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?
CLICK NEXT FOR LIL B'S THOUGHTS ON DRAKE, GETTING PUNCHED, AND HIS SEXUAL ORIENTATION...
Complex: So the most popular YouTube joints: "Rich Bitch," "Up Next," "Pretty Bitch," "Look Like Jesus"--that's your production?
Lil B: Those are from different producers. My production has sprouted from songs like "Dangerous Minds." I have secret albums that I've released online, available online only. A secret Red album and a secret Blue album called Paint and Dior Paint. I produced and composed the whole album. I feel like I've done something in hip-hop that no one has ever done. That's why I feel like I'm a legend trapped. I need to be heard and I need to be seen by the world, because I'm doing things that no one has ever done in the rap game. Not Jay-Z, not Nas, not anybody. And I take from all the greats. A piece of them is a piece of me. I like all of them and I would love to tell each and every one of the artists that I respect them and I really do love them. They changed my life, they helped me become who I am. But at the end of the day there's no one in the rap game doing what I'm doing. It's just fact. I have a lot of music that no one has ever heard. I got stuff with Travis Barker that no one's ever heard.
Complex: Why do you take that approach? Most of your songs aren't available for download. There's a song here, a song there. You have a random 250-song mixtape. It's chaotic and there's no order to it.
Lil B: [Laughs.] Right. I look at it like, the people that really love me will find me, you just gotta stay up-to-date with me. I'm gonna put it out there for you. And I'm working on stuff that's gonna be easier for the masses to get. I'm working hard on a lot of good music. A lot of mainstream quality stuff, because that's what I do. I make mainstream hits. I'm a writer and I just make hit songs. I can't stop. I make controversy and that's just me because that's the kind of person I am.
Complex: You have like a million videos out there. You seem to have taken a video over MP3 approach.
Lil B: Right, right.
Complex: Is that how you caught Soulja Boy's attention? How did you guys get together?
Lil B: I was dropping videos on WorldStar, man. I had this song called "Respect My Mind" and Soulja seen that. He quoted one of my lines on Twitter and he put my Twitter name and I'm like, "Damn, man, that's love." It was crazy because I'd been always respecting him. I had his music. I knew he was a young dude getting it in. So we're rocking. I'm fucking with him and I do whatever I can do to support him and show my love. I definitely got him.
Complex: What's your affiliation with him? There's some gray area as to whether you're officially SODMG. Are you signed?
Lil B: Me and Soulja wanna do some million-dollar-deal shit. It's on the table. We've been talking. I'm rocking with Soulja. We 'bout to go in heavy.
Complex: Right, but you're not signed right now?
Lil B: It ain't no paperwork, but I'm here with him. The money's there, the loyalty's there, and everything else is there. Motherfuckers gonna do it. We gonna do some big multi-million-dollar-type shit. [Laughs.]
Complex: Who aren't you rocking with?
Lil B: Rappers that never struggled. One of the people that, and I can't really speak on him until I meet him, and I can't wait to meet him and embrace the fuck out of him and learn his struggle, is Drake. I wanna see where Drake came from, his background. He's talented and he's amazing. And I want Drake's hype. I want motherfuckers to hype me like how Drake is, and let me take over the motherfuckin' world. You feel me? Let me show you all the music I got. I got music for the next 30 years. I know the hottest artists for the next 30 years. Put that light on me that's on Drake right now.
Complex: So do you think he's undeserving of that shine?
Lil B: No, I definitely don't feel like he's undeserving of it. Either Drake already came in the game rich or he didn't. You feel me? I don't know if Drake was ever struggling. He was on TV. But you can't believe what you see. Motherfuckers speak on me, and they really don't know my struggles. They can say, "Oh, he's gay, he's a faggot, he worships the devil." Everybody has a lot of assumptions about me but they really don't know my struggles. They really don't know why I'm here doing this. They don't know I love the Earth. I love people. So me talking on Drake is ignorance, really. But still, it's a perception. I don't know if he struggled and that's for me to find out when I meet him. We'll talk. I'll find out. Real hip-hop to me is niggas that came from nothing. I'm saying that he's not real hip-hop.
