Conducting an interview is a little tougher than you think. First, there’s the preparation. I try to do that the day before the interview. Prep involves lots of research, note-taking and even collaboration with friends/colleagues. I like to write out each question in my blue steno book. It’s best to be as specific as possible because clarity matters—there’s nothing worse than fumbling out a question during an interview.
Once I come up with 50 or so good questions, I memorize the entire list. I use some mnemonic devices but am not above writing certain key words on my palm (No Sarah Palin). From there, you just have to show up on time and make sure you have backup batteries for the digital recorder. The rest is pretty much out of your hands.
Interviewing a rapper is kind of like a blind date: There’s no predicting how you’re going to vibe. Some rappers are dickheads but you might catch them on a good day. Others are pretty cool but maybe they just found out that their promotion budget got slashed. What you can control, however, is your behavior. Be humble, spontaneous, and knowledgeable but not a know-it-all. Listen intently and always ask, “Why?” “Why?” is a great follow-up question.
There’s nothing like good conversation. The fact that the subject is famous doesn’t really matter. One of my most memorable interviews was with the brother of a murder victim. He has an imdb page but is not a celebrity. Still, he was fascinating. As far as rappers, here are a few of my favorites:
I. Nas. I was warned that he could be curt and aloof. Not on this day.
II. Jay Electronica. He’s the most interesting man in the world.
II. DMX. Part of the fun was landing the interview. I just wish that he was a better driver and kept the seatbelt in the passenger seat.
IV. Cage. Very honest and an underrated talent.
V. Lupe Fiasco. It was a three-part series so we caught up a few times. On each occasion, he was confident, introspective and incredibly intelligent. Don’t understand how he rubs some people the wrong way.
After each interview, I had a better appreciation of their art. I was hoping you guys could share your own anecdotes about meeting artists and how that affected your take on their music. Now, on to those blind items I mentioned yesterday. —Thomas Golianopoulos
1. THIS GUY played the bully throughout our entire interview. When I rode the elevator out of the building with him and his entourage, he sneered and said, “This is probably the first time you’ve been around so many black guys.”
2. I met THIS GUY early one morning and went back to his hotel room so that he could grab a toothbrush. We walk into the suite and this video vixen is strutting around in a wife-beater.
3. THIS GUY keeps a giant world map in his living room. Why? “For easy access when I’m watching the news.”
4. In February 2003, I was reporting on my first feature and interviewed THIS DUO of the group passed a blunt to someone in the entourage, he warned, “Be careful with that, that’s haze.”
5. Since we’re talking about weed…THIS GUY chain-smoked the stuff during our two-hour interview.
6. And THIS OTHER GUY offered me a hit of his blunt when I met him in the parking lot of an Applebee’s deep in the middle of suburbia. After I declined, he said, “That’s good. That’s good. You should never smoke from another motherfucker’s blunt.” Pregnant pause. “Because you never know what a motherfucker will put in his blunt.”
7. THIS GUY said this about Nas: “That guy is the anti hit maker.”
8. THIS GUY told me that when he was 12 years old, he drew a pentagram, sat in the middle of it and wished for money, power and fame.
9. I interviewed THIS GUY in 2004. A few years later, when we met again for a different story, he said, “They sent you again, huh?”
10. THIS GUY was unhappy with his story so he said some nasty things about me on Twitter. I still love Q-Tip’s music though and think he’s a genius.
11. I was having trouble getting access to THIS GUY during a chaotic scene backstage. Later, he pulled me aside and said, “Be more aggressive.”
12. After losing a game of pool to me, THIS GUY said, “You won. Now you can tell all your friends you beat me.”
13. THIS GUY had a hard time keeping his gun from falling off his waistband during a photo shoot.
14. SHE sang “Happy Birthday” to me after I told her that it was, in fact, my birthday.
15. While sipping his third Patron and Country Time Lemonade, THIS GUY admitted that his emergence on the rap scene made these two guys irrelevant.
16. THIS GUY threw a temper tantrum at the register of the old Virgin Megastore in Times Square. While CD shopping, he noticed that his debut album wasn’t listed on the board touting the upcoming releases. He asked to see the manager.
17. THIS GUY really hates pickles.
18. THIS GUY said, “Excuse me for cussing” whenever he cussed.
19. After finishing an interview with THIS GUY I checked his Twitter account. It had been updated a few times during our interview even though he hadn’t touched his phone.
20. THIS GUY said this about Jay-Z: “I’ve never seen so many people line up to suck another guy’s dick.” He was speaking figuratively.