shit I'm listening to because I love it, and it's helping me through my day, you know?