Dave Chappelle, ‘Americaz Nightmare’ (Originally Published October 2004)
That's right folks. The hottest comedian, Dave Chappelle, and the hottest magazine, have joined forces. Eat your heart out, bitches.
In the Fall of 1999, while driving down 8th Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, I bumped into Talib Kweli. After we exchanged small talk for a few minutes, he invited me to a session he was doing at Electric Lady Studios.
“We’ll be there all night,” I remember him saying. I readily accepted the invite. We weren’t really friends at that point—I had only met him once before—but I was a fan. I kept the Black Star LP in regular rotation in my CD changer. So, later that night, I showed up not sure what to expect. That was my first time in a recording studio, now that I think about it.
Kweli was in a cramped studio on the top floor. He and Hi-Tek were playing back a track for what would become the Reflection Eternal album. Everyone in the room was nodding their heads in unison to the beat. They were all kinda lost in what they were doing. A cloud of freshly smoked reefer hung in the air. I soaked the vibe up for less than a second, and decided I was glad I came. I was witnessing raw creativity.
At the time, I was writing a stand-up special for HBO, and the Reflection Eternal session inspired me. I started doing comedy at such a young age that all of my peers were always older than me. This was the first time I was in a roomful of people my age who were professional artists. These guys had traveled the world. The realm of conversation was immense. Everything from politics to socio-economics, to the new Dr. Dre record. It kinda blew my mind. For the next few nights, the studio became part of my routine. I would go to a comedy club early in the night, and then head over to Electric Lady to soak that vibe up again.
While Kweli was recording upstairs, Common was downstairs recording Like Water For Chocolate. All kinds of MCs were dropping by to lend their vocals and support—Tariq and ?uestlove from The Roots, Mos Def, M-1 from dead prez, Rah Digga. Shit, even Lennox Lewis was doing drops. It was refreshing to see camaraderie in a business that’s known for its beefs. Especially for a guy like myself, working in the competitive world of stand-up comedy. That’s how I first met a lot of these guys.
Kanye West was a name I heard often in that circle. I remember when my partner Neal and I were looking for a theme song for the Comedy Central show we were referred to Kanye by several people. We almost bought a beat from him. I’m not gonna say for how much, but nowadays you probably couldn’t even get him on his pager for that kind of money.
We actually ended up using the beat from “Hip Hop,” the dead prez song. I have to say dpz is one of my favorite groups of any genre. The spirit of what they do is right up my alley. Personally, I think they get a combined Tupac score for expressing themselves and educating their audience, while still managing to make dope music. It’s an impressive feat. I met them the first time at a thing called Black August—a show that raises money and awareness about political prisoners at home and abroad. I remember that particular year it was hosted by Chuck D. Dead prez were closing the show, and I have this image of this one White dude in the crowd jumping up and down, screaming “I’m an African!” with his fist raised in the air. I knew for certain then that they were spitting some powerful shit.
Fast-forward. I’m walking in to the Milk photography studio in Chelsea for the cover shoot of the issue of XXL that you’re holding in your hands. I’m tired as shit, which is how I feel a lot these days. With the show comes an incredible amount of press obligations. It seems like every day I’m on the phone or at lunch with a journalist, explaining why I say “Nigger” on TV. After a while, it gets a little uncomfortable talking about yourself all the time—unless, of course, you’re trying to get some pussy.
However, today I’m actually excited to be here. This is the first time I get to sit down with a lot of these guys since that Kweli session five years ago. Unfortunately, not everyone I asked to come could make it—Mos Def, ?uestlove, Black Thought. But the good news is they couldn’t come because they were working. Peace to you guys. Keep up the good work, ’cause we need you out there. To everyone who participated in this piece, I just wanted to say thanks.
