Nardwuar, “On Da Spot” (Originally Published July/August 2011)
On Da Spot
Who gets the most entertaining interviews from the world’s biggest rap stars? Doot doola doot doo, Nardwuar.
Words Ben Westhoff
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2011 issue of XXL Magazine.
Nardwuar might be the strangest reporter on the planet. 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.”
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.
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.
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.
Snoop Dogg 2010: 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.
Drake 2010: 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.
Odd Future 2011: 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.”]
N.E.R.D. 2008: 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!”