…’Cause I look like a Cloud

By Devin Kenny

In large swaths of the world, the Internet has served to widen access to tools with which we can connect with each other (albeit in an arguably superficial way). Those tools make themselves apparent in social networking & through the sharing of documents, music, video, images, etc.

Internet usage has also altered the way in which we think of created experiences (art, entertainment, etc) and media. Our ability to comment on things anonymously, with a pseudonym, or publicly and in a highly visible form (see comments on nahright.com or the “thumbs up if you________” phenomenon on Youtube for proof) has also changed the way we engage with created things; that is, we can use created image/sound/text experiences as platforms upon which we can stand and broadcast other related or unrelated ideas through the forum of comments often attached. With the outpouring of capital after the dot com boom/crash into social networking and avenues through which people interact with and share music, games, video, or images, the internet has changed its landscape drastically from the time of Angelfire and Geocities and bulletin boards, where people of esoteric tastes could communicate in a very rudimentary, but seemingly more authentic way, if only because the simulacra was more primitive. In the early days that communication online came with the sharing of things held dear, such as fan fiction, fan images, HTML code, recipes, et cetera et cetera. Some could call this art. Regardless, from the advancements in the sensory experience of being online other things have changed as well and we can now look to the Internet as a way of sharing and discussing any number of phenomena. But with so many more Internet users, and so many more ways of expressing oneself and entertaining oneself online, how do we stand out and make ourselves seen?

The Meta Tag

The Meta Tag is a keyword or series of keywords used in  an html code of a webpage so that it can be found by a web crawler which is employed by a search engine. Metadata is data about data, in this case, data describing the container of data (a website). Tags are also used in blogging and media sharing services like Youtube (the second most popular search engine next to Google) for the same function.

In a way, a tag (like you would put on the corpse of a deceased MC) is a label, but a meta tag is a way of giving multiple, equally-powerful labels to an object, increasing the number of people that may want to “grab” it.

Lil B

Lil B, also known as the Based God, has purportedly released 1000+ songs over the past 4 years, has over 150 Myspace pages each chock-full of material, and tons of Youtube videos as well. His work is brilliant not on strictly formal terms: his rhyming ability is often…pitiful, but at times the “rawness” of his lack of ability allows for super-sentimental nuggets to come out. His real brilliance is in how he became famous: flooding the market with promotional material and search engine optimization. However, he approaches SEO not in the traditional sense.



Whereas the traditional creator using the Internet would make the highest-quality product they could and then put their greatest amount of energy into publicizing the work, Lil B seeks to devote maximum energy to production and distribution, making, and marketing, and not separating the two. This was accomplished not only through the memeplex (he has a ton of LOLCATS-esque images with his phrases like “BASED GOD FUCKED MY BITCH” embedded in them) but also by creating sonic memes such as the almost compulsive ejaculation of the words “swag” and “woop!”. The use of catchphrases in rap was certainly formulated and perfected in the Atlanta rap scene (Young Jeezy, O.J. da Juiceman, Waka Flocka, and Gucci Mane all have their signature utterances) but Lil B takes it, combines it with the long-running traditions in the Bay Area (Oakland being the first place a course in Ebonics was pitched in schools) and makes it into pure pastiche.  Pardon the aforementioned oxymoron, but this has, I believe allowed him to become the Internet (and now “real”) phenomenon he is today.  And the diabolically post-sincere nature of his work is something to really behold, as it reflects our world back to us.

