hip hop

Inside Pop Ep. 82 - Jay-Z’s 4:44, Best TV of 2017 (So Far), Bishop Briggs

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Inside Pop

This week, Inside Pop dives into Jay-Z's new album 4:44- we discuss some of the personal issues he revealed in his lyrics along with his evolution from his first album to now. We then discuss other artists who have bared their soul through music and some of the confessional - like songs with which we have connected - including Beyonce, Lauryn Hill, Prince, Mary J. Blige and more.

Then, we revel in the abundance of programming that Peak TV has given us in 2017 with our Best of TV picks of the last 6 months. Find out which shows made our individual lists and which shows we shared our undying affection for.

Plus, Sean gives his Big Sell review and rating of last week's suggestion from Amita- the singer/songwriter, Bishop Briggs. Then, he shares his Big Sell which comes from one of the series on his Best of TV (So Far) list.

Follow Inside Pop on Twitter and Instagram @PopInsiders

Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: A$AP Ferg and Dr. Katz

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Bullseye
Guests: 
A$AP Ferg
Guests: 
Jonathan Katz

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

A$AP Ferg on how to form a successful hip-hop collective

Rapper and fashion designer A$AP Ferg was born Darold Ferguson and grew up in Harlem's Hamilton Heights neighborhood. Together with A$AP Rocky, A$AP Bari and many more, he established himself as one of the best MCs in the New York hip hop collective A$AP Mob. In 2013 he released his first solo record, Trap Lord, which included the hit single "Shabba", which hit #7 on the Billboard hot 100. Ferg has spent the last couple of years cultivating a sound that's totally unique, touching on genres like trap, house, soul and dubstep. He's achieved this by working with artists like the girl group Haim, Bone Thugs N' Harmony, Missy Elliott, and more.

A$AP Ferg and Jesse talk about how attending an arts high school fueled his creativity and allowed him experiences he wouldn't of otherwise had. They talk about the beginnings of A$AP Mob, and the death of his dear friend and A$AP Mob co-founder A$AP Yams.

A$AP Ferg's latest album Always Strive and Prosper is out now, and has a new mixtape called Still Striving coming out in August. And don't forget to check out his clothing line Traplord.

Click here to listen to Jesse's interview with A$AP Ferg!


Photo:Michael Fein

Jonathan Katz on Dr. Katz Professional Therapist

Jonathan Katz is best known for Dr. Katz Professional Therapist, his animated hit TV series from the 1990's that aired on Comedy Central where he voiced Dr. Katz. It was one of their weirdest animated TV shows on air at the time. Katz took the saying, "stand up is therapy for comedian's" and made a whole show based around it, having a whole host of characters on the show played different comedian's in his circle, all to be seen by Dr. Katz. Since the show went off the air in 1999, Katz has kept writing and doing standup.

Jonathan tells Jesse what it was like working with Robin Williams, when he was on tour with his then popular TV show Mork & Mindy. They talk about how he created Dr. Katz Professional Therapist, and the revival of that show in audio form. Plus, they talk about multiple sclerosis, and how it has affected his stand-up career.

Jonathan's Dr. Katz: The Audio Files is available on Audible now.

Click here to listen to Jesse's interview with Jonathan Katz!

The Outshot: Prince's Sign O' The Times

Jesse makes a case for why the now 30 year old Sign O' The Times is Prince's most essentially Prince album.

Click here to listen to Jesse's outshot on Prince's "Sign O' The Times"!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Big Boi and Catherine O'Hara

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Bullseye
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Bio Boi
Guests: 
Catherine O'Hara

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Hip Hop Icon Big Boi: Getting Familiar with Uncharted Territory

The rapper and producer Big Boi has sold over 50 million records as a solo artist and as half of the platinum-selling hip hop duo OutKast. The innovative Atlanta-based group broke out in the mid-1990s with "Rosa Parks" and "Elevators", then followed up with crossover pop hits like "The Way You Move" and "Bombs Over Baghdad".

OutKast found huge commercial success with an experimental brand of hip hop, eschewing old-school samples in favor of new sounds. Big Boi has been the more musically prolific member of the group. He's gone on to produce several solo albums and collaborate with artists across the music spectrum, from fellow ATL-based rapper Ludacris to funk-master George Clinton to the indie rock band Wavves.

