My friend shared a prediction with me before Lil B hit the green stage on Saturday at Day For Night. “I think he’s is going to bring out James Harden during his set,” he told me. The idea that one of the many basketball players The Based God cursed would join him on stage felt like an actual possibility to me. Anything could happen at that point. I didn’t know what to expect going into this set, and I’ve seen Lil B live twice. Once in Houston back in 2013 at Warehouse Live, and in Austin at SXSW in 2014.
Both performances were entertaining in the way only Lil B could make them, especially the set at SXSW. He opened up with I Am The Rap God, a song that samples System of a Down’s Toxicity in full, and then went straight into Praying for a Brick. I saw some of my friends mosh during that song. It is one of my dearest musical memories — one that transcends time and space.
All of the positivity in the world could be felt once Lil B stepped out onto the stage. The pink bandanas were being waved with pride by the many Based God devotees, and Lil B wasted no time in getting the show started.
“Shout out to Texas. This a Based freestyle,” he yelled as he stepped on stage. He went straight into a freestyle that referenced every influential Houston rapper and hip hop artist. He gave a shout out to DJ Screw, Big Pokey, Slim Thug, Fat Pat, Mike Jones, K-Rino, Lil’ Flip, Rap-A-Lot Records, Scarface, and Geto Boys — he gives a shout out to Travis Scott and Paul Wall later in the set — before being told by his DJ that he gave too many shout outs. The crowd loved the appreciation for Houston and cheered at every reference.
“Shouts out to Texas, I fuck with Texas,” he yelled to a thoroughly amused crowd. It was hard not to enjoy all the Lone Star love.
Lil B wasted no time after that. He went straight into Young Niggaz, a track off of Black Ken — his most recent mixtape. I was reminded why I enjoy watching Lil B live so much during this song. He brings an energy to his live performance that isn’t captured in the studio recordings or music videos. Lil B is a little more subtle in the online content. He destroys that subtlety instantly when he performs. He doesn’t care to look cool on stage, and his only goal is to have a good time. I also love that he hardly has a backing track over any of his songs. Lil B delivers the bars in full force with little assistance. The Based God never has a hypeman on stage either, and this performance was no different.
One of the biggest surprises of the setlist was the inclusion of Vans, a song by Lil B’s former rap group The Pack. About a third of the crowd actually recognized how insane this throwback was.
I also think Lil B genuinely likes alternative rock music. I cannot tell you how much I laughed when I heard The Based God scream “Let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor” repeatedly over a bass boosted beat. Lil B is all about humor, pastiche and cultural unification, and no genre is left unreferenced.
There were a multitude of odd, possibly uncomfortable moments throughout the set. This is to be expected from anything involving Lil B, but this performance was especially bizarre. Before performing Ski Ski, he asked the audience if they wanted him to leave. He then let the song’s ad-libs play while he danced around, and only about half of his ad-libs are conventional.
“Cool,” “Leggo,” “Yay,” “Come on child,” “I said it,” “You look great,” and various incomprehensible noises made by The Based God rang out the open spaces of downtown Houston as Lil B blew kisses out into the crowd.
He also never said “Houston” throughout the set. I’m pretty sure he knew he was in Houston, but the only city he mentioned by name was Dallas. People were pretty annoyed when he told the crowd to yell “Dallas”, and plenty of people yelled “Fuck Dallas” anytime he mentioned the city.
He even went on a fairly strange rant related to The Based God.
“I’m Lil B. I know The Based God. I promote and love The Based God. This is me, and this is me forever. So like I said, a lot of new Lil B coming. Art history. You know — I don’t even do stuff like this. I rarely do performances because seriously — I’m just extremely special. You know, I can’t just go out and go anywhere all the time. You can’t do that.”
And that’s truer now than it ever was. The Based God was not protected at all costs when he got jumped at Rolling Loud Fest. I’m surprised he didn’t cancel any shows after the incident and I felt lucky to be seeing him at all.
But every reference he made on stage was related to Houston. He gave a shout out to James Harden and the Rockets, and he even shared his condolences with Houstonians affected by Hurricane Harvey. And I don’t think anyone in the crowd held any of the Dallas comments against him. I saw people rapping to every single one of his songs throughout the entire set, and that never stopped.
“This song goes out to every survivor and everyone that’s been through so much — your floods. I support y’all man. Y’all are legendary for making it through. Still standing. What’s good? I love y’all,” he said as he transitioned into Wonton Soup — one of his biggest hits.
And that’s what the set was all about. Love and positivity for Houston, Texas. And Lil B brought plenty of it to Day For Night.
Be on the lookout for Lil B’s Platinum Flame in 2018