Live: Lil B Absorbs The Audience, Talks Axl Rose And Trayvon Martin At New Museum
Jesse Untract-Oakner Lil B at the New Museum.
The New Museum
Thursday, April 12
Better than: Quietly contemplating a painting.
1. In the small downstairs theater of the New Museum, a projector's light beams onto Lil B, building his shadow. A camera drifts with him from behind, following him in a light trails. It brings the otherwise undecorated space into a soft, bluish focus, B floating coolly through it. There's little distance between B and the crowd, just a small disparity in the altitude of the stage. He sweeps his hands over the front row as if to pull them closer. As with his lecture at NYU, he empowers the audience, but this time in a different, more physical way. In the prolonged coda of the show, as arrhythmic keyboard washes spread thinly from the lone PA, he tells the crowd, "Just close your eyes and trust everybody in the building. We all good."
2. He lapses between songs into "based" freestyles, which are sort of relaxed, unpressured word streams. "I keep my head down/ I'm walking hopeless/ Every day I keep my mind open/ Third eye open/ I'm dope/ I don't believe in Illuminati/ I don't believe in nothing/ I believe in people."
3. He announces two different upcoming releases: A single from his cat Keke, and a new "classical" album from The BasedGod, who produced the album Rain in England in dense, untethered synths structured around the refrain of "Three Blind Mice." Lil B will not rap over The BasedGod's album. He speaks briefly about California Boy, his upcoming rock album, in a monologue otherwise about Axl Rose. "Why didn't he want to be included in the Hall of Fame?" B asks. "I rock with Axl, man. I'm an old-school Guns N' Roses fan."
4. His cooking songs are perhaps composed to be heard live. They electrify the roomhard, relentless synths, unplanned, Dopplering high-hats that seem, as they overpower the speakers, to contain literal electricity. The crowd congeals, an impenetrable weave of bodies up front.
5. Someone in the crowd asks him about Trayvon Martin. There are instants throughout the show where an audience member will say something incendiary, and Lil B will acknowledge them and then cooly say, "Yeah, bruh," moving on. Someone else yells, "Free Boosie!" B does not move on. "Just because I'm black, a motherfucker don't got to be like 'What do you think about Trayvon Martin?'" His cadence is suddenly, inflexibly clipped. "I don't know, bruh. Everybody come to me, ask me. I'm a fan of Boosie but I don't know what's going on with him. I can't say 'free somebody' if I don't know. I don't talk about anything I don't know. I don't give y'all information that I don't know about. I've never been a gossip and that's personal."
He performs "The Age of Information," a song about the strange, dark pull of technology and the internet. The second half of the beat is a gentle, loping keyboard riff, and B lingers over it for minutes. "Thank you all for spending your precious time from me," he says, calmly. He sounds newly unfastened, airy now. "I don't want you to take any inconsiderateness or from me. Only take the best parts of me, the best parts of my personality while I'm here on this earth. Don't emphasize on the negative. That's what I'm trying to learn to do, is not be so pissed off. This is the age of information. This is how we got here."