Big Boi joins us to talk about the early days recording in a clay-walled basement, coming to terms with fame, and where to go musically when you've hit monumental commercial success.

Big Boi's new album Boomiverse is out on June 16th.

If you liked this, let someone know! Click here to share this segment.

Catherine O'Hara on Being Slightly, Perfectly Odd

Catherine O'Hara's work embodies a particularly special brand of comic absurdity. She helped launch SCTV alongside other burgeoning comedy greats like John Candy and Eugene Levy, quit the show, but still moved on to star in blockbuster comedies. She became spiritually possessed in Beetlejuice, played a memorable, anxiety-ridden mother to Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, and became a critical part of Christopher Guest's ensemble mockumentaries, like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.

More recently, she's been in HBO's critically-acclaimed biopic Temple Grandin and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, and CBC's Schitts Creek.

O'Hara talks to us about the difficulties of being a woman in the SCTV writers' room, creating memorable characters with her longtime friend and collaborator Eugene Levy, and her own secret comedic formula.

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The Outshot: Fast, Cheap, and Out Of Control

At first, Errol Morris's documentary Fast, Cheap & Out of Control looks like it's about four men and their professional occupations: a lion tamer, a topiarist, a roboticist, a scientist who studies naked mole rats. But the movie is about much more than just weird jobs.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Cristela Alonzo and Stretch Armstrong

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Cristela Alonzo
Guests: 
Stretch Armstrong

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Photo: Tommaso Boddi / Stringer

Cristela Alonzo has a new stand-up special on Netflix, Lower Classy

Cristela Alonzo is a veteran standup comedian, actress, writer, and producer. She's also something of a pioneer. You might remember her from the ABC sitcom Cristela, where she was the first Latina to create, write, produce, and star in her own show.

In this week's episode, she talks to Jesse about her formative years growing up in South Texas with an undocumented parent. Hiding from police and immigration raids were daily realities in her small border town. Her family was also desperately poor--she recalls squatting in an abandoned diner.

Down the road, Cristela discovered she had a talent for weaving those tough experiences into comedy gold. That gift is on full display in her new Netflix standup special, Lower Classy, as she takes on difficult topics including racial stereotypes, immigration, poverty, and parenting, all with her trademark smile and laugh. Cristela recalls the long journey that led to the special, and how being a comedian is, for her, about more than simply making people laugh.

Cristela Alonzo's new standup special, Lower Classy, is available to stream on Netflix now.


Photo: John Phillips / Stringer

Stretch Armstrong

Stretch Armstrong is a renowned DJ, record collector, and writer. It's impossible to tell the story of New York rap in the 1990s--what some people consider the Golden Era of Hip-Hop--without at least mentioning The Stretch and Bobbito Show, the influential college radio program that he and Robert "Bobbito" Garcia co-hosted from 1990 to 1998.

In their time, Stretch and Bobbito were among the only FM radio outlets for a generation of New York rappers. MCs like Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious BIG, and Nas. The behind-the-scenes stories from those days are the stuff of hip-hop folklore, and the subject of documentary that came out a little over a year ago, called Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives. It's available to stream on Netflix now.

Stretch, whose real name is Adrian Bartos, also recently co-authored a book. He and Evan Auerbach teamed up to make a visual history of New York City's club scene, called No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Flyers 1988-1999.

The Outshot: "Wells for Boys"

In this week's Outshot, Jesse shares a Saturday Night Live sketch that spoke to him in a particularly magical way. Behold, Wells for Boys:

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: DJ Quik

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Bullseye
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DJ Quik
Guests: 
Michael Ian Black

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DJ Quik Talks About Bollywood Samples, Life Imitating Art, and Hairstyles

DJ Quik is one of the most prolific figures in West Coast hip hop. He's a great rapper, but first and foremost, he's always considered himself a producer. He's produced some of the most inventive samples and beats of the genre. And even though he geeks out about latest and greatest studio equipment, he's always used whatever it takes to capture the sound he wants -- even if it means recording a music sample with a VCR.