Complex: If you suspect someone didn't have many struggles, that automatically lowers your opinion of them?
Lil B: Everything I'm saying about Drake, that's just envy and jealousy. He's eating and I'm not. That's all it is. It's nothing. It's love at the end of the day.
Complex: What's your definition of "based," because you say that with everything. What does that mean?
Lil B: Based means being yourself. Not being scared of what people think about you. Not being afraid to do what you wanna do. Being positive. When I was younger, based was a negative term that meant like dopehead, or basehead. People used to make fun of me. They was like, "You're based." They'd use it as a negative. And what I did was turn that negative into a positive. I started embracing it like, "Yeah, I'm based." I made it mine. I embedded it in my head. Based is positive.
Complex: It's also like a stream-of-consciousness thing when you're rapping, right?
Lil B: Exactly. In Based Freestyles, we don't think. You just let your unconscious mind speak. You let the truth speak. I'm not pre-thinking what I'm gonna speak. I'm going to speak from what my mind says, and that's the truth. That's the truth right there.
Complex: Is your unconscious mindset fascinated by homosexuality? You talk about lesbians a lot. You call girls faggots. You call yourself a pretty bitch. Is there interest in that lifestyle?
Lil B: It's a touchy subject. I respect the hell out of gays and the gay community. I'm not a gay man. I don't agree with sex with another man or fucking another man or giving blow jobs to another guy. That's not my thing. I'd rather fuck a girl, fuck her in her ass, fuck her in the mouth or something. Sorry for cussing.
Complex: It's fine.
Lil B: It's a very touchy subject. People get scared when they hear the gay word, but when you truly know yourself, you gonna be good. Say for instance you're watching a porno, right. And, you're jacking off and shit, and some gay shit pops up. And you're like, "Oh, shit!" Either you're gonna look at that shit, or you're not gonna look at it and you're not gonna give a fuck about it. Like, some gay shit can pop up on me, and I don't give a fuck about it. I'm like, "Oh, that's that gay shit. Get that shit off. Back to the bitches." But some muthafuckers are in denial. Some dudes are really in denial. They're like, "What's that? Ohhhh!" And they hate themselves for that. They're like, "What's wrong with me?" You feel me? And these are motherfuckers that's around us. That's not saying shit. So, it's like, I'm a faggot because I'm so not a faggot. I can say I'm a faggot. I can say I'm the gayest bitch on Earth. And I'm so not gay, it's obvious. I know from my deepest core that I'm very far from gay. So I can say I'm the bitch queen that fucks cows. I'm not.
Complex: I think you know what you're doing, too. You're wearing a pink v-neck in "Pretty Bitch." You have a freestyle called "I'm A Faggot."
Lil B: Yup. That's me.
Complex: So you can't get that mad when people question your sexuality.
Lil B: Right, right. I'm gonna do me because that's the type of dude I am. I need that attention on me. That's because the attention deserves to be on me. I'm gonna go motherfucking hard. I'm breaking down these barriers of society. Society says you're supposed to do this, and you're supposed to do it this way, you know you're supposed to look like this. We're a new generation of people. We need to be happy. We need to love each other. We need to accept each other for who we are and stop judging each other. Live life and love. Stop judging just to keep yourself secure. Look deeper. There's always something deeper than what it is.
Complex: With songs like "Look Like Jesus" or lines where you're telling Nicki Minaj that you're the finest bitch out, is that part of your ploy for attention?
Lil B: Yeah. Everybody loves Nicki. Everybody's like, "Nicki's hella fine." And for me, it's like, "You know what, Nicki? I'm hella fine." You feel me? It's like, "motherfuckers, look at ME." I'm that fine motherfucker. I'm over here dressing beautiful. You feel me? Motherfucker, I been doing this shit since I was like 15. So it's not even for attention. I got the best album coming out in hip-hop history. No one's ever done what I've done, bro. I've shattered the bar system. I've created my own system. I've composed my own work. I listen to all the greats: Cormega, AZ, Raekwon. I study the greats. I know what it is, you know?
