Brandon McCartney is just 31 years old, but jokes that he’s nearing his 40s. When I ask the Bay Area icon what his longtime moniker means, he simply says “love.” He seems to mean it. No other artist I’ve ever interviewed has texted me to call me “hun,” or ended an interview with an “I love you.” And though many assume the B in Lil B stands for based—hence his relationship with the Based God—surveying the music industry today it might as well stand for blueprint. 

Lil B’s influence on modern hip-hop may not be obvious to casual rap fans, but it’s become impossible to neglect, whether his 61 mixtapes are in their rotation or not. When McCartney was dodging the beat during his verses in the early 2010s, many of his peers were more concerned with technicality. Before most knew what developing an online brand meant, Lil B was creating what he calls the “first music meme” and building a presence beyond his “pretty bitch music.” And when Lil B was putting out an abnormal amount of material—occasionally opting for 100 songs on a single project—others hadn’t yet realized the potential of a seemingly never-ending release schedule.

But the game has changed. Lyricists rapping around the beat are now harder to avoid than the beat itself. Humor and memes have sparked some of the most successful songs of all time, including the 14-time Platinum “Old Town Road.” Even the most mainstream projects, for better or worse, have gotten very, very bloated. We have Lil B, and of course the Based God, to thank for all of this. 

“That’s why I can be happy and cool in my career right now, because I’m living through so many artists, seeing them rise and do great things,” Lil B says during our years-in-the-making interview. “I’m just soaking everything in. That’s what I’ve always done—create a new wave. This is going to be even more interesting being in my 30s. I’m actually excited to see what I’m going to do and what Lil B is going to do with the Based God because I really don’t know.”

Speaking graciously and making sure to shout out the legends who continue to help him pave the way, the forefather of cloud rap and based music called us up last month from his home in Alameda, CA as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of his historic mixtape run of 2010 and 2011, when he dropped 25 projects in just two years—including the critically acclaimmed I’m Gay (I’m Happy). On the phone, Lil B sounds just as friendly as you’d expect from a man who follows 1.4 million people on Twitter, at one point thanking me for getting to the last song on his latest 100-track mixtape. Nothing about Lil B’s demeanor feels calculated. It really is all about love. 

As a token of his love, Lil B opened up for this incredibly rare and based discussion on the gravity of his impact on pop culture, how it feels to see others emulate a sound he was once criticized for and—in proper Lil B fashion—why he aspires to help low-income families take out their trash and recycle. Thank you, Based God.

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