Guest Editor, Hip-Hop fan, I’m Rich, Bitch, Etc…
What do you get when the funniest man on the planet, Dave Chapelle, sits down with five of his favorite MCs? A hilarious-but also thought-provoking conversation about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Moderated By: Dave Chapelle
Produced By: Vanessa Satten And Bonsu Thompson
Images By: Jonathan Mannion
Dave: The reason I gathered you guys in particular is because I feel like it’s an interesting time in the history of our culture. Jesus had a hit movie this year. A documentary just grossed $100 million. I just think, culturally, it’s a very dynamic time, and I’m honored to be sitting around with some of the most dynamic people in the arts. In the midst of this time here, you all have been known, for one reason or another, to do things unconventionally. So I wanna talk to you about your music, about why you do it that way. And just to let you know: I’m a fan of everybody, so I’m not intending to be objective. I’m just curious. I wanna know why you’re taking the road less traveled, and how it’s working out.
Talib: When hip-hop first became a real part of my life, speaking about what’s going on in the community, and speaking about what’s going on in the world in general, was something that you had to do. The people you found at the top of the game—whether it was Ice Cube or KRS-One or Rakim or Big Daddy Kane—there was always something spiritual and something social about what they was bringing to the table. It never sacrificed being dope or being fresh. So to me that was just a part of what being fresh was. That’s why I always tend to say now, the reason why you might fuck with artists like us is not necessarily because of what we’re bringing to the table consciously, but because we dope first. The music feels good and sounds good. There’s a lot of people who are saying a lot of positive things but it doesn’t always sound good. I think that in these times that, yeah, the documentary [Fahrenheit 9/11] was number one and
the Jesus movie [The Passion Of The Christ] was number one, but these are things that are extremely well done on an artistic side.
Dave: But you recognize that might not be the normal M.O., or the normal approach?
Common: It might not be normal, but if somebody don’t say something to change what’s going on right now, if Jesus don’t get up and dig the mic right now, it’s gonna be trouble. It’s gonna be hell to pay in a minute. There’s no other road to travel than what we’re doing. Normal is what? It’s how you make it. It’s how you see it.
Dave: So where do you guys feel yourself fitting into the larger American culture?
Kanye: Hip-hop will go through its phases. It’ll go through a Public Enemy phase and everybody will rap like that. And then Onyx come out and people wanna rap like that. So certain things were a trend and I feel like, especially with the success of my song “Jesus Walks,” it will be a trend for people who might not particularly believe in the whole Jesus movement, just ’cause they feel like that’s what’s hot to do in hip-hop. Me and Common talked about that. We don’t want people to bite, but then maybe it’s good to have a trend of positive music.
Talib: I think you made the song ’cause it was necessary for you to make it. In the song you say, “Here goes my single/radio needs this.” So you was already speaking truth to power and you made the song two years ago, like, “I’ma make this song and I gotta make it, ’cause this is what my soul is telling me. And if I make it, I want niggas to play it.” I think what dead prez does is necessary. I think that’s where I see my place in the culture, as doing what’s necessary. Putting it down not because it’s fly and not because it gets me paid, but like he said, you need to do it. Somebody needs to do it.
Common: My daughter was singing “Jesus Walks”—“God show me the way because the Devil’s trying to break me down.” And when she said that to me, I felt good. Like, this is what I want her to be singing. I want her to be singing something about God and feel good about it. And for us to be able to do that for the children and for our communities... I can speak for all of us—we all wanna bring our people together and bring a consciousness to music that is necessary. We got a platform. Why we gonna sit there and not say nothing? I started this rap shit with no money.
M-1: Even still, with money—when we get our money we all relate to it. How do we relate to the US culture? The same way I do. I’m a Black man living in Brooklyn. Now, it’s some White people in Missouri that can relate to the shit that I’m talking too, ’cause of money. But they end of the stick and my end of the stick is two different things. They seen our struggles for money and we see theirs—as that thing that comes on—Friends or whatever—on Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m. That’s why we relevant. That’s why we have to be able to say, I gotta show you who M-1 is. You gotta show me who Common Sense is, ’cause other than that, they will have to be forced to accept us as one icon. And more and more the icon don’t even express what we doing, really.
Kanye: To represent a voice that can’t be heard loud enough, that’s my point. There was fans out there and nobody was speaking for that person or representing them properly. It made those people look like they were super lame. I thought it was ill in Kill Bill Volume 2, when [David Carradine] was talking about how Superman’s idea of a regular person was a Clark Kent, a super nerd. That’s kind of like how they would make a person out to be in comparison to the rappers that was out. So if you come out and show flaws to fans that can relate to… I’m almost like the closest thing that you’re gonna get to that on MTV, because, like, MTV bleeped out, “The White man get paid off all that.” And you know that was a mistake on they part.
