From the Record Crate: Lil B – “6 Kiss” (2009)

In today’s turbulent times, it’s difficult to maintain a sense of stability, to find anything that’s not deteriorating or on the verge of complete failure. He may not be what we hoped for, but Lil B falls under this category. No matter how messed up the world becomes, Lil B will still be marooned off in his corner of the internet, tweeting his fans and dropping one hundred song mixtapes, another of which just dropped in the middle of me writing this.

His cult-like persona has divided music fans for over a decade now, and he shows no signs of slowing up. Regardless of how you feel about him, though, Lil B is important. With Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown, Metro Boomin and countless others paying respect to The Based God, Lil B has begun to receive his flowers after being written off as a joke for much of his career. In his ever-expanding discography, 6 Kiss stands out as perhaps the best microcosm of everything that comprises Lil B’s universe, as well as everything he’s influenced outside of it.

On 6 Kiss, Lil B links with producer Clams Casino in a pairing that’s seen by many as the defining moment in the popularization of “cloud rap,” which is trademarked by hazy, atmospheric beats, usually coupled with a prominent R&B or soul sample. The album’s intro, “B.O.R (Birth of Rap)”, is maybe the best example of this sound in practice. For those expecting comedy, they might be surprised by Clams’ inspiring production and Lil B’s touching reflections on his journey. Just as they begin to check whether they’re listening to the joke rapper they heard about, the beat cuts out and Lil B drops a gentle “I fuck with Soulja Boy” to remind them of the 2009-ness of what they’re about to hear. However, these types of stylistic clashes are central to what makes Lil B work. Listening to him, the line between ironic and genuine enjoyment goes back and forth so much you begin to lose track of yourself somewhat, and care less and less about whether what you’re hearing is “good.”

Every song on 6 Kiss is its own absurdity. No matter where you turn there’s an outrageous line, an innovative instrumental, or a trend that can be seen in today’s music landscape. Lil B’s wide array of adlibs he uses throughout the record, specifically his rhythmic use of “swag,” are par for the course in most trap songs today. The pitched vocals in the instrumental of “Walk the World” sound ripped from fifty different Drake songs, while the demented, synth-heavy “Let The Eagles Go” sounds like early Odd Future.

Lil B is a man of culture, of taste, of multitudes. He’ll drop a line with the youthful innocence of “I’m like a girl scout, but I ain’t have no cookies,” and follow it up with “I had a real goon that’ll tie up your family.” The wonderment Lil B has with life is contrasted repeatedly with lyrics about his own violence, ignorance and misogyny, all of which are painted in a comedic lens through this juxtaposition. However, even though he’s considered one of the forefathers of comedic rap, Lil B doesn’t treat the music on 6 Kiss like a joke. You can tell from his flows and homages to hip-hop that he loves the genre and isn’t looking to demean or cheapen it at all. The humor of Lil B’s music comes in the confounding peeks we get inside his mind that manifest as he tries to make the greatest music anyone’s ever heard. I genuinely think that when Lil B pronounces Kanye West’s name as “Kayon West” to make it rhyme with “all I get,” he thinks that that’s amazing. And he’s right. It is amazing.

A final detail that’s the most telling into understanding Lil B’s importance comes at the end of “We Ridin’ scraper,” when he rambles stream-of-consciousness style over the instrumental, a common way he ends most of the tracks on here. In this rant, he shouts out his Myspace and drops out the beat to slowly spell out his handle. 

Seemingly a throwaway moment, it illustrates this: Lil B was one of the first artists to grasp the power of the internet. His marketing, promotion and development of a public image are the blueprint for how rappers today build a buzz. In our culture of virality, Lil B was one of the first to see what could be done by taking an unorthodox approach towards success. This success is proof of what is clear to us all now, that traditional gatekeepers in music and entertainment are faltering. Lil B was one of the first to slip through the cracks in the foundation, one of the internet’s first champions. There’s no way that if Lil B were transported 30 years into the past that he would’ve become the cultural icon he is today. In the channels that artists had to go through to get signed, get radio play, and achieve what could be considered “success,” Lil B would have failed at almost every one. Imagine coming into a label head’s office with a CD of over 50 freestyled tracks with terrible mixing and expecting anything except a door to the face. Lil B created a perfect time capsule of everyone figuring out the internet’s power, in part by wielding it better than anyone else. For as nonsensical as the music on 6 Kiss can be, it does what great art does: captures the feeling of a time and place. Rather than a record crate, the album sounds more at home in a sketchy spam email. With unflinching confidence in the face of ridicule, Lil B willed himself into music history, and serves as a fascinating case study on just how far the goalposts for success in music have shifted.



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