On Da Spot: Nardwuar Feature From July/August 2011 Issue

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  • nardclean
    Nardwuar might be the strangest reporter on the planet.<br /><br />A 42-year-old radio journalist for Vancouver, Canada’s CiTR 101.9, he wears mismatched clothes and a plaid cap with a poof ball on top. He specializes in making his subjects uncomfortable, starting interviews with even the most famous celebrities by asking, “Who are you?” and sticking the microphone way too close to their faces. Then, for the purpose of checking sound levels and marking tape for the editing process, he ends every interview by singing, “Doot doola doot doo” (to the tune of “Shave and a haircut, two bits”), and he won’t leave until the subject says, “doot doo.”<br /><br />He’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of music and politics and is famous for stalking would-be subjects like Kurt Cobain and for ambushing world leaders. He once quizzed Dan Quayle on who the prime minister of Canada was and asked former Soviet head Mikhail Gorbachev which politician had the largest pants. Neither had an answer for him.<br /><br />But in recent years, Nardwuar has become increasingly known for his rap interviews, and many consider him the Web’s top reporter in the game. “This is the best interview, by the way, that I’ve ever done in my entire life,” Drake said when they spoke last year. Said Snoop Dogg: “You’re courageous, and you’ve got a lot of personality, so it brings the best out of me and you, at the same time.” Nardwuar has a knack for landing interviews with the biggest of the big names, and he regularly astounds his subjects by doing tons of research and giving them personalized gifts: He bought Yelawolf an Eminem doll and gave Tyler, the Creator a bar of bacon soap.<br /><br />Not everyone enjoys Nardwuar’s act. He’s had his equipment smashed and his hat stolen, and has been threatened with violence. Nas looked ready to stick his foot in his ass at one point during their 2009 talk. (“You are fuckin’ psycho,” he said. “It’s over.”) But even those who think he’s crazy have to respect his hustle. And his clout, to which 10 million views on his YouTube channel attest. He recently spoke with XXL about some of his most memorable experiences.<em>—Ben Westhoff</em>
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    <strong>Snoop Dogg 2010</strong><br /><br />I’ve interviewed Snoop Dogg five times. And when I talked with him last year, he microwaved a blunt. It doesn’t get any better than that. He said it was to trap the ingredients in and that you had to do it for exactly 11 seconds. I did not smoke with him, but that room was full of hallucinogenics. It was pretty intense. Snoop Dogg even invited me to his house once. But the day I wanted to go down there, he was at a hockey game.
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    <strong>Drake 2010</strong><br /><br /> What I liked about this was that he was doing no interviews at all at this time. He asked me to come down to Armoury [Recording] Studios in Vancouver, where he was recording tracks for Jamie Foxx. There were no label reps, no managers, nothing. It was just me, Drake and [his friend and producer] 40. I said, “How much time do we have?” And Drake said, “However much time you want.” I spent an hour with him, and it must have cost hundreds of dollars, because when you do an interview in a studio, the clock is ticking. Maybe Jamie Foxx was paying for it.
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    <strong>Odd Future 2011</strong><br /><br /> I could not believe what was going on there. I loved it! They were very appreciative of the stuff I brought them. I think it’s great that they’re always carrying their skateboards around. Hodgy Beats walked away from the interview, but then he ran back into the shot. He tried to do a skateboard move on the wall. [Ed. note: At the end of the interview, instead of saying “doot doo,” Hodgy Beats said, “bukkake.”]
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    <strong>N.E.R.D. 2008</strong><br /><br /> I prepare every interview the exact same way: by reading and watching interviews my subjects have done before and thinking of records and gifts to bring them. That’s why I was surprised that Pharrell Williams was so amazed by our interview. He said it blew him away. And about two minutes [into the interview], he invited me to be in their video for the song “Spaz.” Unfortunately, it was being taped in L.A., and I couldn’t be there. I asked him if he could set me up with an interview with Jay-Z, and he was like, “Yeah, sure!”