Quik first made a name for himself in the hip hop scene in the late 80's and early 90's, handing out homemade mix tapes and deejaying around Los Angeles. He's since released ten albums, and produced records for everyone from Tupac, Snoop Dogg and Xzibit to Tony! Toni! Toné!.

He'll talk about why a leaked record and a couple of guns made him realize he needed a new circle of friends, why he never wants to stop making pretty beats for his records and his inspiration for his awesome, awesome hairstyles over the years.

DJ Quik's new EP is calledRosecrans. It's available now.

Michael Ian Black Talks About Children’s Halloween Costumes - Recorded Live at MaxFunCon East 2012

Michael Ian Black is an actor, comedian and author perhaps best known from his work with the sketch comedy troupe The State, or from his subsequent collaborations with State-mates both on television (Stella, Michael & Michael Have Issues) and film (Wet Hot American Summer). His disarmingly charming smarm made him a perfect fit for the talking-head format of VH1, but it also makes him a terrific author, as evidenced in latest book Navel Gazing: True Tales of Bodies, Mostly Mine (but also my mom’s, which I know sounds weird).

Michael Ian Black performed live at MaxFunCon East in 2012.

The Outshot: Skymaul 2

Have you ever picked up and actually flipped through one of those in-flight catalogs? Well, the sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser takes all of the grotesque and excessive product offerings of Skymall, and brings them to another level in Skymaul 2: Where America Buys His Stuff.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Russell Simmons & Carl Wilson

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CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THIS EPISODE DIRECTLY

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Slowing Down "Rush": Russell Simmons on Building Hip Hop, Authenticity, and Finding Stillness

Russell Simmons is one of the few people that can honestly say he helped build hip hop. He was an entrepreneur early on, promoting parties and hustling fake cocaine when he was still a college student in the late 1970s. He was there one night at the Charles Gallery, when the headliner DJ Easy G brought on a local rapper, and Simmons felt Eddie Cheeba work the crowd into a frenzy.

It was his first real introduction to hip hop, and he could see that it would be more than just a passing fad. He went on to co-found the music label Def Jam Recordings with Rick Rubin and build a roster of hugely successful hip hop artists, starting with a teenage LL Cool J and the punk rock-turned-hip hop group The Beastie Boys. Simmons worked hard to build sustainable brands for his artists, and took pride in their authenticity. And he wasn't content to focus on music -- his ambition led him to create an empire, expanding into fashion, television, film, journalism, finance, and philanthropy.

Simmons' abundance of energy helped earn him the nickname "Rush", but he says he owes much of his success to inner tranquility and stillness. He's practiced yoga and meditation for over fifteen years, and in his book, Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple, Simmons seeks to demystify meditation for the average person, and explain its link to personal and professional growth.

He joins us to talk about the pivotal moment that he heard Eddie Cheeba and found himself sold on hip hop, building Def Jam, leaving drugs behind for yoga and meditation and finding inner stillness.

This interview originally aired in 2014.

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How We Decide What's Good... and What's Bad: Carl Wilson on Celine Dion and the Nature of Taste

Carl Wilson is a music critic. His job is to tell people why certain music is good, and why other music isn't. You could call him a tastemaker. But he started to wonder. How does taste even work? To find out, he immersed himself in the music, life and fandom of Celine Dion.

Wilson is the author of Let's Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste, a reissued and expanded version of the book he published in 2007. It's about Celine and her bestselling album from 1997, but more importantly it's an exploration of why we like some music and hate other music. Wilson's journey made him question how we place value on art, and has affected the way he approaches his work in music criticism.

He talks about Dion's Quebecois background (and why it matters), how she and her music relate to "coolness," and why experiencing a Celine Dion concert in Las Vegas helped open him up to her true appeal.

Looking for Rich Juzwiak's "Celine Dion is Amazing" compilation video mentioned in the interview? We'll save you a Google search.

This interview originally aired in 2014.

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The Outshot: East Side Story

You probably know what a low rider is. But what do you know about low rider oldies? Jesse talks about the perfect music for driving low and slow.

