Admittedly I’m late to the Lil B party. However, as trite as it may sound, better late than never. My first introduction to Lil B was via Instagram. Scrolling through a series of photos, as one usually does when they are beyond bored, I stopped on a group of twenty something year old men in the middle of a dancefloor. With hands gestured awkwardly in the air, they were holding what looked to be imaginary pots and cutlery, with the caption, “Cookin”, #lilb #basedgod. To say I was befuddled would be an understatement. Slightly amused, I liked the photo and stored it under “things to google in the future.” The picture warranted further investigation, but at the time I had zero energy for drug euphemism laced trap beats. I’m not the biggest fan of this genre of music anyway. So I ignored.
Over and over, the basedgod as Lil B has coined himself, continued to show up in my peripherals. My bias against trap music was winning the internal battle I was having on whether or not Lil B was worth my time, and I had all but decided that he wasn’t my cup of tea when I was stopped in my social media tracks a couple of weeks ago. A musician friend posted Lil B’s music video to, “No Black Person is Ugly” on Facebook and I was forced to pay attention. The title, an obviously controversial one, caught all of my attention. I immediately clicked the link and listened as Lil B, in the best way he could, described his take on the effects of racism and colorism in the black community. The nostalgic beat is what drew me in. But the lyrics are what made me stay.
At times, sounding awkward and unsure, Lil B offers up his opinion on everything from rape, working for “the man”, the politics of complexion, to recycling. In the second verse of the song he attempts to dissect the conundrum that is black beauty in the context of whiteness. For those of you who are lost, I refer you to Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” Or better yet, Youtube “The Doll Test”, an experiment given to both white and black children to determine how our little people view themselves and other races of people through asking them a series of questions in reference to the race of the dolls in front of them. The results will break your heart, but they are a necessary reminder of how different races of people view each other, in particularly how they view black folks. Now, Lil B is no Lupe, but thats okay. We don’t need him to be and he admits this himself saying, “My English not perfect, I’m not the best at school.” However, we understand what he means when he says that “propaganda slandered black beauty”. Unless you are living under a rock of obtuseness, you understand that the media makes the decision for the masses in regards to what is hot, sexy, beautiful and worthy of praise. I mean it aint called programming for nothing. We may argue that we don’t listen to mainstream media, we make our own decisions, we are above the fray. That does not change the fact that we live in a society dominated by European standards of beauty, and those ideals reign supreme. Lil B is calling this out saying, “I’m not stupid, I see it everyday.” Heard that? The basedgod sees through the tomfoolery. In the video, Lil B goes to a store and demonstrates a perfect example of this by having the cameraman focus on a magazine rack full of lily white faces plastered on the covers of various magazine publications to further drive this point home.
Lil B then goes on to argue that black people are not shown in the media. I initially disagreed with this statement. However, Lil B goes on to explain himself by saying that certain features of black people are not celebrated a la big noses, afro textured hair, big lips. And you won’t see that in the media. The things that make one undeniably physically black, or the things that make us drastically physically different from our white brethren are the things that people deem unnattractive. And then there’s the hook, which rings more as a call to action than anything else. Simple, yet profound, Lil B states matter of factly, “No black person is ugly don’t say it one time.”
To further understand the significance of this song, one must comprehend the African American communities relationship to the word “ugly”. We talked about what white people by and large deem beautiful, it is in fact themselves. Unfortunately, because of racism, both overt and covert, that standard of beauty has become the apex for a large part of the black community as well. One can see how this can be problematic. For a population to idolize a standard of beauty that is foreign from their own, in turn creates an insidious cycle of self hate. Which in turn creates instances where black people who don’t fit this palatable standard are shunned, ostracized, or referred to as ugly. Lil B is aware of the use of the word ugly and the context in which it is thrown around. With the assistance of a laid back beat and a smile Lil B urges black folks to stop using the term to describe each other. Genius. Gold star in my book.
No Black Person is Ugly is asking for people to see black people as human beings, even if they look different from you. It is asking you to not insult black people who have features that are natural to the DNA that flows through their veins. Say what you want about Lil B, but while some of the hip hop heavyweights of our time are busy buying Basquiat paintings or going on rants about the fashion industry, Lil B made the decision to make a song because he felt something was askew in the way that blackness has and continues to be ridiculed and misrepresented. And in retrospect I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that a song like this was even made.
As seen on OogeeWoogee