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Queensbridge, New York is an important place for hip-hop. Not since Motown, 25 years earlier, has such an astonishing number of artists with a distinctive, sought after sound, emerged from such a specific neighborhood. Nas, Marley Marl, Cormega--these are just a few of the huge names that sprang from America's largest housing projects, located just across the bridge from Manhattan in Queens. Since the early 1980s, Queensbridge has been a veritable hotbed for new directions in East Coast hip-hop.
And no rap-group has drawn inspiration from Queensbridge more vividly than Mobb Deep. Composed of rappers Havoc and Prodigy, Mobb Deep create music that makes you feel like you, too, grew up in Queensbridge. Listen to Shook Ones Pt. 2 enough times, and you'll feel like you could stab an unlucky sucker's brain with his nosebone.
Jesse sat down with Prodigy, aka Anthony Johnson, after the release of his autobiography, My Infamous Life in 2011. Prodigy had just recently been released from prison, where he spent three years on gun charges. He talks about growing up with sickle-cell anemia, being dragged along on his father's jewelry store robberies as a teen, and how he used his time in prison for some serious personal transformation.
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Carolyn Kellogg, book critic and staff writer for the LA Times, joins us to recommend two of her all-time favorite books.
First, she recommends Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. This hardboiled Los Angeles noir features Chandler's iconic language--analogies stronger than the libations his protagonists down in LA's most dimly lit nightclubs.
Kellogg's next pick is Thomas Pynchon's novel The Crying Of Lot 49. At less than 200 pages, The Crying Of Lot 49 is an accessible, pun-filled entry into the dense world of Pynchon.
Read more of Carolyn's writing on books, authors, and publishing online at the LA Times' blog Jacket Copy.
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If "You've Got A Friend In Me," is the only thing you think of when you hear the name Randy Newman, we've got an Outshot for you.
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Hip hop blogger and Pitchfork columnist Andrew Noz joins us with a couple of his all-time favorite hip hop tracks. His first recommendation is Pacific Coast Remix by DJ Quik (featuring Ludacris), a track devoted to sunny Los Angeles's dark side. He also suggests checking out the 1983 track Beat Bop by Rammellzee and K-Rob. It's a song from an era where the uptown and downtown communities mingled in a way that the rap world would rarely see again.
Weird Al Yankovic is the undisputed king of parody music. Inspired by the novelty songs he heard on broadcasts of The Dr. Demento Show, Yankovic began writing his own comedy songs for the accordion -- starting with a love song to his parents' car, entitled Belvedere Cruisin'.
He sat down with us in 2011, before his album Alpocalypse was released. He talks about his food parodies (think "Eat It"), his special talent for rapping, and having an unusually long and successful career for a parodist (or musician of any kind).
Weird Al just kicked off a nationwide summer tour. He's also just released a new children's book, My New Teacher and Me. You can find more information .
Geoff Nunberg is a professor at UC Berkeley, the resident linguist of Fresh Air, and the author of Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years. He talks to us about his studies into the word "asshole," which began life as a bit of slang used by WWII servicemen and has come to envelop the concept of modern incivility.
We spoke in 2012. The book is now out in paperback.
Jesse explains what makes David Letterman such an especially gifted late night host in a world of very good late night hosts.
Got a cultural gem of your own? Pick your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forum.>
Andrew Noz joins us this week to share a couple of his current favorite rap tracks. His first pick is Mouse On Tha Track's smooth and mellow "Get High Get Loaded," featuring Fiend. His second recommendation is Mystikal's incredible new song "Hit Me."
Aimee Mann rose to prominence in the 80s with the success of her new wave band 'Til Tuesday's single, "Voices Carry," but she found the limelight uncomfortable. Tired of contending with record companies' attempts to pigeonhole her and her work, Aimee struck out on her own. She joins us this week to discuss that transition from frontwoman to solo artist, the stresses of fame, and coping with uncertainty at a time in her life when she thought she would have had everything figured out.
Aimee's new album, Charmer, is available now.
2013 is a whole new year chock full of things that want ranking -- who has the time to tackle that task? Fortunately, we have Jordan Morris to tell us what's what!
Seth Godin is best known as a marketing guru, but he brings far more compassion and genuine insight to his work than the title might lead you to expect. And his observations aren't just valuable for CEOs. He makes his work for content creators operating on every scale. He joins us this week to delve into the "assets that matter" -- the qualities and values critical to creating great, meaningful work.
Seth Godin's new books are V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?, and Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck?.
Trickery and deception are featured prominently in some of Orson Welles's finest works, so it is fitting that the existence of an objective truth and its relative importance is most thoroughly explored in Welles's final major film, F for Fake. Part documentary, part film essay, F for Fake features tricks and truths layered atop each other, creating a mesmerizing narrative.
Hip hop blogger Andrew Noz joins us again this week to recommend some of his favorite tracks of the moment. What's he listening to now? Aesop Rock's ode to a haircut in Racing Stripes and Alpoko Don's stripped down track All I Know.
