The definition of a dream come true... I walked around Oakland, CA with Brandon McCartney for 2.5 hours. We talked Hunchback of BasedGod, what it means to be based, and the complex relationship between music and geography. The experience was – as Clams Casino once put it – both super natural and supernatural.
Featuring guest interviewer Naman Gupta.
Man this is actually my first time in Oakland. Who better to show us around than Lil B?
Aye I appreciate you! Congratulations bro, I’m so happy. I’m really more of a backstreets kinda guy. I like walking privately and kinda just watching. It helps me soak in my mental Google Maps in my brain, you know? You know how the cars be driving around? My brain is kinda like that, soaking in all the streets.
How often do you get to come home? I’m sure you’re traveling a ton.
I’m home a lot… at the same time I’m traveling a lot. You know, my schedule is really whatever I wanna do. More or less I’m just really focused on the music.
Yeah you have Hunchback of BasedGod coming soon, right?
Yeah I've been really encompassing that project… In fact I was working on it just today. I’mma be finished by tonight. It is done. Just working on some mixing, sending it off to get mastered. It’s just short of 50 songs, like 49. I got a Clams Casino beat on there – y’all the first interview to have that! I’ll probably rap on it, or say something on it, but I don’t know yet. At first I was thinking about just letting the beat do its thing.
But yeah I’m really proud of the project… I shed tears on multiple songs while going through the mixing. Good, happy tears, too. I got a song called “Body Shaming”. You know, we really speaking on stuff but at the same time having fun. I think it’s a more introspective tape, like I got a song called “Artistic or Autistic” on there just showing love to autism. Like am I artistic or autistic, you feel me? It’s showing love though! A lot of people that I know with autism are damn near smarter than me!
That’s love! Yeah I think as soon as the label is put on them they’re dismissed way too quickly.
You never know! People always got a special thing, and they just gotta unlock it. I've been unlocking things for myself too. You know, this project has probably been about 3 years in the making. I haven’t rushed it, and I feel so good about it now. I was listening to this song called “Staring Out My Window”, produced by the BasedGod, like man…
And you did all the production on Black Ken too, right?
That was just a really Bay Area album. Is that what you’ve been tapping into? Like walking around your hometown and just soaking everything in?
Yeah, I had a chance to really soak in what I want to do for the future as I get better as a producer. Like for DJ BasedGod, I wanna hit a couple notes differently. But Black Ken was so pure bro, I wasn’t even really thinking about nothing… now I’m a little more conscious. Like I’m watching more YouTube videos and tutorials, learning about keys or whatever. I wanna get to the point where I can just freestyle on shit. Like let my hands just move!
Like based freestyling but for production?
Yeah, like Jazz style.
Ooh, like improv?
Yeah! I wanna get to the point where I’m not scared. I’m just… ok.
I feel like that aspect of not being scared is so key to based freestyling. You know, just speaking and seeing what happens.
Yeah it’s gonna mean so much more to listen after us speaking. It’s a tape that I feel like is gonna stick. Like I was just having a conversation with someone who I felt was really special to me. You know how there are these conversations about being a man or woman, masculine or feminine, or all this other stuff… boundaries? My people is like scratch all that. It’s really about maturity… That’s something that spans across. This tape is like a mature tape. Some of this stuff is from early before I got to this mature consciousness. There’s a lot of stuff on there where it’s just the BasedGod on production and I’m not rapping.
You also had that one classical music album a while back, Choices and Flowers. That was also pretty much just instrumental.
Yeah I got Tears 4 God too! This tape is something totally different though. It’s just all about inspiring people. I got this one track on there called "Voyage to Berkeley" or something like that. In the production, you really feel like you’re on a voyage. It’s difficult to explain… It’s just as authentic as it gets. This tape man I’m so proud, it’s gonna sound like nothing ever.
In due time, I wanna know what Kanye think about it… What RZA think about it. You know, the legends. I’m not sampling either!
No samples! Bro, I’m so obsessed with those early tracks you did with 9th Wonder. The way you rap on those soul samples…
Yeah I mean with this tape it’s all soulful and for that motivation. I did a big part of this tape out in the San Francisco, Mission area. Like I got a song on there called "Outer Mission Music". Berkeley and the Mission shaped a lot of this tape and its perspective. It’s for situations like this, just walking… throwing music on… You meditate, reflect, and just get humble. You definitely got choices on here.
Choices… Didn’t you recently have a Choices mixtape? What was that title about?
Options! God bless your heart!
Ha! Same concept though, right?
Yeah exactly. You know, like look where we’re at. That’s the Oakland police station. This is like the bail bond street, but at the police station, that’s where people wait to go to court and shit. That’s why this is perfect. Literally, that is options. Right now we’re free, but at the same time you gotta see that.
Wait – before we really get into it, I forgot to ask. Am I speaking to the BasedGod or Lil B today?
Right now I’m Brandon. It’s my day off, I’m chillin. But you know, I seen some things too! I know some things! I’m Brandon McCartney though. A lot of people they say I look like…
I heard you look like a lot of things.
Ha! That’s love!!
It’s funny, I saw a tweet by @noz where he was saying you actually do kinda look like Jesus now with the long hair. I think it was after your Rolling Loud performance.
