Those of us who aren’t that into music probably mistook this week for some kind of AIDS awareness period, as the trending topic “I Got AIDS” was holding strong for days. Nope, the phrase was just another contribution to the social media lexicon by Internet-famous rapper Lil B.
Was it a joke? A publicity stunt? According to the B — a.k.a. Brandon McCartney — it was neither. No, it was an earnest — and B is extremely earnest — attempt to raise AIDS awareness (although he doesn’t exactly get all of his facts correct).
In the midst of all the chatter surrounding the song and BasedGod Velli, the mixtape that it originated from, we caught up with Lil B — who has made his bones via the power of his fans and the web — to talk about “I Got AIDS,” trending topics and his social passions. Teaser: Watch out for his upcoming song about “fracking.”
So I wanted to talk about your new song ‘I Got AIDs’ and how it became a trending topic…
For two days straight. About two, three days, worldwide trending topic. Because I have so much viewership and I have so much discussion on what I do online. I’m such a powerful force online.
A lot of people who respect my music are sexually active and stuff like that; I wanted them to make sure to get tested and spread the love. [The song is an] honest perspective coming from a young person and something that older people can understand. It’s just something that the youth can really relate to and they can stomach that in — and in a cool way — to propel them to get tested. [I want to] make this more of a mainstream thing instead of a taboo thing — to go get tested for STDs.
Why did you decide to release this song now? AIDs awareness month is in December.
Well, you know, really it was something that I felt the world needed right now. No one’s talking about it in the way that I am and seeing it from the perspective that I see it. That’s why I feel like I was in a great position.
Plus, I have the honor and respect — the whole social media world respects me. I feel that I’m in a position and I’m entitled to be a role model, and do it the best way that I can. My intentions came from a positive place and a good place in my heart. I didn’t do it to exploit anybody or to exploit the situation or to do anything of that matter. I really just wanted to bring awareness in the best way that I can. And the world gravitates to that.
I’m worldwide. Anywhere I go. Anywhere in the world — to a crack in a hole in Ugoslavia in somebody’s backyard. And I’ve created this myself. I done this myself. And it’s very hard. It’s not easy to be popular. A lot of people think it is. A lot of people get hyped — like a million views — and that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be there forever. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. The people want me here. And there’s proof. A lot of artists fake trending topics and they use programs to get them worldwide trending. Anything that goes on with me is because the people make it that way.
So you kind of dropped this song in the same way you dropped I’m Gay — it came out of nowhere and blew up. How did you manage that? By tapping into your fanbase?
Music comes from my soul and my heart — I’m an honest artist — so I don’t have release dates for stuff. It’s kind of like, ‘I need to get this out to the people. I love you guys and I want you guys to hear this.’ This has already changed and impacted people’s lives.
So what kind of feedback have you been getting? Positive?
Yes I have. A lot of great feedback — shouts out to Perez Hilton, the Huffington Post, MTV family of course, so many people worldwide. CNN, showing love. It’s great to see how far my music travels and power of my words.
I’m one of the most discussed artists in music and one of the top artists in hip-hop — the most powerful, the most innovative. And I’m unsigned. And I still control the rap game. Every artist pays attention to me in the hip-hop game. Every artist has taken a page from me.
As an unsigned artist who mainly uses the web to promote yourself, what kind of advice would you give other artists who want to go the anti-label route?
Well, you know, you have to go through a lot. It’s going to be hard to get the same kind of following that I have because I’ve been through so many trials and tribulations. I put myself online. I put my life and soul out there. It takes a special kind of person to be able to do that. Really all I got to say is be positive and put out your truths. As long as you’re coming from your heart, no one’s going to deny you. Put your heart out there and let people accept you.
What other subjects do you hope to tackle in your music?
Some other topics I’m going to be tackling soon are hydraulic fracturing, which people call ‘fracking.’ I want to tackle our water systems. Giving fresh water and making sure our water is clean and healthy. I want to tackle not littering and motivating more people to not throw trash on the ground. Also I want to find more ways that we can conserve food and spread food and continue to help people.
Also I just want to bring more awareness to just being happy and accepting everybody and loving everybody for who they are. I would really, really be happy to do that. These are the things that I want to tackle. These kinds of social issues are on my list right now.
‘Fracking’ seems like kind of an obscure cause to be interested in. How did you get into that?
I was doing a little research and really just reading about the earth. I’m really interested in our earth and animals. I love animals. I’m going to be talking to the ASPCA soon. I definitely want to do more things for animal rights. Cats and dogs as well as supporting human rights. I want to support the gays, the lesbians, I want to support the heterosexuals. I want to be a human activist and continue to propel the positive progression of the human race. Us as one together. I think we are one human race. I want everybody to wake up and have fun and love and not think so hard.
Do you have any thoughts on Occupy Wall Street?
Shouts out to Lupe Fiasco. Lupe Fiasco and I were talking on Twitter DM and he was giving me his viewpoints on Occupy Wall Street, because I think he’s very active in it. I’m still learning. I really don’t like to talk about what I don’t know, but I think it’s just about the people wanting their fair share against these businesses. And I totally understand about that.
You have a really strong fanbase — and really strong opinions — do you ever turn to them before you write songs? Do they dictate what you write at all?
It really just comes to me and my mind and I do what I want. I definitely do take suggestions from my supporters, because everybody that listens to my music, a lot of my core fanbase are intellectuals and they’re really smart. So we have in-depth conversations.
One supporter asked me — he’s dying of cancer — and he asked me can I make him a song about cancer. So I made a song called “Beat The Cancer” for him. It was heartwarming. I do this for the people. It’s past the music, past the money. Because without the people there is no money. What is money? Who cares?
In that vein, what do you think of artists giving their music away for free? You obviously give yours away — is that just the way it should be?
I’m in the right position. People wish to buy my music. My music has no pricetag because it’s priceless. It’s historical. Everybody that likes my music may not have money to buy it at the time. It’s a hard time right now. I never done it for the money, so if I’m going to get that music to them, I’m going to get it to them. Because I love them and they love me.
So what do you want the next trending topic that you start to be?
Who knows right now? I really don’t know. I take my music day for day and keep the honesty. I don’t have any forethoughts or really anything planned.
I’m going to be working with the Based God very soon. He’s going to be producing a new album for me. A new rare project. Very rare, collectible. It’s very hard to work with the Based God. I’ve been really trying. The last time I worked with the Based God personally was Rain in England, which was a groundbreaking project in hip-hop. No one has ever done that in hip-hop. I’m going to be getting back in the studio with the Based God soon.
I really can’t tell you what the next trending topic will be because I don’t really plan that much — I just kind of let the people do it.
By Brenna Ehrlich