Lil B, 'I Got AIDS': Is this what progress looks like?

So the first rapped lyrics on "I Got AIDS" are, indeed, "I got AIDS." This isn't a song that fucks around; it straddles the elephant in the blog comment box and starts beating that sucker on the ears with a spiked riding crop. This is significant in a number of ways, not least of which are these: 1) no major pop figure has ever strung those words together on a chorus, 2) AIDS remains a terrifyingly real enough cultural proposition, even today, that this statement hits the listener's psyche with the force of a load of bricks, and 3) Lil B is a rapper.

Traditionally, rappers have been loathe to address or co-sign things homosexual, and the genre is regressively retrograde enough that HIV is generally associated with what many perceive as diminished masculinity, Easy-E notwithstanding; the only two AIDS-related rap references I can think of right now are somebody imploring somebody else to "eat an AIDS dick" on an old Dr. Dre album and Eminem's "I've got a disease and they don't know what to call it": sublimations from The Slim Shady LP. So an high-visibility MC going real-talk/public service announcement on AIDS is, in itself, kinda startling; it begs the question, seriously, as to why it took rap this long to reach this point.

Did I mention that "I Got AIDS" is a pretty good song? Yeah; it's a pretty good song, reminiscent of those great old Geto Boys, Scarface, Tone Loc, and Biz Markie jams where the participants weren't so much performing as sitting at the kitchen table at the end of a long day, telling a story. The production's a depressive smear of chillwave synths and downtrodden drums, and when Lil B isn't rapping or instructing us to get an AIDS test - it's tempting to think that maybe "get an AIDS test" could supplant the hoary "eat an AIDS dick" as a malevolent euphemism, because while it would still be a malevolent euphemism it could manage something positive, maybe save some lives - he's having the sort of murmured conversation with a friend that probably happens whenever somebody finds out that he or she has AIDS. The lyrics themselves are straight Based God: conversational enough that they don't even feel like lyrics, more dejected than enraged. Our protagonist caught AIDS - and herpes - from his catting-around girlfriend, but he's been catting around, too, so there's no telling just how many lives were not-so-innocently ruined, and the subtext (or one subtext, anyway) is that "I Got AIDS" represents a small cross-section of a larger disaster, beyond the narrator's own wounded, doomed narcissism. There are probably a ton of really uncomfortable phone calls to be made. With all due respect to the Flaming Lips, if any theme deserves the six-hour song treatment, AIDS prevention is it. Maybe the most interesting and unassuming and hard-hitting aspect of "I Got AIDS" is the every-dude aspect of the song, given how millionaire MCs wrongheadedly expect fans stuck in the 99% to connect to tales of triumph and tragedy drenched in champagne and opulence.

It's tempting to over think B's wielding of the phrase "I Got AIDS." "I Got AIDS" suggests that he actually has AIDS, which I doubt; a switched emphasis ala "I Got AIDS" intimates that the speaker has AIDS as opposed to some other sexually-transmitted disease. I like to think that if the Based God were watching me type this, he'd say that it's more along the lines of "I Got AIDS," like "this song is my own small, well-intentioned effort at wiping out this as-yet-deathless scourge." Tempting, but. This is a guy who released a free mixtape on the Internet titled I'm Gay, so every altruistic-yet-controversial move he makes deserves to be met with at least a dollop of skepticism.

And yet. Perhaps this is some sort of progress.

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