Ha!! That’s what I’m saying man. I just try and keep everything effortless, natural. Me, Andrew… I also want you to meet my dude Kevin. He does a radio show at UC Davis and it’s just amazing what he does. I met him at Andrew’s shop before it closed down.
Yep! Andrew’s a real hip-hop guy. All he was missing there was food! Forreal, the place was that fulfilling.
How’d you link up with Andrew?
He was just early on the stuff, you know. Watching, paying attention… That’s a good guy. He used to have this blog called Cocaine Blunts, and you know I had a song about it. He’s just a part of that culture. The early based. That’s why I’m excited for this new generation, because I’m setting up and preparing for all of them. Like, people don’t know I gained weight because of teaching myself how to produce.
That takes so much commitment. You shouldn’t have to feel bad about that.
Thank you brother. Like making Black Ken, I just got addicted. I was learning about what I could do and how I could do it better. That whole time was perfect to me. There were some times that were so pure they could never be re-created. Something like "Berkeley". Like that’s a song that was just purely out of love… every instrument on there, the placement… The engineer was saying he didn’t even wanna mix it. He said there was nothing he could do to the beat.
You know, I’ve just been getting real deep with the tapes. With Platinum Flame, Options, now this new one that’s coming out. But at the same time, I’m getting back to putting on a bunch of producers that I’ve been rocking with. You know, like Keyboard and them. But I think a lot of people just don’t know how much I produce! People are like “Where’ve you been?!”
I mean yeah, you just produced a 50-track tape.
Yeah and like Black Ken, that’s gonna be one of the ones that’s forever.
What made you wanna dive so deep into production?
Just to make sure that I could do it. You know, if someone just left, I need to make sure I can make an album by myself. I need it to be good enough to where I can chart and contribute legitimately to the culture. And I never thought about it as charting, you know? It’s always been about contributing to the culture, and people have always supported. Like Black Ken charted. Platinum Flame charted.
I remember Black Ken did numbers.
Yeah salute! And I love y’all! Everything helps. Y’all help so I can take these walks and get my mind right and do what I do. I’m giving the manifestation back and just looking for the next move. You know, like how can I help? I’m not helping the world enough. And it’s not just music. It’s a lot more coming… I’m not talking about turkey giveaways or backpack giveaways or whatever.
One of the most impressive things is how you manage to do all of this while still being independent. Like I know you coordinated the university lectures pretty much on your own. How do you do it all? How do you balance your love for music with all of the logistics and business?
That’s a beautiful question. Where I’m at now, you know… I already made history. Like hall of fame.
You pretty much changed music permanently. It’s funny, I just realized when we first got in touch over email you kept saying “Let’s make history”. Your mark on music is actually history, though. This walk is history.
God bless you. Thank you, and we all did that. But you know, it’s levels though! And it’s a lot of levels that we’re gonna take it.
For me personally, just as a fan, I always try to make sure you’re a part of that conversation. Any time we’re discussing “most influential” or why music sounds the way it does now, I need to make sure people know Lil B is in the context. It really is history.
Thank you… Thank you. I see a lot of artists where people gotta pry it out of them. They’re tryna suppress the truth. They’re like “Lil B? Uhhh yeah… I do listen to him…”
Ha! I feel like that’s changed a lot though recently. Like in the last 5 years, I think you’re now highly respected as one of the godfathers.
Yep. Yep. People say what they say, and you know, I’m glad about it. But, it’s still hard to get everyone’s attention. To get people to actually give a fuck.
What do you mean?
Like to care about the experience in general. Like what we’re doing, or just our experience. For me, either way it’s a blessing. People can say whatever, good or bad…
At least they listened?
Yeah. You know, I respect it. It’s just such a love-hate relationship. Sometimes even that hate turns to love!
Like Joe Budden?
Yep! It just turns to love. I got love for him. I got love for Joey Bada$$ too. That was back when hip-hop was pure, I feel like now it’s just violent and weird. It could’ve actually always been that way, but I guess I was just younger. Maybe the older you get the more the violence gets weird.
That’s why I’m just really excited about pushing all this energy and going as far as I can go, because I know it can only help move towards more positivity. Music can always be there for you and comfort you like an extra buddy… I can help give a new perspective and provide some new textures. You know, I’m just happy. Like I don’t know how I got here today. I just put out the true intent, pay respect, and stay humble. Sometimes I like to be around a lot of people, but sometimes I like to be able to go on the street like this. I’m still exploring a lot of these places. I just walk a lot. I’m still learning New York too.
My friend Naman here lives in New York right now.
Yeah, from Detroit.
Oh I love Michigan! Can I tell you how much I love Michigan? I love Muskegon, I love Grand Rapids, I love Lansing, I love Kalamazoo, I love Detroit. And then, it’s some other spots… I mean literally bro, I really fuck with Michigan hella. I’m getting excited just thinking about it. I got Michigan weather on my phone because sometimes I just gotta check what it’s like out there! I spent New Years in Michigan by myself one time, just hanging out. I had to see for myself. It was snowing and everything. What’s that bridge they have at the top?
Yes! That large one. See I gotta check that out. That whole spot. Up there in Muskegon they were saying something about how if there wasn’t a bridge they’d be an island. I can’t remember. There was just so much water around it, it would fuck around and be an island.
