The idiosyncratic tweets of Berkeley rapper Lil B are a staple of Bay Area internet culture. B’s bizarro feed blends the crude with the inspirational — toggling between oddball jokes, heartfelt messages of support for his fans, and, of course, feet pics.
Often, as with a tweet from May 11, B offers a simple affirmation: “I APPRECIATE YOU! – Lil B.” Sometimes, he takes things to a stranger place, as he did in 2018, when he tweeted a nonsensical short story about visiting Alaska and licking someone’s butt. The replies are filled with “TYBG” — an acronym that stands for “thank you, based God.”
But Lil B’s Twitter stream isn’t just about uplifting his fans through humor and words of praise. It’s also where he turns to learn more about the world. On Oct. 22, Lil B fired off an enthusiastic, caps-locked tweet asking his followers to fill him in on the Indian caste system — an oppressive and deeply ingrained social structure which makes it particularly difficult for the country’s poorest to escape poverty.
One of the Kapil Seshasayee, a protest musician based in Glasgow, sent him a DM with a link to coverage of his 2018 debut album, A Sacred Bore. The album examines the caste system, social pressure from which Seshasayee says has followed some of his friends and family all the way from India to the UK.
Lil B loved what he heard, and five months later, on Friday, May 21, Seshasayee dropped his brand new Lil B-featuring single, “Hill Station Reprise.”
The song is a spacey, synth-heavy, syncopated jam, topped by Lil B’s signature, slow flow lagging comfortably behind the beat. The pair recorded the song remotely, with Seshasayee sending Lil B a rough, instrumental cut of an unreleased song, and Lil B sending back stems within a couple of hours. “His email manner is aligned pretty much exactly with his tweets,” says Seshasayee. “A real rollercoaster ride with this enthusiasm throughout.”
The futuristic sound is a clear departure from Seshasayee’s first record. Though he’s always turned to computerized production to sew his instrumentals together, A Sacred Bore relies significantly more on acoustic echos and moments of silence than his recent single. Core to his debut was his use of the waterphone, a tuned steel resonating bowl best known for its use in horror movie sound effects. “Hill Station Reprise,” on the other hand, sounds high-tech, filling up every inch of sonic space like an expanding foam earplug.
Seshasayee’s been busy since releasing his 2018 record. For one, he was commissioned by the BBC to rework a Ravi Shankar composition — no small task — in celebration of the artist’s 100th birthday. He also joined the ITB Live agency, joining the ranks alongside Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath, and Christina Aguilara. Most importantly, he’s recently announced live tour dates, with a series of socially-distanced concerts in England planned in Late May.
Seshasayee’s biggest transformation, however, has been in adopting the title “protest musician.” Though his first album was about caste, Seshasayee didn’t set out to have an overtly political repertoire until more recently. “Worldwide political unrest,” he says, drove him to focus on political music full time and sing about inequality and nationalism in India. “It struck me that this was my calling and that I’ll be releasing divisive concept albums forever,” he says.
It’s that passion for Indian politics that brought Seshasayee to Lil B, who, for his part, has struck a balance between political music, party music, and satire since 2004. He’s released 237 songs across three mixtapes in the last year, showcasing his wide range from disco track “Save the Planet” to hard-hitting “Bay Area Shit.”
Seshasayee’s second album, Laal, will be available to stream in September 2021.
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