M-1: That’s a curse word. Don’t say that. That’s like saying “fuck,” “shit” and “ass.” [Laughs]
Kanye: [They] let us say a bunch of bullshit that’s downing Black people, but if you say something that might be true…
Talib: That ain’t even no bullshit.
Dave: Wait a minute, you mean that White people are getting paid off of hip-hop? [Laughs]
Talib: But I think it’s honesty—that’s an artist’s responsibility. It’s to relate to people. But you don’t relate to them by bringing them what you think they want. If you bring them what you think they want, or what they’re asking for, they gonna see through that and they gonna move on to the artist they think is talented.
Dave: Is it a fine line to walk between being honest and doing what you feel and eating?
M-1: You gotta be who you are. You can put on a character and that’s all good for entertainment. You just gotta really understand what you doing. That fine line is: don’t be nobody but you. Just be honest about who that is. But there’s always this shit in front of the camera.
Dave: There’s private life and public.
M-1: If you act like you gonna vote for George Bush in the public and vote for John Kerry... I don’t wanna vote for either one, but I’m just saying—if that’s who you are, then do it.
Common: It’s all up to the person. I can never hold anybody else responsible for that. I ain’t gonna get all into my personal if I’m voting or not, but I can say that I wanna make a difference in this country. We know ain’t nobody running for us, but we have seen a difference between someone where they got a little love for the oppressed—which is a Bill Clinton—compared to a Bush. But it still ain’t what exactly we need in that office. My homies at the crib trying to keep they job feel the difference.
Talib: Politics is a strange animal, because I think that in order for any change to happen it has to happen on every level. Politics is set up to look like—especially to the people in our position—that it doesn’t work and it’s not relevant. I can go ahead and say shit seemed better under Bill Clinton, but I could also remember what politics tried to do to remove Bill Clinton. And all that time and effort they spent on cum stains is what I saw on the television around Clinton’s presidency. The political climate felt better, but it was still the same power struggles.
Kanye: I heard this one statistic... I wish I had the exact number, they told me when I was at one of those hip-hop summits. They were saying that there was such a low percentage of people in our age bracket that vote, that they feel they don’t have to supply candidates for that age bracket. They like, “They not gonna vote anyway...”
Stic: All that voting shit—to me, two things: One, if you vote, vote. It ain’t gonna do shit, but vote. Get it out. See what it do. But the thing is, people like Russell Simmons, they running around trying to get people to vote and say that’s how you participate in making a difference. But they ain’t educating people on how the system works. And to me that’s criminal, ’cause just getting people to register and vote is just building a base so candidates can exploit the community. ’Cause you know they’ll come and tell you everything you want to hear, ’til they get in office. Then they’ll act just like the other muthafucka. Voting is just a collective voice. Ain’t nothing wrong with a collective voice, but you gotta educate people about the system and how it works so young people is not just thinking, “I made a difference!” ’Cause that’s some bullshit.
Kanye: That was one of my main points why I wouldn’t want to go to a lot of the summits. It wasn’t just because I had to wake up and had to fly to another city early as hell. It’s because I’m supposed to be speaking to 3,000 kids about something that I didn’t really know about. And they using my face to say, “This is Kanye, blah, blah, blah. Just say yes.” I’m like, You know you look at certain icons and you like, “Hey, whatever they say.”
Stic: A lot of people don’t understand we be making moves for the day. How can I make $20 a day? These crackers be making moves for 20 years. They’ll send you a Bush, a Clinton, a Gerald Ford and a Jimmy Carter—all part of one plan. So while you thinking, you getting caught up within a wolf and a fox. All of that’s part of one plan: to maintain power. They know when a lot of people is resisting Bush and they know when a lot of muthafuckas is like, “Get Clinton out of office.” And it don’t matter, ’cause the same muthafuckas is in control. We get caught up in that, but when do we have power under any of these muthafuckas?
