Are Pop Culture Interviewer Nardwuar’s Gimmicks Played Out?July 27th, 2012
By Gee King
Nardwuar has been conducting awkwardly entertaining interviews with musicians and entertainers since his debut with Snoop Dogg in 2000. Ever since his July 2010 interview with Drake went viral, the quirky journalist has become a fixture in the hip-hop blogosphere, grilling everyone from Eminem and Nas to Lil Wayne. But while his singular interview style— which includes gifts, trivia and intimate details about artists’ personal lives— was initially charming his schtick has slowly lost its appeal. Now that both viewers and his subjects know what to expect from the shaggy middle-aged trickster, his act has become an uncomfortable struggle to keep artists’ attention through his final gag: Shouting his catchphrase, “Doot-Dotta-loot-do,” at the camera, cuing the artist to finish with “Doot-do!”
As you may expect, Nardwuar rarely has much luck getting MCs to play along with his act, but that was part of the fun at first. Whether he’s speaking with Jay-Z or Lil B, he starts each interview by frankly asking, “Who are you?” Ironically, that’s usually the only direct question he asks the entire interview as he spends the rest of his time reaching into his bag of tricks and surprising subjects with rare collector’s items that hold some emotional or historical significance. From vinyl records, to art, to personal details, Nardwuar presents his interviewees with gifts that will get them talking. He recited Birdman’s old pager number to Lil Wayne when he spoke with him and gave Ghostface Killah an original version of the “Three The Hard Way” soundtrack.
At his best, his generosity and energy are disarming and earn him moments that a traditional journalist wouldn’t dream of. But not all of his subjects react positively to his unique approach. Jay-Z, Nas and Kid Cudi all seemed uncomfortable during their interviews and had to ask him to stop shoving his microphone so close to their faces. Cudi eventually walked out while Nardwuar was still asking questions. But even those who don’t vibe with him respect his dedication and meticulous research. “You are f***** nuts, you are f***** psycho,” said Nas with both appreciation and concern.
Whether his interviews went good or bad, they were definite must-sees because of the rare chance to see rap stars in truly spontaneous situations. That’s not quite the case anymore however as the rapid rate with which he’s been interviewing everyone from up-and-comers to legends has removed the mystique. At the SXSW festival in Austin, TX this March, Nardwuar spoke with A$AP Rocky, Machine Gun Kelly and Odd Future in addition to countless others, flooding YouTube with goofy interviews and cementing his reputation in rap’s blogosphere. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, what’s the fun of watching a Nardwuar interview anymore?
As lead singer and keyboardist for Canadian Punk Rock band The Evaporators, Nardwuar is clearly not a one-trick pony. Sadly, his interview style is so singular (and relies so much on the element of surprise) that it seems doomed to be played out very soon in hip-hop’s rapid trend cycle. Giving Lil Wayne giant Cheech & Chong rolling papers and Nirvana memorabilia is fun for a while but unless he falls back for a short time or finds a new way to engage his subjects, he’ll disappear from hip-hop’s collective consciousness quicker than he can say, “Doot-dotta-loot-do.”
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