Live: Lil B Brings His Light To NYU

Lil B (lecture)
Eisner & Lubin Auditorium, NYU
Wednesday, April 11

Better than: College.

Lil B walks onto the stage of the Eisner & Lubin Auditorium in a dayglo yellow shirt, which combats for brightness with the stage lights. Those first images you get when you stare at the sun and then close your eyes, the infrared shapes that blossom behind your eyelids? It's as if they'd swollen into shirt form. A scarf draped around his neck is patterned with more tender blondes and greens, and his Vans are firmly aged into a sandy brown, evenly unwashed. It's like staring into an optical illusion: B moves and the light shifts around him. Elemental synths issue from the speakers, gently recalling the sound of his 2010 album Rain in England. It's like a cloud hugging you in the sunlight, warm and enveloping. NYU provides him with a long, clinically-shaped table, on which he leans or illustrates his sleeping patterns. "Nyah, honesty, integrity, loyalty, passion, friendship," go his quixotic naps.

As he travels the stage, the audience yells at him, reacting to him, in a sort of call-and-response. "If you feel compelled to say something in your heart, please do," he says, near pleading. The crowd roars powerfully. "Because at the end of the day we all have something to teach, and we all have something to say." It is only faintly religious. It is more precisely like a self-help seminar, which also delicately orbits religion, placing God and light at exact transfers. You establish and return to certain themes, and doing so forms a foundation that is graspable, from which you can lift yourself up, a deliberate obstacle against an endless, edgeless freefall. At the start, to set the tone, he says, "Nobody in this building asked to be born." Thirteen minutes later, he instructs us: "Don't let people's stereotypes or stigmas or words put you in a box. Don't let that run your day. Don't be depressed anymore. Be happy." Later, again: "Nobody's different, I'm telling you, and nobody asked to be born," the idea taking raw shape in the repeating. "I'm telling you. I'm telling you. I'm telling you. I'm telling you. I'm telling you."

He speaks in platitudes, but they are platitudes slightly turned by his delivery. He even identifies a secret to life: To "look at everybody like they're a baby." There is no trace of condescension in his expression. It's more like: in treating people as if they are babies, out of this aggressive understanding floats something like utopia, a rocketing peace inside.

His talk is improvised. "I don't write my speeches," he says candidly. (It's all candid, really.) "Any time I do this, any time I speak it's going be from the heart. It's going to be brand new. You can't write love." Every definite statement he makes, he reflexes away from, slightly. "Stop saying, black, white, this, that—we're human," he says, paving smoothly over history. Then: "Now, I don't know everything. All this is is my philosophy." It's a monologue that eats itself, a closed system. It doesn't feel contradictory so much as it feels like a conversation, a visible process of self-definition.

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