One of the biggest questions I’ve always wanted to ask you is how you’re so tapped into geography and regional trends. Like Michigan aside, you’re so tuned in to what’s going on musically in every corner of the country. Most rappers show love to the coasts, or maybe some trends in the deep south, but you’ve repped Ohio, Rhode Island, and a bunch of other places that people typically don’t associate with rap.
Salute… Salute… It’s honestly just for the love of the people. I think it’s me just being fascinated in how people are living. Right now I’m thinking about how New York is just a completely different lifestyle of living. Or like, what’s going on in other countries. Folks out there in Indonesia doin’ their thing right now… Over here… Over there…
It’s crazy though! You know the artists, sounds, textures, even the samples that all of these people are using in different regions. I remember you even flipped a classic New Orleans sample on Blue Flame.
Yeah, respect! I’m always hungry for the music! Thank you sir. I look at it like, it’s a real estate thing. You just gotta know what’s hot. I look at properties that I was looking at in 2012 that I didn’t purchase, just to make sure I knew what I was talking about… and uhhh… I knew what I was talking about. It’s a lot of places that might’ve been 60, they’re 300 now. A few places that were 250, they 800 now. Just seeing what people are gonna vibe with and relate to. Like you said, everywhere is different. Kansas got its own thing. You just gotta know what’s hot, boy. Like picking the right real estate.
Is there a specific region that you feel the most musically?
I just love music. Where I’m at now, I’m just appreciating the music, the message, every part of it.
The Bay Area definitely has a specific bounce that’s taken over the country in the last few years though. I think you can hear parallels with Oakland and Detroit, especially with the sideshows and everything.
Yeah I mean it’s definitely a connection, especially with Detroit. There’s studios there, and if that real estate is making people millions and platinum records… you know we’re gonna be out there. It’s also just love between Oakland and Detroit.
Do you have a goal for this real estate stuff?
With the goal it’s really more about helping others. It’s just something that I have to do. Key word being “do.”
Honestly I'm not surprised about the real estate stuff… I feel like you have an insane bias for action. Thousands of songs. Shot your own videos. Taught yourself how to produce. Ten years running. You even wrote a book at 19. I actually have it with me right now. Can we talk about this?!
Wow… Wow… I mean, that’s pure. It’s out of print and it is extremely rare. For the people that got it, it’s definitely history. It was ahead of its time, you know, being in email and text message form. Every chapter was from a good love and space. It took me about a year. I wrote a lot of it in Santa Barbara, working out there with a gentleman who recorded our conversations. I got help writing it, typing it out. I just think now, for my next book, I wanna be more hands on. Truly self-published.
Everything independent. I respect that so much.
Yessir! I think it’s a good start. To become a published author and get in the game like that. The main thing was just helping people. Like Mac Miller said he had this book and that meant a lot to me. RIP. It’s just a lot of gentlemen, and women, and people, and humans that got good energy that read this. A lot of people that’s famous have read this book…
It’s something that I’m really proud of. But you know what, I’ve never read it myself. In another 10 years or something I’ll probably read it. I got another book coming, and it’s so interesting because it’s all my experiences from this last one. The reason why this book was so special is because I wanted to give everybody the truth of how I felt at 19. This book is the truth for people that wanna know my secrets. I wanted people to know my truth outside of music. It’s all about that pure intent. Part 2, gonna be the same vibe.
Do you feel like you learned more about yourself in writing the book? Especially at 19.
It’s a humbling, maturing, honorable, gratifying if that’s the right word, worldly experience. It’s for the world. It’s for the love. The people who have it, and are gonna be passing it around…
I mean, my kids are gonna inherit it.
God bless you. That’s real love. It’s just a lot of truth and love in there. If people wanna know how I really feel and know me… If they were lucky enough to get the book, that’s how they’ll really know. But it’ll never be this. The people that got this, got this. I see people tryna sell it online for crazy prices like $500, $700. You shouldn’t buy that. The book is out of print. Keep that book close to your heart.
You mentioned the importance of “pure intent”. I feel like there are a lot of people out there who have positive intentions but come off misunderstood. Do you generally assume that most people mean well?
I feel you. It’s a daily thing and it comes with maturity. It comes with humbleness. I think once we continue to be more mature and more humble, a lot of the stress and negativity will cease. You just gotta get more humble and continue to reflect. Humbleness for me is key. I love it.
Were there experiences that made you work towards that? Is it just from aging?
I think age makes you more humble because you’re happy to become. I think I’ve always been humble because of experience. This is just life’s journey. I’m rolling with it. I don’t know how I’m here, but I’m happy about it.
How do you maintain your humility in light of your accolades? You’re one of the most influential rappers of all time, were an author at 19, and pioneered a lot of post-internet musical styles and marketing.
I have a respect for people like y’all, and people that have a lot of class to them. There’s ways to go about it. The art will tell. Every time I turn on the TV or radio and see people that I inspired, that’s enough for me. I just wanna see my peers continue to be empowered, and you guys are a part of that. We all make the world go round. We’re all a part of real estate. We always gonna be a part of the food. The lifestyle. It’s just connecting with important people – which are all people – and not forgetting anyone. We going for everybody. Even if you got money, we still wanna help you and give you more money. We wanna take care of everyone.
That’s the definition of based.
Yeah. It’s love. Based is being yourself. Staying positive. Not caring what anyone else thinks.
But still being considerate and taking care of others?