This segment originally aired in 2014.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Andy Daly & Jean Grae

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CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THIS EPISODE DIRECTLY

Andy Daly and "Review": Rating Life Experiences, from Addiction to Pancakes to the Prom

Comedian, actor and writer Andy Daly recognized early in his career that his audience was responding to him as a "nice, little boy". Who could blame them? He's a nice-looking guy, with an all-American charm about him. So he used his Howdy Doody look to his advantage, and began creating characters. The kind of characters that start off as unthreatening nice guys, and slowly escalate into extreme sociopaths.

Andy continues to use this element of surprise in his new Comedy Central show, Review. Andy plays Forrest MacNeil, who is a reviewer. But he doesn't review books, or movies, or consumer products. He reviews life experiences, rating them on a scale of one to five stars. In the first few episodes, he answers viewers' questions from "What would it feel like to steal?" to "Will prom really be the best night of my life?" to "What is it like to get a divorce?"

No life experience is too insignificant or too life-altering for Forrest MacNeil, who takes his job very seriously.

Andy joins us to talk about his first acting job (working with a rollerblading mime), developing his own style of comedy, and how he identifies with Forrest, who's devoted so much of his life and energy to his work.

Review is currently in its second season on Comedy Central

This interview originally aired February 25, 2014.

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Jean Grae on an Accidental Hip Hop Career

Rapper Jean Grae, formerly known as What? What?, has been a stalwart member of New York City's underground hip hop community for decades. She was born into a musical family, though she didn't exactly follow in her parents' footsteps. Her father, Abdullah Ibrahim (also known as Dollar Brand), helped to found South African Jazz and her mother, Sathima Bea Benjamin, was a gifted singer and composer. Grae was born in South Africa and her parents made sure she knew her roots -- but she was also a New Yorker, through and through.

She joins us this week to tell us about growing up with talented musicians as parents, her accidental hip hop career, and why she doesn't shy away from outrageous, cartoonish violence in her lyrics.

Jean Grae has had a busy couple of years. At the time we last spoke with her, she had a new LP called Gotham Down, a new EP called Jeannie, an audiobook entitled The State of Eh, and a webseries in which she writes, directs and stars, Life with Jeannie.

She's since released more new music, including the new EPs Saix and iSweaterGawd, all available on her Bandcamp page.

This interview originally aired January 28, 2014.

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The Outshot: Paul Anka on Showmanship

Paul Anka, a consummate entertainer with few peers, has very high standards. This week, Jesse shares what he dubs as one of the greatest after-show recordings of all time and reminds us to live and move with conviction. And to slice like a... well, you know.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Alan Rickman & Sacha Jenkins

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Alan Rickman
Guests: 
Sacha Jenkins

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Photo credit: Matej Divizna/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Alan Rickman on 'A Little Chaos', Hans Gruber in 'Die Hard', and His Training at RADA

Alan Rickman stars in and directs the new movie A Little Chaos. It's a romantic drama, set in the court of the Sun King, Louis Quatorze. Kate Winslet plays a landscape architect who is contracted to design a garden at Versailles.

Rickman says he was attracted to the screenplay because of its love story, and the historical reimagining of the construction of Versailles.

He spoke with us about the logistical challenges of staging an elaborate period film, playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the secret conversation he had with JK Rowling before shooting the Harry Potter films, and yes, what it's like to act for sixteen hours with a rubber alien head.

A Little Chaos is in theaters now.

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Sacha Jenkins on the Evolution of Hip Hop Fashion in 'Fresh Dressed'

Why is fashion such a meaningful part of hip hop's history? Jesse talks to Sacha Jenkins, the director of the new documentary Fresh Dressed, about the evolution of style in hip hop, from the influence of white biker gangs, to the remixing of luxury brands by Harlem couturier Dapper Dan, to the rise and fall of brands founded by rappers and hip hop artists.

Fresh Dressed is in theaters and available on VOD.

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The Outshot: Reliving Memories with the Golden State Warriors

Jesse describes what it felt like to see his favorite childhood basketball team in the NBA playoffs.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Big Boi & Catherine O'Hara

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Hip Hop Icon Big Boi: Getting Familiar with Uncharted Territory

The rapper and producer Big Boi has sold over 50 million records as a solo artist and as half of the platinum-selling hip hop duo OutKast. The innovative Atlanta-based group broke out in the mid-1990s with "Rosa Parks" and "Elevators", then followed up with crossover pop hits like "The Way You Move" and "Bombs Over Baghdad".