Dave: I feel like we’re in the midst of change. Most change happens in the evolutionary kind of way. You might not even notice, until it’s on top of you, what’s changed. But for example, I feel like this conversation is a symptom of change; the fact that we’re doing the photo shoot for a cover of a magazine and these are just not the traditional things that you hear public people talk about. Not even politicians will speak this candidly or sound this passionate about effecting a change. The artists are normally the backbone of a society, one way or another. And this society in particular... James Baldwin once said that Black people in particular are America’s conscience. And I feel like that’s an incredible niche. I saw Fahrenheit 9/11. And in the beginning scene, when you see the Congressional Black Caucus standing up in front of the Senate contesting the election, that had just been ratified by the Supreme Court, to Al Gore, and not one senator would come up and aid these people, that’s just another visual example of Black people trying to uphold what they see, or what we see, as the moral fiber of society. So in the midst of change, what changes are in effect? I have no idea what the outcome is gonna be. But all I know is I’m sensitive to the context that I’m in, and I feel like I live in an unprecedented time. I don’t feel qualified or smart enough or wise enough or even confident enough to say what I feel like these changes are. But in the last four years, almost every institution that an American citizen puts its faith in has... in one way or another, that faith has been shaken. In 2000 there was a dead-even election. It was unprecedented. The Supreme Court had to decide who won it. They couldn’t agree. Everyone was there counting votes and couldn’t agree. Numbers don’t lie. And somehow, they couldn’t tell. It was an anomaly of a thing. I wouldn’t even be talking this shit if I wasn’t edited. ’Cause I’ma read this shit and be like, You know what, maybe this isn’t the type of shit people wanna hear from the guy who says, “I’m Rick James, bitch.” I feel like I can attribute it more to the times than I can to myself, ’cause I don’t feel any funnier than I was eight years ago. But somehow, contextually, I’m more significant than I was eight years ago. And I think that that goes for everyone around the table.
Kanye: You’re comedy. But you bring up a lot of social and political issues. And I used to always compare myself to you and say that we laugh to keep from crying. And that’s kind of the way that we got it over on America. We’ll be saying the same things, but we’ll be throwing a coat over it.
Dave: I absolutely believe that there is part of our culture that’s a survival mechanism of people. That you could give us the worst part of an animal to eat, and we’ll call it chitlins and eat it long after we’re free. Or if you call us a dirty name like “Nigger,” we’ll say, “It sounds like it has a nice ring to it.” I think it was Mos Def that I was talking to—he made a point that “Nigga” used to be such an exclusive word. And then it became cool to be that, and it’s now as exclusive the other way. Now you hear White people say, like, “Why can’t we say it?” So all these things to me are symptomatic... All these people that say, “This reminds me of a lynching”—I never seen a lynching. I wasn’t alive for that. Reminds me of some rap songs, I think. Reminds me of some friends I’ve had. It’s not that I don’t discount that part of our experience, but I feel like most Black people in America, with cultural statements, apologize for who we are.
Kanye: On my next album, I’ma have this joint called “The Black Kid.” ’Cause we’d stay in the city with my mother. But in the summer, I’d go visit my father. And I’d be in neighborhoods, ’cause he had a nice job or whatever, and I thought I had friends for the whole summer. I ain’t realize that I’d be in the pool or something and they’d be like, “Ayo!” I ain’t realize ’til the end of the summer. This one kid came to me and said, “Yo, Richie wanted to know if he could get his ball back from the Black kid.” So the whole summer, I’m playing with all these kids and ain’t nobody know my name. I was just “the Black kid.”
Common: That’s symbolic of the country.
M-1: That’s what rap is, “the Black kid.”
Dave: The thing is, that as we progress in this kind of business—you talking to a group of people that travel to countries, sometimes travel the world, and express themselves, and sometimes we strive for people to relate to. And in the process of doing that, your worldview will change. You get a better understanding of the local mentality. For instance, I had not seen a poor White person until I traveled. They exist in America. So if I go to a person like this and say, “White people are holding me back!”—how is he gonna look at me? He’s gonna say, “What are you talking about? You rich, nigga! You crazy! Are you out of your mind?” Maybe it isn’t solely about race. Why do so many White children embrace hip-hop? Why have I seen White kids wearing dead prez T-shirts, jumping up and down screaming, “I’m an African and I know what’s happening!” None of which may be true, but they scream it. So it makes me say to myself, these times are beyond Bill Cosby’s definition, Dave Chappelle’s definition, Chris Rock’s...