Yeah. I wouldn’t understand if someone took me saying “not caring what people think” in the context of anything other than the positive, and showing love in a based way. Based is 100% about keeping that love in your heart.
That’s a hard thing to do – not caring what others think about you. How much do the thoughts of people that don’t know you matter to you? How much does external validation matter?
This is all an experiment, so we’ll see how much it matters. We’ll see what happens once we’re all gone. Right now we’re living this beautiful life out. A lot of my life is an experiment. We’ll see.
I never thought of things like that. Experiments, by design, are meant to be learned from.
Yessir. It’s a social experiment.
It also pushes you to keep trying things. If you’re not experimenting, then you’re doing something that you’ve done before.
That’s why we got 49 tracks on this Hunchback of BasedGod. We are truly experimenting. There’s a track on there that I did use a sample for. I sampled The Dream. So yeah, Dream, I got your money! Don’t worry! It’s a line on there that goes “I’d rather die than go home.” I’ll just leave it at that… That’s how we’re coming with the tape. It’s a level of maturity.
Is that supposed to be like if you’re not out there experimenting, you’re basically going home, where things are familiar and predictable?
It’s however you see it! I love that brother! It’s just a spark. You might throw on another album and it might not throw that spark. But Hunchback of BasedGod, it’s going there.
You mentioned earlier about how staying inside and learning to produce inspired part of the title. I feel like you have a flair for titles in general. Can we just talk about Silent President for example?
It was all authentic. It just comes at the time. That’s why it’s right. Obama was in office. I was doing lectures and stuff, just in a different space. When I’m in rapper mode, I can’t even think of the lectures. I like to go through a whole mental regimen to lock into a specific mode. Right now I’m in rapper mode, sometimes I might be in producer mode or lecture mode. I’m not gonna lie man, on the lectures, Princeton reached out.
Yeah for a lecture. I was in that mental state back then. It’s all an honor. It’s a lot of stuff that hasn’t happened, but the attempt was enough. It’s all about the intent. It’s a lot of people that care about us and we don’t even know. I found out that music is a way that I could help people, and I feel like I’m not serving or helping enough even with the music. But it’s a lot, because that’s how I can help mental health, and I know how important that is for happiness. I wanna get more education not for myself, but so I can help people. Obviously I wanna learn more to learn and also to explain myself, but ultimately it’s about helping more people. That’s the goal.
That’s really interesting – what you said about learning in order to help yourself explain yourself. Do you ever feel like you were misunderstood? Especially early on in your career?
I don’t know. I think it’ll always be a lifelong thing. That’s what keeps me excited about it. It’s really about explaining the complexity. That’s what truly keeps me excited. Just knowing that it’s not explained yet, and that I can just keep getting better. Like we just hit another level. Hunchback is pretty much all of my updated production. You gonna be able to hear all my early production stuff, but also all my brand new, fresh, and experimental stuff. It’s really about progression. I need my music to go more places. Even with the production, it has to be able to improvise and really be alive. I think hip-hop music, and music in general, is amazing with the feeling. I just wanna capture more of being alive.
Were there specific producers that influenced you?
Everybody that I’ve come in contact with has shaped me. Especially the legends. Like Young L. He was the first to really inspire me. Then we for sure got Keyboard Kid, Clams Casino, and Uptown Greg. Especially right now I’m inspired by a lot of West coast producers like Tone Capone, Cosmic Slop Shop, Rick Rock. I’m really inspired by a lot of West Coast music right now, because I think it has a lot of soul to it. Especially for hip-hop music, a lot of it now feels computerized. Early 2000s when all of that technology just hit, that revolution also hit the music.
Yeah I remember that period with Timbaland and the Neptunes. I’m younger, but I definitely remember that as more computerized-sounding rap music.
Exactly. With West Coast, specifically Bay Area in the 90s and 2000s, the feeling and all of the different choices that went into the sounds… It’s just very inspiring. That’s what I’m pushing now. All that music might put you in a different place. It might motivate you to write that paper, or do that assignment, or be a background to your travel, just do whatever you gotta do.
You can’t put it into words. Just like being based, it’s the complexity that can’t be explained.
Yessir! Big facts!
Was there a moment where you knew you would pursue music? I know you’ve been working with Young L since you were like 14.
Even then. Always.
I feel like music people always know from a young age, because you’re exposed to it even when you’re 4 or 5 years old. I have memories of being a kid in Iran, just blasting tunes on TV at my grandma’s house.
I saved every lyric from about 14… I always knew. That’s why I’m just humble. It was always from a pure place, just a really loving community. I knew the power of music to bring together that brotherhood and sisterhood. It's not about the profit. It’s about the community. And when I say community, I don’t mean local. I’m talking worldwide, because that’s the community to me. You just gotta meet them.
Are you doing any work or collaborations internationally these days?
Yeah, way more. I did a record with my bro in UK…
Skepta? I wanted to ask you about that record!
Yeah he’s an animal. He’s a legend, and very positive! We did that record in Miami.
Hater sit down!!
That’s what I’m saying! You got me pumped!! But yeah we did that in Miami, literally right before I hopped on the plane. I ran upstairs and knocked that out. What I really respect about him is that I had some lyrics that I wrote earlier, and he wanted me to tone it down. He told me he’s really tryna do something positive that’s for everybody. I respect that, because you see his intent. You know it’s different for me, because I’m saying everything!
Oh I know!
