Lionel B knows a thing or two about Youtube, and he’s here to bring that same energy to the rap game. The celebrity Youtuber, single father, and hustler hails from Panama City, Florida, a true testimony of someone who came from nothing to something.
From being homeless to establishing his name as one of the most well-known Youtubers in the space, with over 87 million views and over 347K subscribers, Lionel is proud to be the face of his own Lionel B Show.
But don’t get it twisted, he’s a recording artist too. Growing up on 2 Live Crew and Luke, it was Biggie’s “Juicy” that changed his entire outlook on music.
Most recently, he unleashed his newest single titled “Shawty Go Low,” which strays from his usual bars and lyricism. Admitting he’s adapting to the current times, Lionel showcases versatility and talents to be able to expand out of the norm with this new record — which he deems super special to him.
AllHipHop: How was it growing up in Panama City, Florida?
Lionel B: It was crazy for me because being a kid, the area was so bad that I actually smelled crack cocaine being smoked before I ever smelled weed. I didn’t even know what weed smelled like until I was a little bit older. I used to smell crack and thought that was weed because ain’t no difference, I was a kid. When I got older, it confused me because damn, that’s not weed. People are looking at me like what? The upbringing was crazy, it’s a small city. It’s a run-down city. Either you go to prison for selling dope or you get killed, that’s what the area is.
AllHipHop: What made you fall in love with hip-hop?
Lionel B: I fell in love with Hip-Hop when my mom bought me my first cassette tape. It was the soundtrack to the movie Beat Street. When I heard it, I was only 3 years old and it changed my life. I never heard anything like it. Prior to that, it was Soul and R&B music. Also Hip-Hop-inspired artist Paul Hardcastle, who had a really dope instrumental song I heard and immediately had to have it! To this day, it gives me a dope vibe. The song is called “Rain Forest,” that beat alone inspired my Hip-Hop career.
AllHipHop: Talk about your controversial battle rap song with “Verbal Murda” and being able to really spit bars.
Lionel B: I want people to know that I can rap. I’m not just a YouTuber, I don’t just talk stuff. Music came before YouTube. I’m letting people know that I can still rap. Maybe I didn’t pursue it before the YouTube game, at some point I got tired of music. I didn’t really have an ambition,it was a lot going on. My son at the time was 2, I knew it wasn’t that time for me so I fell back from everything. “Verbal Murda” was my reintroduction to let people know okay, rap has transitioned so much in the past 14 to 15 years, but I can still rap. I still remember my upbringing, I can still battle somebody. When I did the song, the first person I sent it to was Papoose. I sent it to Fat Joe as well, I don’t think they was too happy about the Lil Wayne line in there, but it is what it is.
AllHipHop: What did you say?
Lionel B: I didn’t hear from Fat Joe after that, I don’t think he was happy.
AllHipHop: What inspired “Shawty Go Low”?
Lionel B: “Shawty Go Low” was a transition, moving with the times. It’s cool to be a lyricist but that’s all it’s ever going to be. Trying to go with the times, more so getting into the new millennium, the 2021 vibes. It was a vibe, the record felt good. I remember I recorded till 4 or 5 in the morning one day. I changed my style up even with the hook. It’s funny because some people thought it was Mr. Cheeks from the Lost Boyz, that’s my homie. They’re like “yo, is that Cheeks on the hook?” Nah that’s me, but it sounds so different from anything I’ve done or anything that people have heard for me. To me, that record was super special.
AllHipHop: You stalked Wu-Tang Clan, can you bring us back to those days?
Lionel B: I was super inspired by their style as a kid, I’d accidentally scratch the CD and rebuy it over and over again. I didn’t necessarily stalk the group per say, but I was super intrigued by the movement. Back then, their songs were heavily in my rotation and still to this day. My teenage son absolutely loves the Wu-Tang TV show as well, so that was a great time to bond with him. Have him discovering the group in high school, like I did almost 30 years ago. [laughs]
AllHipHop: Talk about discovering Keyshia Ka’oir, how did it happen? What did you see in her?
Lionel B: I did my research on her after seeing her in the Drake and Timbaland video. Her publicist sent me multiple emails to get her booked with me. I saw she had amazing uniqueness, she had that “it” factor to her. Everyone isn’t a star, but she had this amazing glow about her that couldn’t be denied. Her personality and vibe was really down-to-earth and lit. When I met Amber Rose around the same time that year, she had that same glow about her.
AllHipHop: What is it that you want fans to get from your story?
Lionel B: Perseverance. If you have a dream, a goal, or aspirations, anything you ever want is on the other side of fear. If I was a fearful person, so many things were telling me “don’t go on Youtube. Don’t rap, don’t do this.” If you listen to those little voices saying “don’t do anything,” you’ll never make it. With me being able to get 87 million views by initially getting on the platform, I was definitely afraid to even upload one video. Not only am I a celebrity vlogger where I’m talking about people’s lives, it’s a double whammy. You don’t want people to judge you, but you’re coming online and judging other people.
It takes a bold a## person to do that, to put yourself out there in the world every single day to state your facts and give people your perspective on things. That was one of my biggest challenges. Once I got beyond my fear, I was able to tell people my opinion. It’s not facts, this is my opinion. This is how I feel, you can like it or love it, but I always try to make sure my facts are aligned with what it needs to be. Go beyond your fear, don’t let anything hold you back. Stand your truth and success is on the other side.
AllHipHop: How do you view today’s rap game compared to when you were coming up?
Lionel B: I view the rap game today as really lacking the lyrics that we came up on. The beats are amazing sometimes, but the lyrics be super lackluster. I’d love to see more creative come back into the game. We need more Kendrick Lamar’s and J. Cole’s. Some of the stuff I hear be catchy and cool, but it’s not like it was back in the day creatively.
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to tell us?
Lionel B: Shout out to y’all, check out “Shawty Go Low.” This year, I have a new single coming out with E.D.I. Mean from the Outlawz. Super honored to work with him, he’s the last living person on the “Hit Em Up” record. To me, that’s super dope because I’m a big fan of Tupac and Biggie. It’s crazy, everybody that heard this song says it’s absolutely crazy. It’s dope, we’re going up.