Common: For me, as an artist known as “conscious” and “political,” I never really knew a lot about world politics—and really, still don’t know a whole lot. But when we talk about change, I always felt that it involves you changing yourself, your inner, first. It’s just with you. Like, you can make a difference. Like, living what I speak enough so where I don’t gotta say nothing to nobody and they gonna see by my example how to live.
Dave: See, that’s why I like sitting at the table with you right now. ’Cause you say, “I don’t know anything about real politics,” and you just quoted Gandhi by accident. Gandhi said, “Become the changes you want to see...”
Common: Well, I definitely be on that Buddhist thing because I love the Buddhist books. That, the Koran and the Bible. The only thing that’s consistent in my life—or I think that Black people can really be consistent about—is God. We may choose to say “Allah,” we may choose to say “Jah,” we may choose to say “Yahweh,” we may choose to say “Jesus,” but God’s been here for Africans for the longest. And we are in this country for a certain reason. We are obviously shining our light to the world. And went through these trials and tribulations for a certain reason. Artists, to me, is divine order. And I don’t got no answers and I know everybody in here don’t really got the final answer, but what we doing is trying to contribute to the solution and to what we know and believe is right. I’m learning from these brothers. And Kanye may be like, “I don’t know shit,” but Kanye know a whole lot. And he put it simple enough where everybody gonna get it. And I’m learning from that.
Talib: We documentarians. And our job is to document the history of what we see as honest as we can portray it. But what’s the most consistent in my music is self-love, self-esteem, self-awareness—’cause I feel like if we knew what we worth, then we wouldn’t take a lot of this shit that we on.
Dave: Why do you think that the “balling” aspect in hip-hop became so successful when so many in hip-hop’s constituency don’t have that kind of money?
Stic: I remember coming up, we’d be in the trailer. Me and my mama, my sister. And these books would come every once in a while, like Christmas. It would be real thick and you could buy all kinds of shit. They called it a “wish book.” I remember just sitting with all my friends and cousins like, “I want that. I’ma get that.” That shit just be fun, it be my life. One day your life gonna work out where you just gonna have whatever you need. No problems, it’s gonna be cool. I think that’s what the balling shit is.
Talib: That’s what hip-hop is. That’s what it started as. One thing I’m fond to say is that we gotta celebrate—and that’s what poor people’s idea of success is: celebrating. It’s somebody else’s success, ’cause we don’t own, and we ain’t making it. But as we look at that, that becomes our cause of celebration.
M-1: We be celebrating our small victories because we have none.
Dave: The notion that a person is only one-dimensional is a very interesting point—that a person couldn’t listen to dead prez and watch Seinfeld. But still, we know people like this.
Stic: Like me.
Dave: Right—you are in dead prez, watching Seinfeld. Who knew?! Ladies and gentlemen, we got a scoop! That’s right: dead prez watches Seinfeld. But that is fuckin’
hilarious, and there you have it: people are many things.
Stic: I feel like we all have that sort of balance. But any man with sense in the world knows that peace—you gonna put that forward first. You gonna try to be peaceful in whatever situation you in, ’cause that’s what you want back. But in the times where niggas is trying to pimp you, attack you on all levels of the game—your business life, your career, your people—every aspect of you is under attack, you gonna have to bring that gangsta. And they try to separate that and say you this or this. They don’t let us be whole human beings.
Kanye: I went on tour with Kweli and the only CD he was playing was 50 Cent. That fucked me up at first. Nah, it fucked me up that the first place I ever met Kweli was at Club Cheetah. I said, Kweli at the club?
Dave: This brings me to my question. True or false: More artists are idealists than not? Is it ever pressure from the ideals that you hold in your music to what you experience in your personal life? Is there tension between the two?