I realized that recently though, as I listen to more of my older music and see the intent behind what I was doing. It’s never been a malicious thing. It’s just been more of a “get stuff off your chest, start a conversation…”
Yeah. But now I’m happy with where I’m at, because it’s a level of maturity. Key word: maturity.
I feel like Skepta’s been paying a lot of homage too. Oddly specific, but for a while he was wearing that green skull shirt that Juicy J wore in the “Stay Fly” video.
Wow, yeah that’s deep.
He’s just been showing a lot of love to music that I feel like you draw from too. So when I saw he did that record with you, it just made so much sense.
Yessir! Paying homage! He’s just a real good guy. We were always in communication, it was just about that perfect timing. You know, just thinking about people showing respect, I was just listening that new Joyner Lucas and Tory Lanez record, and Tory Lanez showed some love to Lil B too. That’s history. It’s all an honor, because I’m not even done.
But yeah with Skepta, he had the studio booked. We were both out there at the same time, I think for Rolling Loud. With me always pushing it, I came right before my flight. You know, that’s when the best work comes out. I love having to push it sometimes. Not always, but with music, I’ve had great experiences going to the studio when I didn’t want to. If it’s an effort thing, you might be really tired and not wanna go. If you’re tired, pull over and take a nap because you don’t wanna crash. At the same time, if you got enough energy you can make it happen. You can make a record that can change your life, or save your life, or change the world. There’ve been so many days where I didn’t feel like making music, but I did, and it wound up being records that were pivotal.
A little bit of discomfort. Can’t get too comfortable.
Yeah you said it. Sometimes you gotta be brave.
On the note of crazy encounters, how did that interview between you and Frank Ocean come about? The one in the Boys Don’t Cry magazine.
Yeah that’s an extremely rare magazine. Bless your heart. And this came before his Grammy for Blonde, I think. I mean just artist-knowing-artist, we were in touch. I forgot if it was through Twitter, email, or phone, but yeah we talking. Somehow we linked up a while ago. I pulled up to the studio in LA, and instantly it was just really good, positive vibes. Calm, welcoming. And this was just before he got in some sort of fight. Didn’t he have a fight or something weird?
The Chris Brown thing? This was that far back?
Yeah, this was before that. That was a weird situation. I met him right before that situation.
Wow. So the conversation was from around when you guys first met? I think his Grammy was for Channel Orange too, so that makes complete sense.
Yeah. And we were talking about positivity. We were specifically talking about not fighting, and stuff like that. It was all love. God bless him. It’s a lot of stuff you have to deal with in the industry and you never know. That’s why it’s so important for us to be able to walk down the street and be able to get that love. I want all of us to continue to be beacons of love. And you know, I’ll never stop speaking about love because it’s so necessary. Love, love, love, love, love. You might even be intoxicated with love!
This reminds me of when Kanye bought out the New York Post and wrote “We Got Love” on the cover in a bunch of different languages. This was just a few months ago.
Man, Kanye is one of the original based. Kanye West is based, and I want everybody to know that. I’ve never met him, but I love him. He’s so inspiring, I don’t even need to meet him. Because I love him, and I know through the grapevine, he loves me too.
Has anyone from his camp ever reached out to you?
Listen… Exclusively for y’all first. People from Jay-Z’s camp been showing love. So it’s love. That’s why, you know, I’ll be back whenever.
Wow. So they reached out for work?
Bro, it’s love.
On the note of Kanye, I was at a Yasiin Bey show in the Mission earlier this year and he was exclusively rapping over old Kanye beats. Did you hear about this?
No that’s rare!
Yeah I think the whole point of the show was to defend Kanye, or to at least get part of the public to fall back in love with him. Yasiin just showed up and did his own verses but over classic Kanye instrumentals. Like he freestyled over "We Major" and "Devil in a New Dress", which is some shit that no one will ever get to see again. But towards the end of the show he mentioned something about how “no red hat” could get between them.
Yeah, he’s just based. Let him be. Like I said, this is all just a giant social experiment. Lil B is out there. The BasedGod is out there. And even I’m out there.
You and Kanye have pretty much always been my two favorite rappers, so I was always curious about the relationship there.
I’ve gotten a lot of love through the grapevine. A lot of different people been reaching out to me like “Man, Kanye is showing love!” and I just didn’t believe it, because it’s hard to believe. But a lot of people telling me, and now I know they’re not lying. I’ve heard he’s saying some really highly respectable stuff.
When Jay-Z reached out, it was about the next Blueprint or something. It didn’t make it, but you know, Raekwon did stuff with Jay-Z that didn’t make it. It’s only a few that I haven’t made it happen with yet. Shoutout to Danny Brown too!
Yep! Shoutout the whole Bruiser Brigade. I met him with Tony Yayo. I met Danny Brown with Tony Yayo at a G-Unit concert. AE was also there, he works with Tyga now. It was just a crazy night. Eminem’s manager was also at the show. You know, it’s all love. There’s only a handful of people that I haven’t talked to yet. It’s all for the love of the music.
Sorry to keep harping on Kanye, but do you have a favorite album?
All of them.
You know, I feel like Yeezus had some tracks that could pass as based freestyles.
I actually haven’t heard it yet, but now is the perfect time, because the hype is gone.
Yeah I feel like there can be too much pressure to immediately participate in album hype, and that whole dialogue for every release. I try to just collect music and listen privately and at my own pace.