The Grammy-nominated jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer began learning classical violin at age three and started improvising on the piano only a few years later. While he studied math and physics at Yale and UC Berkeley, he couldn't stay away from music. He found himself doing academic work by day, and moonlighting as a jazz pianist in Bay Area clubs.
His music is known for its complex, pulsing rhythms and creating unusual covers of artists like Stevie Wonder, Flying Lotus, and Michael Jackson.
He talks to us about exploring rhythm with math (remember Fibonacci's sequence?), the social experience of creating and listening to music, and the idea that "music is action."
The Vijay Iyer Trio's newest album is Accelerando.
Demetri Martin is the kind of person who's obsessed with puzzles and linguistic and cultural ironies, and you've probably seen him explore those on his show Important Things with Demetri Martin. But he's usually got a big sketchpad, slides projected overhead, and a piano to riff on. He's put the theatricality aside in favor of straight ahead one-liners in this clip from his new special, Standup Comedian.
Want to learn more about Demetri Martin? Check out our interview with him about This is a Book.
Dave Hill is best known as a New York-based comedian, but he's dabbled in a lot of things. He's interviewed fans of Chick-Fil-A for This American Life, lived the life of a frontman for a semi-successful rock band (they were big in Japan), and even had a job as a pedicab driver for a few days.
One of his trademarks is making himself and others uncomfortable during a performance, whether he's asking inane or (alternately) inappropriately suggestive questions in his man-on-the-street interviews, performing stand up or hosting his talk show The Dave Hill Explosion. He mines a number of uncomfortable situations in his recent book of essays, Tasteful Nudes: ...and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation.
He talks to us about how being a rock musician made him realize he loved comedy, and how he ended up performing at Sing Sing for maximum security felons. This interview originally aired July 2, 2012.)
What's your favorite mashup of genres? Head over to the MaxFun forum and tell us YOUR outshot.
This week's pop pundits, Daniel Ralston and Maggie Serota, come care of The Low Times Podcast (co-hosted by Tom Scharpling of The Best Show on WFMU). Daniel is enamored with Caitlin Rose's alt-country spin on The Arctic Monkeys' tune "Piledriver Waltz", while Maggie can't get enough of the infectiously poppy and deceivingly upbeat synth heartache of Lemonade's "Soft Kiss."
Ice-T is a rapper and actor, with more than ten albums and nearly eighty acting credits to his name. He's also one of the forefathers of west coast hip-hop. This week he adds "filmmaker" to an already diverse resume, as he makes his directorial debut with the hip hop documentary Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, in theaters this Friday, June 15th.
Ice sits down with us to talk his desire to bring an artful appreciation to hip hop's origins and about going through his phone book to sit down with friends to discuss the craft, and to resolve the mystery as to whether or not he was a ghostwriter for an 80s rap album by Mister T.
For much of his musical career, Aaron Freeman might have been better known to you as Gene Ween, guitarist and co-founder of the experimental rock band Ween. In May, Freeman released his first solo record, Marvelous Clouds, a collection of covers of songs by 60s poet/songwriter Rod McKuen. And just a few weeks ago, Freeman announced he was retiring the Gene Ween persona for good. This week he tells us about the song that changed his life: Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry".
Greta Gerwig is an actress and filmmaker, whose starring role in the 2007 comedy Hannah Takes the Stairs put her right at the heart of the mumblecore movement. She's since gone on to leading roles in bigger indies alongside Ben Stiller in Greenberg, as well as major motion pictures like Arthur, opposite Russell Brand. The indie darling has had a particularly prominent year in 2012, with starring roles Damsels in Distress and the romantic comedy Lola Versus, both in theaters now, and a supporting role in Woody Allen's latest, To Rome With Love, due later this month.
Greta joins us to discuss her artistic upbringing in Sacramento (complete with dreams of being a ballerina), her meteoric and slightly serendipitous rise as an actress, and the way her public perception seems to change with each role she plays.
On this week's Outshot, Jesse misses the old days of pure wacky comedy insanity exemplified by the unfiltered goofiness of Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I.
Is there a film that never fails to make you laugh like a mad man? Share the laughs on the MaxFun Forum by picking your own Outshot.
Blogger Andrew Noz from Cocaine Blunts kicks off this week's show by recommending some recent favorites from the world of rap -- Kendrick Lamar's 'Cartoon & Cereal' featuring Gun Play, and 'Big Beast' by Killer Mike, featuring T.I. & Bun B. For more from Noz, check out CocaineBlunts.com, or read his cover story on Kendrick Lamar for The Fader.
Robert Glasper is a jazz pianist and the band leader of the Robert Glasper Experiment. Glasper's life in music began early, as his mother, a jazz and blues vocalist, would often bring her young son along to clubs with her, where he would watch from backstage. His music today blends classic jazz influences with soul music and modern hip-hop, forging something fresh and new out of a genre he says is in dire need of a shake-up. His new album, Black Radio, includes collaborations with hip-hop artists like Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, as well as old friend and frequent collaborator Bilal.
Glasper sits down with us to reveal some of his more embarrassing musical influences, reflect on working alongside the late J. Dilla, and dish on what he feels is wrong with today's jazz culture.