M-1: It makes me wanna quit. Dave: Yeah, because it’s hard. You’re making revolutionary music, but it’s commercial at the same time. It’s being sold by major distributors... I think that’s a very interesting question for a person: “Do I not be an idealist?” Or, “Do I stop going to Cheetah?” [Laughs]
Talib: That’s a two-dimensional person. I think KRS-One as an artist got in a lot of problems with his outs. There was a time when KRS was dropping a hit record every year, and he would always wax poetic about something and people, especially the magazines, would be like, “KRS contradicted himself.” And it wasn’t space for him to grow as a person. You growing as a person, but you growing in front of everybody.
Kanye: Only an idiot won’t change after they’ve learned something. I learned if you walk with a red light, you’ll get hit by a car. Are you gonna do it tomorrow?
M-1: Or you might be the dude that come out four in the morning, and look at the red light and be like, “Ain’t nobody coming down the street, I’m going today.”
Dave: The notion of two-dimensional people has been pushed to the degree. I can look inside of myself and see that that notion has a high possibility of being not just somewhat incorrect, but completely an impossibility. And if a person was consistent, they’d either be Jesus or evil incarnate. Nothing is that simple.
Common: What I wanna say, Dave, is—’cause y’all been on that point—that’s what I’ve been trying to enforce throughout my little growth as an artist, as a person. We humans. People come to me like, “Why the fuck you dressing like that? Why you rapping about love?” I’m a person, man. I hurt like the next person may hurt. I wanna live well like the next person. I look at big asses and I be wanting to touch it.
Dave: Oh my God. Common likes asses! [Laughs]
Common: But the point is that I’m human. I used to look at the gangstas and I wouldn’t listen to they albums because I’d be like, “That’s all I’m hearing from them.” But I really didn’t notice that some of they other songs would be saying other stuff. All I was getting from them was talking about how they was shooting niggas or how much money they had. And they albums had more stuff on it I didn’t really go look for, ’cause I didn’t know.
Dave: Do we believe in the ideals that we saying, or the fact? This narrow brush that a person is painting with, this onedimensional brush that this person is painting with, is almost dehumanizing. I deal with stereotype on my show. And that’s why I stereotype, because there’s layers of a person in the stereotype. Me just liking fried chicken is not the enemy— there’s a lot more to me. And for the record: I like fried chicken. I will never feel bad about it. It’s one of the best-tasting things. I don’t even think it’s a matter of debate. Does that make me less of a person? I’ll give you another example: Richard Pryor said that when he was living in Oakland, he used to snort cocaine at parties with Huey Newton. Does that make Huey Newton’s message any less valid? Martin Luther King used to have threesomes according to one FBI guy. Does that mean, because he cheated on his wife, that integration isn’t a good idea?
Kanye: See, God could send you a message in the form of a goat.
Dave: He could send you a message to talk in the form of two-ply.
Talib: Perfection is imperfect. That’s why no one wants to vote. That’s why no one believes in politics, because in order to be at the level where you can get a vote for President, you gotta be so safe and so whitewashed that you don’t stand for nothing. I would even argue that it’s good that King was doing his dirt, ’cause my experience in school is that Martin Luther King was kind of corny. It was all about Malcolm X. I went to an African Center school when I was young, and it was like, King? He’s cool, he’s for peace and everything. But Malcolm X was that real shit. And then you grow up and become a man, and you learn more about King as a person and you’re like, Oh, he was a human being! Oh, he liked pussy! Oh, sometimes he contradicted himself!
Common: An example of difference is somebody like Tupac, who was able to hit so many people, ’cause people could relate to him. His passion and the way he was coming at it... Like what Kwe was saying about Martin Luther King, where he might not have been able to relate to him originally because he didn’t see that side. Tupac gave that side, like, “Look, I’m a nigga straight up. I might kick the ‘Dear Mama’ song, ’cause I’m a human being, but I’m also feeling this anger too, because the system got me like this. And I also drink and do these things.” It’s certain people that the audience connects themselves with, and he was one of them.