Like there was a track on White Flame – I wanna say "When I Write" – that I revisited recently. I remember first downloading it back in 2011, and 8 years later I could just appreciate it in a different light. I shouldn’t have to wrap up my listening in a week, let alone the week you dropped it. You know what I mean? I need time!
Ha! Right, right! Yeah, I remember that one.
Can you please just talk about White Flame in general? I feel like it’s stuck with people so much over the years.
It was just a real time in hip-hop where it wasn’t really anybody else out there. Lil B was the only person out there, and he was just wylin’ the fuck out! That’s just a pure time. When you wanna listen to that rebellious, free spirit… Like real, early hip-hop. If you wanna know why music is where it’s at now, you wanna listen to that. It’s just levels. There’s a lot of levels to this new generation of music, and not everybody gets a generation. There’s a Young Thug generation, a Chief Keef generation, a Future generation. You know, Gucci, OJ Da Juiceman, Waka Flocka…
Did you ever get a chance to work with Gucci and 1017?
I never connected with Gucci personally, but I got some records with him. I got a record with Gucci and Post Malone, back when Gucci was locked up. I did some stuff to support him. I got a song with Gucci and Riff Raff. It’s some rare stuff. Shoutout to Gucci manager.
You know, I’ve been asking a lot about your relationships with other artists, because I feel like you’re everyone’s favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. One of my favorite details is how Vince Staples had the opening lyrics to the "Blue Flame" remix as his Twitter bio.
Yeah! For the longest!! I get mad cause the world don’t understand me. That’s the price I had to pay for this rap game.
Ha! You ran that back twice on the track too!
Right, right! Big love! Blue Flame.
I don’t even know how to wrangle in that conversation, because it’s not just about Vince. I guess, what was it about your music at that time that resonated so much with the next generation? All of those relationships are so pure…
It was just before them. I was doing it for them. I was going out there for them so that they could thrive, and they can take it to a whole ‘nother level. That’s why I’m excited about Lil Yachty doing Sprite commercials. Vince Staples being on the radio and how everybody loves him. ASAP selling out shows.
What about Yams? Did you ever have a relationship with him?
Oh yeah, long conversations with ASAP Yams. ASAP Yams is the reason why me and ASAP Rocky are forever… You know, whatever we do in the future, it’s always gonna be for ASAP Yams. That’s who got it… That’s who really wanted us to work together for the first time. He’s a real music-loving dude and deserved everything he ever got in a good way. Like in the most loving way. Everything that’s good in his life, he deserved. He was a good guy, and you could tell he really cared about the music. Shoutout to Yams. For life.
Playboi Carti’s been showing a lot of love to both you and Yams.
Yeah love! Legend!
His whole presence in music right now feels a lot like that radically new, aggressive, rebellious energy you brought 10 years ago.
It’s amazing. Yeah, I mean I’m seeing a reception and Carti’s definitely a part of that. Carti’s a flame baby. You know, respectfully, because he’s a man! He’s a legend. But at the same time, we all come from that cloth of positivity, freedom, and free will. You know, a lot of people know about the BasedGod. Period.
And everyone shows mad love!
I wouldn’t be this humble if I didn’t get love. I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t.
You’ve never had any animosity.
I think it’s just time and maturity. And letting go of material. I’m not above or far from it, but we all grow. I understand, but sometimes I don’t understand. But we all grow.
Another collaborator I’m super curious about: Riff Raff. Everything you guys did together was iconic.
Man, I love Riff Raff to do death but sometimes he gets some Lil B verses and I’m like how’d you get that? I did one official verse for him, I’m tryna remember…
"Borrow Your Daughter"?
That one’s unofficial too! Riff Raff, I love him to death and that’s my brother, but he was getting some unofficial Lil B verses! The official one that he got was, uhhh… I think called “Working Every Day”.
Was that part of the group with Andy Milonakis and Dirt Nasty? Three Loco?
Yeah they all worked together too, but I don’t think it was on that album. Shoutout Andy. Shoutout to Dirt Nasty. But yeah, shoutout to Riff Raff.
Wow… What was it like working with Andy?
Legend! He’s just a legend… just a real good dude. Welcoming. He’s just really got it. You know, I appreciate Andy for life, I always love him. He’s just a real forward thinker. Andy Milonakis is someone that just knows what’s going on. I always will pay homage to Andy Milonakis.
Man… All of these early names are just now coming back to me. I feel like this whole revolution was happening and I was there watching it in real time. It was probably the most formative time of life. You know, those teenage years?
That’s what I’m saying man! I was there when Wayne came up with his mixtapes and I was following his journey. That’s something that this generation won’t get a chance to appreciate. I got a chance to experience the SQ tapes. That’s somebody that laid a blueprint down for all of us to be able to follow after.
One of my biggest questions is actually how you got on that "Grove St. Party" remix. One of my friends had your verse as his ringtone.
That was crazy… Just the craziest thing being in the studio with Wayne, getting a chance to record with him… You know I was so nervous it took me a lil minute cause he’s such a legend. But at the same time, I coulda retired that day. It was good. You know, having a song with Lil Wayne…
That feeling that you’ve made it…
Yeah man! That’s what I’m saying! That kinda fucked me up. Like man, I’m done…
How’d you connect with him?
