Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
Hannibal Buress is hilarious. Straight up. The guy is doing his thing in 2013 on the stand-up comedy scene, and beyond (did you see him in the new Kevin Durant commercial?) And though he doesn’t use it as a gimmick, Hannibal definitely makes it clear during his act that he’s a huge hip-hop head. The Chicago native, who now resides in Brooklyn, weaves bits into his set about rap music, whether he’s cracking jokes about an over-the-top Odd Future chorus, or how rappers always say how bright their chains are in their rhymes. And earlier this year, Hannibal added music video director to his impressive resume (which also includes previous writing gigs at Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock and a guest spot on Louis C.K.’s show Louie), linking up with fellow Chi-Town representative Chance The Rapper for the Jash-funded “NaNa” video, where the pair took to the Hollywood streets to spend $5,000.
Since Hannibal’s a seasoned rap fan, and we love his comedy, we linked up with him earlier this week to find out what five songs he has in Heavy Rotation. And over afternoon pints of Smithwick’s in a local Williamsburg bar, just up the block from the Knitting Factory where he hosts a weekly comedy night on Sundays at 9pm (fall through!), he broke down his selections for us. Check out Hannibal’s five current favorite tracks below, and make sure to catch him out on tour with Dave Chappelle, Flight of the Conchords, and more at the Oddball Festival, which kicks off this Friday in Austin, Texas.
1. Wale “Black Heroes”
Hannibal Buress: “I’ve been listening to Wale since ‘08. There was a ‘Nike Boots (Remix)’ on a Lil Wayne mixtape. Wayne did a verse on it, but I didn’t know who this dude was. Wale was saying weird references that nobody I was listening to was rapping about, like, ‘Everybody know me like the Contra code for extra men.’ So I ended up looking up more of his stuff, and I heard tracks like ‘Back in The Go-Go’ and stuff like that. I saw him live a few times live before he signed with MMG. I saw him at the Highline [Ballroom] in ‘09, and he had a really good live show. He had the [Go-go] band UCB at the show, and it was just really dope. I’m a fan.
“On this track, he really steps the rapping up. The beat is hot, and part of that song is some of the best rapping I’ve heard this year, as far as the flow, and timing. I start listening like, ‘I wonder if he did that in one take? It doesn’t sound punched in.’ It’s just slick as hell. He’s flowing on that shit. I want to see that track live.
“[The Jerry Seinfeld outro] is cool, but the thing I don’t like about it is it [messes up my flow if I want to play the song on repeat]. I gotta listen to that. I was thinking about that [outro, too]. Was it scripted, and was Seinfeld just playing along? Or did he actually play Seinfeld, like, ‘I just wanted to see if you’d come through.’ Both are funny, because if it’s scripted, it’s funny that they wrote it. If he played him, it’s funny that Wale is playing Seinfeld on a track. But I don’t think [Wale] would put [Seinfeld] out like that. Either way, Seinfeld would have to clear it.”
2. Chance The Rapper “Pusha Man”
“Some people put me on to him when [Chance's debut mixtape] 10 Day was out. I remember my friend was like, ‘You gotta check out Chance The Rapper.’ And I thought it was Chance from those VH1 shows. Chance from I Love New York. And I was like, ‘Nah, I ain’t fuckin’ with that,’ just based off dude being on those shows. [Laughs.]
“So I listened to Chance’s stuff, and I posted it [on Twitter], for people to check out 10 Day. And it turned out he was a fan [of my stand-up] also. Then, when he was doing the video, Jash maybe saw that I had posted about him, and they asked if I wanted to direct the video. And I was like, ‘Are you sure? Because, I’ve never directed a video before. I’m a stand-up comedian.’
