**THE TEXT BELOW ORIGINALLY APPEARS IN THE DEC./JAN. 2012 ISSUE OF XXL, ON STANDS NOW**
Comedian Jay Pharoah is having a breakout season on Saturday Night Live, impersonating the hottest rappers.
Real recognize real, but for funnyman Jay Pharoah, his impersonations of Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Game, T.I. and Lil Wayne, among others, have drawn the attention of the hip-hop community. The Saturday Night Live comedian, real name Jared Farrow, 24, kicks it with Drake, dodges Gucci Mane (“I just don’t feel comfortable impersonating somebody that got an ice cream cone tattooed on their face!”) and has plans to take Tinseltown by storm next year. Here, the Chesapeake, Virginia, native talks to XXL about his favorite impersonation, developing a Rick Ross grunt and beef.
XXL: Who is your favorite MC to impersonate?
Jay Pharoahe: Jay-Z would definitely have to be the top one. Tyler, the Creator—that’s someone new I’m working on that’s really fun to do. [Impersonating Tyler] I’m gonna walk after the paradox. His voice just goes into the depths of the core. I’m going to say the core; I’m not going to say hell.
Your comedic peers Affion Crockett and Aries Spears do mean Jay-Z impressions, as well. Who does the best Hov?
[We] all have different variations of Jay-Z. I think Affion has more of the interview-type Hov a little bit, when it comes to him. I can’t say whose is the best, but everyone has their own flavor.
What other MCs are you currently developing impressions of?
Nelly, [Rick] Ross. I’m trying to get Ross down. Hunngh! When you’re doing Ross, it just automatically sounds like diabetes. It’s like, Damn, I just think one of my toes fell off impersonating you. I’m even working on ’Pac. I’m trying to get him totally dead-on. ’Pac is just an engulfment—an engulfment is all it is.
Describe the process of learning and getting an impersonation down.
I sit and watch the interviews and listen to their music and try to decipher the music from the interview voices and get both of those down different times. Ross will probably take me a month and some change to get him down to the full extent. You go to a lot of Burger Kings and you just sit down and watch how big people move. [Laughs]
Anybody that you’re actually worried about bumping into that you’ve impersonated?
You know what, I’m a pretty big dude, and I work out, so I’m not intimidated. Not to sound like, I’m big, son, ain’t nobody gonna mess with me. A bullet can end all of that. All I’m saying is I’m not really worried about it. I don’t think I come at people too hard, for them to get mad and want to smack me. —Mark Lelinwalla
GO TO PAGE TWO TO HEAR JAY PHAROAH IMPERSONATE DRAKE & JAY-Z