Last night in Baltimore, out by the trusty van, a brother thanked Shabazz Palaces for "bringing some Africa" out there. As SP were fresh off an interview with burgeoning Okayplayer site Okayafrica, he was clearly on to something. He just might have enjoyed another project recently featured on that site: Gabriel Teodros from our town, singer Meklit Hadero, and DC-based MC Burntface, who first came together on the Kafa Beanz compilation from a couple years back—who together form the crew CopperWire, and they're playing the Columbia City Theater on Wednesday, April 25. Their sci-fi musical motif is heartful Habesha space opera, slick and smart—as evidenced in their new video for "Phone Home."
So I was bummed to learn that the Main Attrakionz show last week (you know, the one that I wrote my whole column about) was canceled, as were the 14 other heads, it seemed, who cared. But perhaps you will draw solace from the fact that the Bay's alpha weirdo, one of the most influential figures in rap of the last couple years, is touching the Neumos stage on Sunday, April 29. I refer to, of course, no less a personage than Lil B the BasedGod.
If you think he's the devil, fine; if you think I'm in league with the devil for not condemning him straight off, also fine. You purists out there auditing everybody's elements like fucking rap Scientologists who'd prefer some constant, degrading loop of your high-school rap-listening experience played out by a deluge of unimaginative chinstrap-sporters so you can feel comfortable in your frozen-in-place, grown-ass wannabe status should probably go upstairs and see what mom wants, anyway, straight up.
The game needs cats like Lil B—it needs BasedGod himself, because there's no one really like him (except some really trashy imitators not worth mentioning). It needs figures that confound and short-circuit people's expectations of what hiphop is and can be. It needs to remember how weird and uninhibited things could be, word to the late, great Rammellzee. It needs somebody to challenge our calcified homophobia (to me, a rapper titling an album I'm Gay is more gangsta than an Uncle Murda video set) and rampant sexism (well, he at least calls himself a bitch as much as he does women). If you're over there screaming that "dude can't rap," go slap some Slaughterhouse or something (no shots). But first, a couple points: One—he totally can ("Real Hiphop 2012," "I'm God," "Birth of Rap," "Age of Information," all of I'm Gay). But as so much new rap proves, technical ability is just that—it's not where the soul and spirit live. (Me, your shut-in cousin, and Diggy Simmons can all rap, dog, so who cares.) At this point in time, for my money, B's most enduring value lies more in his example and influence, the discourse he produces, not in his huge and inconsistent discography. His intentional and highly successful lampooning of shitty rap templates is high-level trolling, a much-needed dose of street-level deconstruction, loving and critical, from rap's purest martyr. And for that, I forever Thank You, BasedGod.