They’re family… It’s always been love. You know, shoutout to Mack Maine. Shoutout Gudda Gudda. Shoutout Birdman.
Ok this reminds me of another one. One of the biggest ones. Can’t believe I haven’t asked yet. Soulja Boy.
Oh yeah… Life changer. Game changer. History changer. Culture shifting.
You two were the blueprint.
Soulja changed folks life. I love Soulja Boy forever, that’s always my brother, I always got his back. He always knows what it is with me, calls me anytime, whatever. I’m proud of him always. Glad to see him still a legend, still out here making money and making good records.
Can you talk about Pretty Boy Millionaires?
With Pretty Boy Millionaires, we really came together and just made history. Shoutout to my bro Rick Deez. Folks don’t know… that’s the first time shoutout ever. Shoutout Rick Deez, he recorded the project. He also recorded the Paint mixtape. It’s love.
How did you and Soulja happen? I remember both of you just invented a whole new swag, but you were both still different from each other.
Soulja reached out to me on Twitter and it was just history from there. I had dropped some videos already… You know, I had everybody going crazy after “Look Like Jesus”, but I was already out there trippin. But after “Look Like Jesus”, everybody was trippin. Soulja reached out and it was just on from there. I was at my partna’s house in LA, just hanging out on the floor. Just on the computer figuring things out… and bam. Soulja hit me up and shit just changed. Forever.
Wait so do you look back on your “Look Like Jesus” stuff like you were trippin?
Nah, not in a bad way.
I still see that as some of the most fun music ever.
Yeah, yessir! I never regret anything I do, period. The only thing I regret is having a bad attitude. But for music, I never regret anything because it’s just history.
But on you and Soulja Boy, I feel like you guys really pioneered the whole blueprint for being an artist in the internet era. I remember Frank described it as “the most modern way of sharing art”, or something to that extent. Were you guys just telepathically on the same page?
Yeah man it was just organic. Soulja Boy is one of the most authentic people. He really loves music, and in time it shows. He’s really here for the music. He’s good with the real estate and stocks too.
That deal with Microsoft!
Yeah man! He has a lot of good taste with real estate. I’ve actually been to some of his properties and he stays in beautiful places. Great choices. Outside of an investment standpoint and a music standpoint, he’s just a smart dude. It translates.
Did you guys know when you linked up that it was going to be as influential and historical as it wound up being?
Wow. While it was happening?
Yeah because we were the only people really doing it. Like we were the only folks out there… But at the same time, when you’re in it, you’re kinda just in it. You’re not looking for the accolades. But like… we knew, we knew. You can only look back now. Sometimes things are so pure that you gotta give it time and look back like “Oh… look what we did. This’ll never happen again, ever.”
But if everything works out, there’s supposed to be a Pretty Boy Millionaires part 2 with me, Yachty, and Soulja Boy.
I was gonna ask you actually because I interviewed Yachty 3 years ago. Like a week before that Sprite commercial. He mentioned the tape back then too.
Oh that’s hella funny. Yeah me and Yachty always talking. We got stuff. It’s in the works, I’m tryna get him and Soulja Boy together, but you know it don’t matter. It’s all love, they’re both good people. We gotta do it for our culture. We gotta give as much as possible.
Does that play into the length of some of your projects? Like, giving as much as possible? Not everyone does 50-track tapes.
Nah it’s just truth. I don’t try and make my projects long. Like Hunchback, it just has to be 49 songs to explain what’s going on. I got tapes that are 5 songs.
Yeah, like I’m Gay was 10 tracks.
Yeah, and that’s all it needed. I’m Gay wouldn’t have been that if it was 21 songs… or 22.
On the note of I’m Gay, how much does being from the Bay Area influence your progressivism? Did it influence that title at all?
Definitely my mindset. Just me being in a positive environment and getting my creative juices flowing. Being out here it’s definitely one-of-a-kind and it shaped my mindset, but at the same time you gotta be a strong person. I have an intent to help people and that’s why I did that. I could do this anywhere. I could be anywhere and do this, and that’s what it’s about. Let me take the positivity to Africa, Kuwait, or wherever.
Man I remember you shouted out Iran! On "Real Hip Hop 2012".
That’s what I’m saying! Yeah they mad at that! They mad at that!! That was a real song right there. That whole tape… that whole time was very special.
About God’s Father… We gotta talk about the "I Love You" video. Was that pet store right here in the Bay?
Yessir! It was in Berkeley, California. I shot that video down the street from where I used to stay. I used to be at that pet shop all the time. All the people that I used to know and everything growing up… all the people that raised me, that was their spot. So you know, when I was crying in there, it was really a karma of love and respect. It just means that much.
Alright Brandon we’ve been talking for a minute. I wanna be respectful of your time. I know your birthday was last week, so I brought you some gifts. Let’s go through them real quick and then we can close this out with my last few questions.
Wow, thank you fam… Wow.
I picked 3 records out for you. The first one is Some Rap Songs – the new Earl album.
Yeah this album is one of the most inspirational albums today. I mean, this is impactful. When I listen to some of the stuff on here, it's just so forward-thinking. I’ve never heard anything like it. Big shoutout Earl.
Have you guys worked together? He shows you a lot of love!
Nah. Not yet. Shoutout Tyler too though!
Ok... Next record is Kanye’s Late Registration.
Wow… I’m not even gonna open this one.