Davy Rothbart is the editor of Found Magazine, an annual publication collecting lost letters, tests, essays and notes, all found and submitted by readers. Found put out its first issue nearly ten years ago, and Davy has been a regular guest on The Sound of Young America ever since. In his first appearance on Bullseye, Rothbart recounts the cryptic tales found within the pages of some of his favorite lost treasures, brought to him by readers on Found's national tours.
If you've found something special you'd like to send in, either digitally or by mail, visit www.FoundMagazine.com/submit.
Pendleton Ward is a writer and animator, and the creator of the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time. The show follows the adventures of Finn the boy and Jake the shape-shifting dog, through a magical post-apocalyptic Earth. It's very witty and full of humor, and is one of those rare programs that works just as well for kids as it does for adults. Pen is a born artist, who even during this interview can't help but capture his host on paper. He joins Jesse to discuss drawing as a comedic outlet, the delicate art of writing a quality fart joke, and the influence of Dungeons & Dragons on the fantastical quests of Adventure Time. The show just began its fourth season; you can catch new episodes Monday nights on Cartoon Network.
For this week's Outshot, Jesse delves into the often contrived world of quirky viral videos and finds something genuinely hilarious: the web series BESTIE x BESTIE, starring Jenny Slate and Gabe Liedman. You might know Slate as a former featured player on SNL or as the writer and voice of another internet smash, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On. In BESTIE x BESTIE she and best friend Liedman take turns trying desperately to remain serious while the other does their best to make them crack. The results are often as funny as anything on the internet.
Is there a web series that tickles your funny-bone like none other? Help it go viral by sharing it on the MaxFun Forum and picking your own Outshot.
Rap Recommendations: Andrew Noz schools us on some rap you may have missed, with vampire imitator and Bay Area rapper Cousin Fik’s track I Am a Vampire” and tangential Odd Future member Pyramid Vritra’s Blu Diamonds. (Embed or share this segment)
Comedy Duo Tim & Eric: Masters of the surreal, uncomfortable and gross Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, talk to us about moving past the curated internet weirdness, working with both hugely unique but unknown performers -- like puppeteer David Liebe Hart -- and established actors like John C. Reilly. They also give us behind the scenes insight on the promotion of their newest project, Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie and their unofficial support of another great cinema classic, Shrek 3. Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is available now On Demand, and will be released in theaters on March 2nd.
Click through to listen to the NSFPR (Not Safe for Public Radio) extended cut of the interview. (Embed or share this segment)
God’s Effusions (on His Favorite Things): Did you ever stop to consider God’s favorite things? Wonder no more. Emmy award winning comedy writer David Javerbaum is the unlikely co-writer of The Last Testament: A Memoir by God. Comedian Seth Morris acts as God’s loudspeaker to bring us this excerpt. (Embed or share this segment)
Cartoonist Roz Chast: If you’ve ever read the New Yorker, you’ve likely come across one of Roz Chast’s uniquely anxious cartoons. Now, she shares with us some of her anxieties and how she puts them down with a bullet-point in her book What I Hate: From A to Z. If you’ve ever felt imperiled by sitting on the ground or a balloon’s frustratingly imminent pop -- Roz can commiserate. (Embed or share this segment)
The Outshot: Jesse helps us see the genuine emotion and delicacy Randy Newman exhibits in his songwriting beyond the film soundtracks he’s known for, in the album Sail Away. (Embed or share this segment)
Andrew Noz of the hip hop blog Cocaine Blunts offers his some of his favorite rap tracks right now, Gas Station from SL Jones and Kissin Pink from A$AP Rocky.
This week! Noz's Rap Picks: Andrew Noz of the hip hop blog Cocaine Blunts offers his some of his favorite rap tracks right now, Gas Station from SL Jones and Kissin Pink from A$AP Rocky. (Embed or share)
Pop Culture Advice from My Brother, My Brother and Me: Brothers by all accounts, and experts by some – Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy of My Brother, My Brother and Me offer offer solutions to listeners' pressing pop culture problems. This week the brothers wonder whether parents should introduce Justin Bieber, Star Wars, and Ke$ha to their children. (Embed or share)
Writer Lawrence Weschler: Jesse talks with a master of creative nonfiction, Lawrence Weschler, about the dangers of humans' bias toward narrative, and why the CGI faces in movies never look quite right. Weschler's newest book is Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative. (Embed or share)
Comedian and Author Chris Gethard: Comedian Chris Gethard talks about booking megastar P. Diddy at a tiny theater in New York, using both mania and depression to shape his comedy, and confronting Internet trolls in person. His new book is called A Bad Idea I'm About to Do. (Embed or share)
And The Outshot: The Civil War, reimagined in 140-character bursts. Jesse talks about one of his favorite Twitter accounts, @FakeCivilWar. (Embed or share)
You can subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the RSS feed -- stay tuned for next week's Bullseye!
BONUS AUDIO from this week! Lawrence Weschler talks to Jesse about the incredible and unusual Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA.
Noz runs the successful hip-hop blog Cocaine Blunts. He joins us to share the tracks he's most excited about right now.