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    <b>Jay-Z 2008</b><br /><br /> Just that it happened was amazing. After I talked to Pharrell, I hadn’t heard anything, so I figured it wasn’t happening. But I got an e-mail confirmation the day of a music festival Jay-Z was playing in Pemberton. It was only about two hours away from me, but the highway was backed up, and it took six hours to get there. But I got there, and we did it. Jay-Z couldn’t believe it. He was like, “Pharrell has been calling me to do an interview. Who calls people to do an interview?”
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    <strong>Vanilla Ice 2003</strong><br /><br /> I interviewed him in the parking lot behind this tiny little venue in Vancouver, and he danced for me. I said, “Could you do the Transformer dance?” And he did it. He’s still got it. Did you know he’s indirectly responsible for Snoop Doggy Dogg? The money that was made off of him helped finance Snoop Doggy Dogg. He’s also the guy who brought the word extreme into the mainstream.
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    <strong>Ice Cube 2004</strong><br /><br /> He was amazing. I interviewed him in Vancouver, on the set of the movie Are We There Yet? I told him that the first time I heard N.W.A I was scared. And he said, “Good.” [Ed. note: Cube followed that up by saying, “You look scared right now.”] And my interview with another “Ice” was amazing: Ice-T. He said I was looking “pimpish” in this jacket I was wearing. So I made sure to wear the same jacket when I talked to Jay
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    <strong>Yelawolf 2010</strong><br /><br /> The interview began, and I think Yelawolf was told to wrap it up, but he just kept going. He was cool with letting me bombard him with questions. He also told me that there’s a mall in his hometown that has shag carpeting. That was pretty amazing.
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    <strong>Lil B 2011</strong><br /><br /> This was set up through Twitter. He was like, “Come to my gig at South by Southwest.” But his phone died, so I just had to wait outside the gate of the Fader Fort, in the dust. I waited a long time and saw Puff Daddy leaving in an SUV convoy. Finally, the gates opened, and Lil B’s car pulled out. He actually got out of the car when he saw me and said he would do the interview right there, in the dark. [In the video,] you can see the car’s headlights shining on us.
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    <strong>Kid Cudi 2009</strong><br /><br /> I loved the idea that his uncle was a musician and that he was an inspiration to him as well. There was a lot more stuff I wanted to ask him about Cleveland—Cleveland rap stuff as well—but I never got the chance. So that was kind of sad. [Ed. note: Kid Cudi had another commitment and left the interview in a rush, refusing to say “doot doo.”] I’ve been doing this since I started my radio show in 1987, so it’s kind of ingrained for me to say “Who are you?” at the beginning of the interview and “Doot doola doot doo” at the end. How hard is it to go “doot doo”? If they don’t want to go “doot doo,” they can say other things, like “fuck you.”
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    <strong>Nas 2009</strong><br /><br /> All I remember is that, afterward, I wanted to stick around and have some Caribbean food, since there was a woman there serving some nice Caribbean food. But I thought I should just get the hell out of there. When somebody says it’s over, you leave. I respect that. But remember also that, at one point in the interview, he says, “I like you.” So I was quite happy how everything went.
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    <strong>Lil Wayne 2011</strong><br /><br /> Drake said he’d hook me up with Wayne—that he’d “Pharrell” the situation—and he totally went to work. The day of, he phoned, e-mailed and texted me a bunch of times. He said, “I’ve got your back.” I showed up at Rogers Arena in Vancouver and walked into a room. Wayne walked in, and—boom!—we did it. No publicist anywhere. It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t [freestyle when I asked him to], and I wasn’t intimidated by him, actually. I’m nervous all the time, so nothing is intimidating. I’m nervous when I go to the grocery store—worried that I’ll buy the wrong kind of tomatoes. Drake had my back, though, so I was like, No problem.
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  • Phil

    Lots of respect for Nardwuar!

  • steven

    This guy is such a breath of fresh air. He asks REAL questions to his subjects, clearly does his research, but is so off the wall in appearance and manner that some of the morons he quizzes (ahem…Nas, Cudi, Busta) can’t look past the silliness and don’t make it until the end without being pricks about it. I guess they’d rather he be like every other uneducated interviewer who spout the same cliche’s. The human serviette!

    • tim

      co-sign

  • david

    even his pre-internet era interviews show levels of research that are mind-blowing, even in the post-internet era.