“So I asked some friends to help me with a concept, but we ended up just making it about us spending the $5,000 on the fly, which worked great for me not having a concept. So we were just out and about looking for things that were interesting. [We went to] Hollywood to shoot the people in the costumes. Then we’re in Hollywood, like, ‘There’s a double decker bus.’ So we paid to get on a double decker bus. Then we rode past the Laugh Factory, and we were like, ‘Oh, let’s see if we can shoot in there.’ We worked on the fly, which was a lot of fun. And people seemed to enjoy the video. It was cool. I haven’t got that many offers yet to direct more videos. How is that possible? People must think I’m busy. [Laughs.]
“I like ‘Pusha Man’ because of the way it comes in. I’m big on intros, and how tracks kick off. He’s like, ‘Ten damn..’ and then the drums are so weird on it, but he catches it in a weird way. He hits the shit in a crazy way. I’m a super rewind head. So I listened to the first fifteen, twenty seconds of that over and over. I asked him, ‘Did they make the drums afterwards on that part of the beat?’ I thought maybe they put the drums around him. But he said, ‘Nah, that’s just how the beat is.’ It’s such a smooth song.
“There’s some other cats from Chicago [I really like]. The BRKF$T Club. It’s Fonz-E Mak and this guy Calez. Fonz-E Mak had a great mixtape called The 6:21 Theory. Calez had a tape called Too Broke. They’re dope. They’re doing their thing. Julian Malone is good, too. Show You Suck, I saw him at SXSW, he was dope. There are a lot of people out of the Chi right now. Tree is awesome. And he makes his own beats. Tree is dope.”
3. Thundercat “Tron Song”
“I hadn’t heard of [Brainfeeder artist] Thundercat at all until Flying Lotus was posting about it, and how he was working on the album. He was on this long Twitter thing talking about it. And I like Flying Lotus’ stuff, so I said if he’s working with him and vouches for it, I’ll check it out. So I downloaded the album, and the whole album is great. But this track stood out to me, I guess because it’s so kind of bare bones and weird. It’s a smooth track. It sounds epic and stripped down at the same time. And then it turns out, the song is about his cat. [Laughs.] Which makes it even better.”
4. Phonte ft. Eric Roberson “Who Loves You More”
“I’ve been a Little Brother fan since before I knew who they were. I heard a track of theirs and thought it was De La Soul or something. This is back in college when your friends would play mix CDs or whatever, in ‘02, ‘03, like the Napster era, when someone would just play a bunch of tracks and you wouldn’t necessarily [know the artist] unless they were recognizable. So the track ‘What Ever You Say,’ when Phonte is like, ‘I got your head still bobbin’, and my verse didn’t rhyme.’ I thought that was De La Soul until a couple years later.
“Then, I just followed their stuff. The Listening, and a bunch of their tracks I really enjoyed. Then I went to a Foreign Exchange concert. I’ve seen them live a couple times. So when Phonte dropped his solo shit, of course I was gonna check it out. This track is good because it’s straight up storytelling, and talking about some real experiences. It’s a dope track.
“Phonte [and I actually linked up on Twitter]. I said I was a big fan, and he was like, ‘Oh, I’m a big fan of yours, too.’ And I was going through Raleigh, North Carolina, and I said, ‘Hey man, would you want to do something at my show?’ And he was like, ‘How ‘bout I do an intro?’ And I never met him, but he intro’d me to the stage and shit. And he’s a performer, so the intro was crazy, and he had the whole crowd standing up on their feet, which [rarely] happens. I get a standing ovation every now and again. But he had everybody hyped. It was the greatest intro ever. I wish it was on film. He’s just an entertainer, and so charismatic. He was a cool dude.”
5. The Roots “Doin’ It Again”
“That track is so energetic. It’s dense as fuck. You got Black Thought spitting on it, then you got the John Legend sample. And it’s super short. [Looks at his iPhone.] It goes 2:23. It’s one of those repeat track for me. I’m into the repeat, dog. I don’t do it when I have company, but if I’m by myself, I’ll play a song over and over. That’s definitely in my Top 25 played [on my iPhone].”
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