“Are you ready?!”
Those were the first words to blast out of the Observatory's system this past Friday night at the very beginning of Bay Area rapper Lil B's performance. Normally, that soundbite reserved for the incoming onslaught of bravado, attitude, and tight-fitting clothing from the pro-wrestling collective D-Generation X. But on this occasion it felt like that phrase was tailor-made to welcome the Based God to his first OC performance.
Since his arrival onto the hip-hop scene, Lil B has attracted the most spiteful detractors and the most boisterous hyperbole this side of an Illmatic review. To this day, there are still some willing to create academic journal-worthy tracts on Lil B and the ideas and concepts his whole “Based” movement. He's been one of hip-hops greatest dividers, as well as one of its strongest unifying forces. And, after years of anticipation, Orange County finally received its chance to witness Lil B in the flesh.
“We 'bout to have a good time tonight, and I want to let ya'll know we here to spread peace, positivity,” said Lil B right before launching into his first song. Having “a good time” and spreading “positivity” seem to be the tenets of Lil B's music — outside of all that talk about having jewelry that looks like celebrities and being Bill Bellamy — and that statement turned out to be quite accurate with regards to describing a night out with the Based God.
Lil B ran through a plethora of “hits” and fan favorites during his Friday night set. He started out with frenetic, unhinged aural hurricanes such as “Ellen Degeneres” and “Like A Martian” and would continue to perform songs of the same nature for much of his set. His approach turned out to be more than effective, as we haven't seen an Observatory audience that turbulent and zealous in a very long time. It's as if he knew the location of an invisible switch to make the entire audience move at will.
The Based God did set aside a large portion of his set for more varied activity as well. He constantly maneuvered back and forth between styles of performing, which included bouts of freestyling, performances of more subdued, ethereal works such as “I'm God,” ruminations on being positive and love, and the leading of chants of “I love Earth” and “I'm happy to be alive.” He seemed determined to cram in as much of a performance as was possible with the time he was allotted.
Earlier this week, we wrote that “Now that the dust has settled, most critics have moved on. However, it's become increasingly clear that Lil B is one of the most important rappers of the past few years.” As far as the “critics” are concerned, this rings true in many cases as far as Lil B's own work is concerned, but Lil B's fanbase is at its strongest and his performances are more monumental now than ever. If his shows continue to be like this and if he receives reactions similar to the one he generated this past weekend, it's also true to that he really is “one of the most important rappers of the past few years.”
“I will never forget anybody in this place,” Lil B said right before concluding his show. “Love yourself and have a lot of damn fun. Love your life.” Based off of how Lil B executed his show, there won't be too many in the audience that night who will forget him either, and they will certainly be putting his shows as the standard for having “a lot of damn fun” and loving life on nights where they get to experience live music.
Critic's Bias: How can someone who enjoys being entertained not have a soft spot for Lil B?
Random Notebook Dump: Local rapper Speak seemed to be having a lot of fun onstage.
Overheard in the Crowd: A large group of friends yell out in unison as they rushed from the bathrooms to the stage once they heard Lil B about to perform a song that they apparently all loved.