I feel like the production style here is similar to your more soulful Flame-era stuff. You know, the old Rocafella-style beats?
Yeah this is a classic. This is a timeless record. Timeless…
You got some of those too!
Ok, now on to the last record. This is one of the more experimental ones. I’m curious… You listen to Gil Scott-Heron? I got you this record by him and Brian Jackson. The First Minute of a New Day.
I’ve heard about him, and thank you. This is probably one of the most well thought-out-gifts… I’m excited to listen.
The reason I picked up the Gil Scott-Heron one in particular is because I felt like based freestyling reinvented how a lot of people delivered through words.
Gil Scott-Heron used to do a ton of spoken word stuff. Like they would play a drum or something and he would just speak. At that time it was definitely aggressive, and I felt like a lot of what you were doing with the based freestyles was in the same vein, in terms of subject matter, style, and everything.
Mmmm! Thank you brother. This is amazing. This is love! Thank you. Not sure if I’m gonna open the Kanye though!
Of course, man. It’s love! Happy birthday. You do anything fun?
Man, it was just fun I was alive. I’m just happy to be alive. Like I’m telling you because it’s days where you can’t shit, or whatever, and you just like “Man I just wish I was normal”.
I had a great, normal day on my birthday. I’m just tryna make sure I maximize my life. Like, maximize my living, because I really love being alive. I’m tryna maximize that time alive, you know?
…That’s the most pure thing I’ve ever heard. But man! I wanna be respectful of your time, let’s just go ahead and close this out with the last few questions. Real quick – Do you still have the original based Vans?
Yeah I still gottem brudda. So to let people know that were saying “He made that million cause he switched up his shoes” – No I haven’t!
You’ll get there… with the real estate.
Yeah we gon get there… We gon get there. It’s always an upward trajectory. We go up, never backwards.
Would you ever put them in a museum? Like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Yessir! I’m taking care of them. They’re in a protected space right now. I’m not letting them see no air or nothing. We’re locked in.
Good, good. Next question. You had that track on Silent President called "Beat the Cancer". A fan who had terminal cancer DM’ed you on YouTube and asked you to sample Metallica’s "Fade to Black", and you actually did it. Did you ever get back in touch with him afterwards?
Nah. I did it for him, but I think YouTube closed the whole DM thing after that. They stopped allowing DMs. That was a crazy era.
Another one: Do you remember Coachella 2011 when Tyler and like half of Odd Future jumped on stage during your performance? You guys performed "Pretty Bitch" in full, and I think if I could go to any show in history, that show would definitely be in consideration.
Yeah bro, thank you. That was just such a rebellious time. It’s just a pure time in music. We were out there just having fun. I think that was the 2nd weekend. I hit that stage, and that was just life changing. That show was just so much energy. So many good people were there at that Coachella, a lot of good vibes. But that was before everything was everything. That was… Just like a dream. You look back on those times, and there were so many good ones. The future, though, that’s what I’m excited about.
You still got love for Tyler? Anything in the works?
Oh yeah. Still got love for Tyler. Ask Tyler, hopefully he loves me!
Ha! Yeah bro, I’d love to ask Tyler.
Yeah man I love him!
Speaking of rebellious – I wanted to ask you about that time you leaked your own album. You just tweeted out a Mediafire link to a .zip of I’m Gay.
Yeah, salute. And major love. By the way, I still don’t have any albums yet. I’m still working on my first album. It’s still coming. When my first album comes out it’s gonna be some crazy shit.
But leaking I’m Gay, I put it up for free. I said “People need this.” This was before streaming bro! You could only buy it. I said “Nah you gotta get it for free.” That’s when people had to download shit!
Next question. Your video style has been just as influential as your music. You know, the guerrilla-style rap videos, a lot of rack focus… Do you have a favorite movie or director that influences your style? Are there any previous music videos you’ve drawn from?
Hmmm… Just everybody that made music and attempted. If I came across it and if it had some type of intent or something I could grab from it, I might’ve got inspired. So I appreciate even the people I didn’t name.
What about the rock group? California Boy? That was a great single.
Thank you brother. I appreciate that. It’s still coming. This goes back to what I was saying earlier: the mindstate. I’m in rapper mode, but once I get around my bros and I get the time, I can do that. I’ve just been on my production mode for hip-hop. I’ve been behind on getting this hip-hop out, but like, California Boy, still… I was hoping to get it out this year. I’ve been talking to the producer that helped me make that record. We got 1 more single that I never released from that time. I forgot what it’s called.
Ok, last question. You looked like you didn’t really wanna talk about it earlier. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. But, your profile picture is one of the most iconic images in music and I don’t think anyone knows anything about it. It’s one of the biggest mysteries to me. What’s the history?
Think we need to save it for the 2nd interview. I mean, that’s the most insightful question.
The history of that picture?
Yeah, I think that deserves a number two. Once y’all know the history of it, it’ll be like “Damn, he was… What? That video was shot there?” It’s definitely… uhh… all I’m gonna say is “Rush Hour” and I’mma leave it at that. That’s the clue.
You don’t have to give more detail. You’re gonna have me thinking about that for the next year.
Ha! Yeah we’ll do part 2.
Alright man, that’s all I got. This has been the greatest privilege… I honestly don’t know what to say. Thank you for everything.
I appreciate you bro. Major love. Major love.