Last night, Lil B gave a lecture at NYU. It was billed as “progressive” and “rare,” but nobody really knew what to expect–after all, Lil B exists on the Internet. He’s famous for his absurdly prolific Twitter presence, mixtapes and videos. He rarely plays shows and barely gives interviews. And suddenly Lil B, the Based God, of all people, was coming to speak at NYU. (So of course tickets sold out immediately.)
To say Lil B delivered an inspirational talk would miss the point: Part generational pep talk, part unprepared ramble, part sermon, part head-smashingly insane post-everything performance, Lil B’s hour-long, structure-free lecture was a one-way conversation into the mind of a Based God. Through off-the-cuff sentences, bizarro noises, stumbles, and aggressive positivity, he conveyed his vision for the future: free of hatred, class conflict, and racial conflict. Forgiving strangers, staying astonishingly happy. Swag everywhere.
The lecture was peppered with great phrases such as, “Do you. Be yourself one hundred and one…thousand percent.” It wasn’t too removed from the speeches of Union Square amateur preachers, except that the NYU students – some of whom never sat down the entire time – hung on his phrases. It wasn’t all love: Lil B called out businessmen, coolness, the media and hydrofracking. But the positivity stuck with the crowd. “Salute to the generation where all our kids are gonna be friends!”
The lecture was entertaining – don’t forget, Lil B is also pretty fucking crazy. He told the crowd he loves paying taxes. He lay on the table pretending to fall asleep, whispering “honesty, integrity, friendship, passion.” He claimed he didn’t know how to walk until high school. He made animal noises. He complimented the architect of Kimmel for some reason. His big announcement was an impending rock album -maybe called California Boy, but also quite possibly not a thing. Lil B claimed to be working with the unnamed biggest artist on the planet. He came off as a man who found enlightenment, and he might well be the messiah. “I’m ready to die for the humans – I’m ready to die for the positivity,” he actually said at one point.
The culture of Lil B is nutty. He spoke haltingly for an hour in vague phrases that deserve eye-rolls: “You can have a million stones thrown at you and you can still be positive.” “I specialize in love.”
But there’s something endearing about a kid who by the age of 22 has recorded and self-released 29 mixtapes and albums, has tweeted over 80,000 times (mostly in all caps), has endured ridicule and snark from “real” hip-hop fans and bitchy internet cretins, while still managing to maintain a gleeful sense of positivity and universal love. It’s charming -and, yeah, inspiring.
The crowd was moved. After the lecture (which ended as suddenly as it started), Lil B went straight into autographs and photos, forming a massive swarm of people, and at which point campus security stepped in. But, as far as fan signings go, the mood was astonishingly relaxed. Lil B gave away his scarf and his shirt and signed anything given to him: cooking utensils, a Macbook, shoes. At 10:30, Lil B had to be pulled away by amused Kimmel staff. “Thank you Based God!” someone shouted.
Photos by Rachel Kaplan