OutKast found huge commercial success with an experimental brand of hip hop, eschewing old-school samples in favor of new sounds. Big Boi has been the more musically prolific member of the group. He's gone on to produce several solo albums and collaborate with artists across the music spectrum, from fellow ATL-based rapper Ludacris to funk-master George Clinton to the indie rock band Wavves. His most recent release is called Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors.

Big Boi joins us to talk about the early days recording in an clay-walled basement, coming to terms with fame, and where to go musically when you've hit monumental commercial success.

This interview originally aired in April 2013.

If you liked this, let someone know! Click here to share this interview.

All-Time Favorites with Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder

Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder joins us this week to share some all-time favorites: a great dungeon crawler for iOS called The Sword of Fargoal and Chandler Burr's The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession, a fascinating book exploring the science of scent.

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Canonball: A Tour of Led Zeppelin's III with Brad Tolinski

For our segment Canonball, we take a flying leap into the canon of popular music and find albums that deserve a closer look.

This week, we're joined by Brad Tolinski, editor-in-chief of Guitar World and author of the new book Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page.

He'll tell us about Led Zeppelin III. With that album, Led Zeppelin moved away from the 60s obsession with authenticity and deep ideas -- and into a whole new sound.

This segment originally aired in January 2013.

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Catherine O'Hara on Being Slightly, Perfectly Odd

Catherine O'Hara's work embodies a particularly special brand of comic absurdity. She helped launch SCTV alongside other burgeoning comedy greats like John Candy and Eugene Levy, quit the show, but still moved on to star in blockbuster comedies. She became spiritually possessed in Beetlejuice, played a memorable, anxiety-ridden mother to Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, and became a critical part of Christopher Guest's ensemble mockumentaries, like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.

Most recently, she's starred in the sitcom Schitt's Creek with Chris Elliott and O'Hara's longtime collaborator Eugene Levy.

O'Hara talks to us about the difficulties of being a woman in the SCTV writers' room, creating memorable characters with her longtime friend and collaborator Eugene Levy, and her own secret comedic formula.

Oh, and in this outtake, hear about the best boyfriend ever: Dan Akroyd.

This interview originally aired in April 2013.

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The Outshot: The Throne Of The Third Heaven of the Nations' Millenium General Assembly

In this week's Outshot, Jesse tells the story of a man who secretly spent the last fifteen years of his life building something amazing in a rented garage.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Paul Feig & Combat Jack

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Paul Feig
Guests: 
Combat Jack

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo by Jesse Thorn

Paul Feig on Outer Space Comedy and His Ghostbusters Reboot

The writer, director and producer Paul Feig has developed a kind of reputation. His movies and TV shows often feature characters who are awkward and nerdy and trying to figure out their relationships to other people (see: Freaks and Geeks). They also often showcase hilarious women (see: Bridesmaids, The Heat). And now he's keeping the comedy, the feelings and relationships, and upping the stakes. His new series, Other Space, is about a crew on a spaceship stranded in a parallel universe.

We'll talk to Paul Feig about why he grew up wishing aliens would take him away, why he was so determined to bring female-lead comedy movies into the mainstream, and his plans for remaking the stuff of America's childhood -- from Ghostbusters, to Peanuts, to Play-Doh.

Paul Feig's series Other Space is available now on Yahoo! Screen.

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Combat Jack Forges His Own Path Through Hip Hop

For years, Reggie Osse (also known as Combat Jack) worked as a music industry lawyer, helping hip hop producers and artists broker deals.

He loved the music. But he reached a point where he didn't want to be the guy taking care of other people's careers. He had lots of creative ideas, but none of his clients wanted their lawyer's take on that stuff. So Osse decided to try doing something new for him: blogging about hip hop.

We'll talk about how he parlayed the blogging into an interview podcast called The Combat Jack Show, where he's interviewed artists and producers like J Cole, Common and Big Daddy Kane among many, many others.

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The Outshot: The Thrill Ride of Rick James

What made Rick James irresistible? Jesse explains.

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