Complex: You know what a traditionally dope rapper is supposed to sound like.
Lil B: Exactly, I know what true rap is. I know what undeniable rap is. I know what the critics like. I know what it is because I'm an MC. Motherfuckers forget, I'm not a rapper. KRS-One said it: I'm an MC. An MC is for the people. An MC is everything, man. The movements, the expressions. Real, true hip-hop. You gotta know hip-hop to be one. If muthafuckas don't know about Kool G Rap, then you're not an MC. If motherfuckers is not praising East Coast, you're not rap yet. You nahmean? That might be a bold statement, but that's my perception.
Complex: Do drugs have anything to do with your outlandish statements and behavior? One of your most recent tracks is called "Cocaine." You openly smoke weed. You talk about acid and pills in other songs. Are you experimenting with a lot of substances these days?
Lil B: That's for me to know. I'm not gonna tell. That's what makes me me. That's what makes the greats the greats. I could be fucking with anything. Someone out there can relate. Fly like a genie, you know?
Complex: So whatever you're taking, it's just to fuel your creative process and help people relate?
Lil B: Man, I made a thousand songs sober. It's nothing. I got so much music that I'm in alphabetical order now, so that's where I'm at with it. Once somebody comes to my side, niggas are gonna be scared. They gonna be really scared. Everybody gonna have to feel me. I love everybody. I love all the rappers and I wanna fuck with them. I wanna work. Motherfuckers hear me saying fuck all these rappers. Motherfuckers gonna take offense if they don't like me. Motherfuckers don't know I listen to everybody. You might not fuck with me but I fuck with you.
Complex: It seems like the guy who punched you in that video took offense to something. Who was that? Your homie?
Lil B: I really don't know dude.
Complex: You don't know him?
Lil B: Nope.
Complex: Well, what was that video of you guys doing a dance together?
Lil B: It was a dude from Berkeley. He went to Berkeley High. He wanted to do an interview so I supported him.
Complex: Do you remember him from high school?
Lil B: Dude way younger than me.
Complex: Do you feel like that was his plan the whole time or was there some tension during the interview that led to it?
Lil B: That was the plan the whole time.
Complex: Because you do such controversial things, some people wonder if it's a publicity stunt.
Lil B: Nah, it's no publicity stunt. My lip is fucked up, you feel me? It's a learning experience, though. It happens to the best of them. Motherfuckers always try to hate you when you're on the come-up, on the brink of breaking through. Motherfuckers be jealous. Jealous of how I look. Jealous of everything about me. I'm glad that shit happened, though, because a motherfucker ready now.
Complex: Watching the video, it looks like dude was asking you to "get Soulja Boy" and not doing that was what led to him hitting you. Can you explain that?
Lil B: I don't know what led to him hitting me, but motherfuckers was just saying, "Berkeley, we support you dumb hard. We got your back. Now call Soulja Boy and tell him about us."
Complex: And you not doing that—
Lil B: A motherfucker lost his phone. I didn't even have your number in the phone, you feel me? I didn't have it and the motherfucker did what he was planning to do.
Complex: Maybe he felt like you weren't helping him. Like, he was supporting you and you weren't down to put someone from Berkeley on.
Lil B: I don't know what he was thinking or any type of emotion he felt.
Complex: Did you say anything when he asked you to call Soulja Boy?
Lil B: Like, "Shit, I ain't got it. Lost my phone." Motherfucker being honest. I don't even wanna give that nigga no more light. Niggas can't expect shit from me. I don't expect shit from nobody.
Complex: Knowing how you were in your younger days, does any part of you feel like retaliating?
Lil B: Nah, it's all good. I ain't worried about dude like that. I'm gonna charge that to the game and bounce back 100. I look at all the greats. Motherfuckers hated on 2Pac and Biggie. Motherfuckers hating on Waka Flocka since he been coming up. I'm gonna bounce back and be a monster in all aspects.
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