Dave: Look at how times is changing. We mourn the loss of, violent murders of, two of the biggest rap stars that we’d ever seen. People adored them. And they were both gunned down within a year of each other—and in the most public of places. And if that shit had happened to Elvis or anything... that’s like watching the World Trade Center fall. It makes you feel unsafe. This nigga got killed on the strip in Vegas on fight night. He got killed right after the Soul Train Awards. Aren’t the police out there? Now, this has a tremendous psychological effect.
Now, fast-forward. The biggest rapper gets retired. Retired? How much money did he have? Did they rob him like Motown? Fuck no! The nigga’s working on buying a ball team. That’s a change. He’s rapped with dead prez. He’s said some of the most realistic shit I’ve ever heard, and some of the most revolutionary shit. I said it before in a magazine: I’ll listen to a Jay-Z record before I take a meeting with White corporate execs. Why? Because that attitude gets me amped. I go in the office: “Allow me to reintroduce myself!...” Because I’m sitting across the table from people that may—because of where I come from in society—perceive me as less. At the same time, all the other dudes at the table looking at me like, “If you came from where I came from, you might not be seated on that side. We might not have made this for you.” So who knows?! Shit is changing.
Listen man, I’ve never seen a cable show as hot as my show. I have developed 11 television series for network television, all of which failed with the biggest producers Hollywood had. They don’t understand these conventions of this medium that we call television. “All you do is travel around the country and tell people jokes.” Exactly. So they give me a show. It’s on cable, it’s on a network that doesn’t bring in big numbers and it has no crossover. But look what happened that last couple of years. So you can call it arrogant or whatever...
Kanye: You can’t call it arrogant. That’s something else. ’Cause if you state a fact, a fact about something that you worked so hard at...
Dave: Why can’t I say my show’s my favorite? Like I have to say it’s The Sopranos instead of saying I like the shit that I work on 20 hours a day. Nigga, I created my own favorite babies, too. I mean come on, man! I’m not objective about it. I’m not gonna pretend to be objective about this shit.
Kanye: If [The College Dropout] was my favorite album of all time, I would definitely say it. You don’t have to worry about that from me. That’s what I do. Are we supposed to be that unintelligent that we can’t state the facts at a risk of coming off arrogant?
Dave: In Hollywood they always talk about what the definition of cool is. To give it a real short definition, I say anybody that is courageous enough to authentically, in one respect or another, be themselves when that is not necessarily the normal modus operandi, that’s beyond cool. A person like this is magnetic. They’re never forgotten and they’ll be famous in whatever circle they are. “What is this Muhammad Ali? How dare this nigga raise his hand and say he’s the greatest?” Muhammad Ali would sit there, “I’m beating the shit outta these guys. I’m getting bored.” It’s early in his career. And when he stepped to the federal government, the thing that nobody ever talks about is that this was a 22-year-old dude. What were you like when you were 22? Imagine, the most powerful government in the world is leaning on you, a 22-year-old nigga. He took the weight. Gained the championship three times. The world will never forget him. He said he was the greatest first. And now everybody in America—Black and White—refers to him as the greatest. And at that point in his life, people hated him.
Kanye: My grandmother hated him. My grandfather loved him.
Dave: I read some shit where Jackie Robinson said about Ali [something to the effect of], “He’s an ingrate. After all this country’s done for him, he should go back and fight for this country in Vietnam.” And now I’m watching [Errol Morris’ Oscar-winning 2003 documentary] The Fog Of War, and the Secretary of Defense during Vietnam [Robert McNamara] saying, “Oh, that shit was a mistake. Portionality in war should be a guideline from now on. Because we lost 58,000 Americans for three and a half million Vietnamese.” What did we gain? What did they gain? It turns out that we were fighting for two completely different reasons and we didn’t even understand each other. So in essence, Muhammad Ali was absolutely right. A 22-year-old nigga from the heartland of America knew better than the Secretary of Defense. Secretary of Defense is 88, just said that publicly.
Maybe, just maybe, you should listen to your youth. If your youth says, “We don’t like it,” then just talk to them about it. Just try to understand it. Don’t hate them for it. Don’t think that you do it a better way. Just listen to them. You know why? Because you can’t fight changes. You can stop a rose from growing if you nip it in the bud, but you can’t stop the stream from flowing, and you cannot stop the flood. I’m out. Thanks everybody.