Consider another avant-garde musician/entrepreneur: DJ Raedawn also known as Crunc Tesla in his videos, like:

We see a strange story at the end of the description of his video:

“Here goes some hype fiction for the heads out thurrrr! Miss Teen usa aka Miss South Carolina could even understand that the Britney Spears is a Stargate alien from the planet Mars or maybe Venus. (I’m not sure) Lil Wayne and Rhianna also concur that these fellas blur the line of reality through art fatality. Mortal Kombat on you Wombats!!! Finish him for breakfast lunch and dinner to see who the winner is on who wants to me a millionare or even chamillionare. I found a billion google type candies worn by a sexy gal named Mandy. She was totally crazy and loved to listen to Dipset and even Snoop Dogg !She even predicted the dow jones nascar crash while buying hash browns at the potato stock market. Here’s my most favorite tale: One day I saw a cute fat kitten run amok. His name was John and he had a lil sister named Mary Ann and an even smaller sister named Suzy. They went to the store to buy a crack rock for Paris Hilton and her boyfriend Oj Simpson. then Johnny Cochran stepped on Suzy and went to court with her dramatic parents. Meanwhile, the boy cat from around the corner who went to the same school where the olsen twins escaped, found some hardcore booty shake records from the 90′s. He listened to the classic songs yet new they were disrespectful to women…”

The above is an example of not only creating a rupture in the Youtube system, by inserting prose into a section only deemed for description of your video, but also a clever space for inserting misleading/audience-widening keywords, with the goal that I think Lil B also has: reaching the greatest number of people, those outside of their region or highly-exclusive/esoteric subculture.

Crunc Tesla is also interested in positivity:

Crunc Tesla is also into the ladies and has developed a means of expressing this desire productively: http://www.facebook.com/groups/61595089766

Compare this to Lil B’s Based Queens and the legions of female fans plastered on his website and Dior Paint Tumblr page.

The old paradigm of the misanthropic or idiot-savant artist, toiling away in solitude until discovered is blown out of the water as a result of yes, television and mass-media, but even more profoundly, the internet, which allows any person to become their own media powerhouse. When I first came across this phenomenon, I really thought it would spread like wildfire throughout the Internet, especially given the cloud of tags used on WordPress, del.icio.us, and various other web aggregates, but I really haven’t seen many other cultural producers use it as a strategy other than Crunc Tesla.

In an attempt to comment on and push the form I created the following video:

And with that an attempt at embedding a stream-of-consciousness of celebrity and former celebrity names along with vapid/accessible banter:

But, both were missing out on crucial features that I think are present in the work of Lil B, a la:

Dr. Phil

Ellen Degeneres

I’m Miley Cyrus

Charlie Sheen

Look like Jesus

Each of these moves serves to both keep him in the radar of the internet (via creating songs that use figures popular in middle America, and/or those that could advance his career (Ellen Degeneres has famously showcased a variety of rappers on her daytime talk show, including forerunner to the method and crewmate Soulja Boy).  The songs are also very repetitive and formulaic. Using the empty parody of rap as a framework, it also allows him to stay relevant, and consistent, which are phrases one will often hear if they seek out advice on how to bring in followers and/or an audience for their web output. In an attempt to push this aforementioned interpretation of Lil B’s work, I produced,

for writer Paddy Johnson of the renowned Art Fag City blog. It was released on her birthday in a quiet online party.

I also planned on writing a tweet using my @devinkkenny account approximating Lil B’s brash tweets to Kanye West http://rapradar.com/2011/01/18/lil-b-explains-kanye-west-tweet/ requesting Mr. Biesenbach’s add on Facebook, but he already added me, so it seemed in bad taste.

So in essence Lil B taps into the divergent adolescent desires of being accepted, but also being an autonomous individual. The same desire that may drive people to tagging walls, or tagging blogs. He also shows us that swagger need not be encapsulated in material goods (see his beat-up shoes), or congruous (his proclamations about being an ex-robber or felon, but still being positive, while toting dozens of guns, and discouraging the ‘hood mindset’ while still being proud to “fuck that ho’ in her ass” until “that pussy squirt[s] milk”). The future’s so bright, we gotta retire “swag”.

This has been a based cultural analysis by Devin Kenny. Sloppy scholarship,? Nah, I’m stayin’ positive.  Based, because I used to be a shoplifter, but now I’ve got my mind right and am stackin’ texts before depostin’ checks.