Hip-Hop Junkie
Jay Pharoah can be anyone he wants to be.
Words: Emmanuel C.M.
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Comedian star Jay Pharoah can impersonate just about anyone. The Chesapeake, Va. native first started doing impersonations at the age of 6 and would practice by imitating Disney characters. Years later his celebrity impressions helped Pharoah land a gig on Saturday Night Live in 2010, where he’s been ever since.

But besides his funny guy chops, Jay is also a huge hip-hop fan. He even dropped an EP, The Resurrection, in 2014. And on SNL, Pharoah has showcased hilarious impersonations of rap artists such as Jay Z, 50 Cent, Drake, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West.

XXL chopped it up with the comedic star to talk rapper impersonations and Kanye’s Twitter rants.

XXL: Has a rapper ever been offended by your impersonation?

Jay Pharoah: Never heard any negativity. Kanye did call me a couple of years ago. But it wasn’t like, “I hate this dude, stop doing your impression,” it was more of him talking about himself for 12 minutes. Which sounds so Kanye, but yeah. All the rappers that I encounter it’s never, “Oh, don’t do me,” or whatever, it’s all been love. Jay Z loves it. Snoop asked me if I could impersonate him.

Have you been watching Kanye’s Twitter account? Do you like it or hate it?

I feel like Twitter was dead and Kanye resurrected it. Nobody was going up there; it was all Instagram for likes and looking at ass photos. But Kanye West’s rants, I think they brought the stock back up for Twitter. I enjoy it. I think it’s hilarious. If you need a good chuckle before you go into work, you should just click on his Twitter.

What are your thoughts on Kanye’s new album, The Life of Pablo?

Kanye’s album is amazing. It gives you a very epic feel. I think it’s a cross between Graduation and Dark Twisted Fantasy, which are both great albums. It’s just that epic feel, man.

Did you check out the Grammys? What did you think about Kendrick’s performance?

I was there. I thought it was dope. I thought it scared a lot of white folks though but I thought it was dope. I know you seen all the white people faces in the crowd when he performed. They looked pretty freaked out. They didn’t know what was going to happen. They didn’t know if they should pull the fire alarm and get out of there. They didn’t know whether to sneak and go to the bathroom, they didn’t know what to do. I think everyone was just scared. This is dope, you putting it right in their faces. [When he said] “I’m the biggest hypocrite in 2015,” and came out there with them half cornrows and convict outfit, oh man. It reminded me of The Source Awards when they did Death Row and all of them were in the boxes, and they came out. But he did that at the Grammys son, the Grammys, that’s insane.

Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2016 issue including Big Sean’s cover story, the Letter from the Editor, Macklemore’s thoughts on White privilege, Kodak Black’s Show & Prove interview, Doin’ Lines with Boosie BadAzz, Flatbush Zombies’ serious comic addiction, the producer behind Desiigner’s hit “Panda,” Plies’ career boost thanks to Instagram, Anderson .Paak's Show & ProveLira Galore's Eye Candy interview, What's Happenin' with Fetty Wap, go inside Quality Control Music, Lil Uzi Vert's Show & Prove and more.

See Exclusive Photos From Big Sean's XXL Cover Story