After having previously declared himself a (possibly) proud homosexual, the rapper Lil B has now announced he has (possibly not) contracted full-blown AIDS. For the Berkeley, California-residing rapper’s faithful followers, this likely fabricated revelation is nothing new; he broke the news yesterday in the form of a song titled “I Got AIDS (AIDS AWARENESS SONG).” The outro features a spoken word monologue where the Based God pleads with his fans to get tested regularly.
Like most of Lil B’s music, the song has caused a wave of Internet reaction, not least the suspicion it’s a cynical attempt to drum up interest in his new mixtape, BasedGod Velli. But Lil B isn’t alone when it comes to rappers taking it upon themselves to give out medical advice on how to avoid the murky world of sexually transmitted diseases. And just like B’s bizarro claim that “Magic Johnson — only one that’s still alive,” most time they’re talking clap-trap.
But those are issues of language and identity; the consequences are social and pertain to linguistics. If “I Got AIDS” ends up as an ironic t-shirt, it glosses over one crucial difference — AIDS kills.
There was a time when STD-aware raps followed a simple formula. One-time Treacherous Three member Kool Moe Dee‘s 1986 song “Go See The Doctor” is a textbook case: Dapper rapper meets a girl, gets hot and heavy with her, and then wakes up with a burning sensation and ponders, “Why is my thing thing burning like this?” Cue a trip to the doctor, the characterization of the lady as a walking disease machine (or “Mrs. Microwave” as Moe Dee would have it), and the life lesson to always remember to use protection when hooking up with random members of the opposite sex you just so happen pick up while idly walking down the block. It was simple but sexist stuff: rappers were the victims of some loose minx, and the whole fable was wrapped up in a safe sex warning.
Since then rappers have taken it upon themselves to offer up some farcical STD warnings. KRS-One may be a self-proclaimed hip-hop teacher, but he seemed to have skipped medical school, believing that AIDS is somehow a seasonal affliction: “‘Cause now in winter AIDS attacks/ So run out and get your jimmy hats,” he rapped on “Jimmy.” The Wu-Tang Clan‘s non-sequitur king Ghostface decided that STDs are performance related, by explaining on “Clap,” “Fuck bitches raw/ Why? ‘Cause I’m a pro at it.” Nas took it upon himself to offer up an unnecessarily graphic warning sign on “Dr. Knockboot,” when he implored, “Don’t hit that pussy if that shit’s blistering.” (God’s own cherub also suggested listening to Hot-97 while you put your hand up a girl’s dress.) And while Lil Wayne suggested his rap foes had STDs on “Gonorrhea,” the earlier track “Go DJ” saw him dropping the unreconstructed belief that, “You homo niggas getting AIDS in the ass.”
Against this impressive body of non-A.M.A.-certified medical advice, Lil B’s rap might seem virtuous. After all, cynicism about attention-grabbing tactics aside, he drops earnest lines like, “Now I’m fucked ’cause I had unprotected sex/ Take it from me, go and get checked/ That be your best bet.”
But this is Lil B, who is something of a living Internet meme. He’s astute at benefitting from a skewed reception to his words. With “I Got AIDS,” though, there’s something off-kilter about the Based God’s devoted fans deciding the song might be taken as a new slogan or empowering catchphrase. For years rappers have insisted they’ve reclaimed the n-word for their own agenda; B himself somewhat attempted a similar ruse with the term “gay” on his I’m Gay (I’m Happy) project earlier this year. But those are issues of language and identity; the consequences are social and pertain to linguistics. If “I Got AIDS” ends up as an ironic t-shirt, it glosses over one crucial difference — AIDS kills.
After hearing “I Got AIDS,” ?uestlove of The Roots was moved to Tweet, “Even with good intentions, I still declare 2007-12 the “post-modern Ye-ified narcissist-histrionic disorder” era. Why?” It was a typically verbose comment from ?uesto, but he may be over-thinking things. Sadly, Lil B’s latest statement falls along startlingly traditional hip-hop lines. Just like Weezy on “Go DJ,” where does hip-hop usually goes after alluding to homosexuality? The consequence of AIDS, of course. Far from controversial, Lil B’s “I Got AIDS” might be the rapper’s most conservative move yet.