Hannibal Buress and Nostalgia Mixtape host Sama’an Ashrawi as young 20ers.
The Hannibal Buress Episode
Esteemed thespian, underrated martial artist, motocross rider, and part-time EMT, Hannibal Buress recalls his first-ever walk-up music at his second-ever stand-up gig. (We love hyphens!) Hannibal and host Sama’an Ashrawi ponder whether or not they should take credit for the Hiatus Kaiyote sample on Drake’s “Free Smoke” and how reminisce about the time Hannibal dunked on Kevin Durant (figuratively).
Stream the Hannibal Buress interview via Apple, Spotify, or find your other preferred streaming service here.
Hannibal Buress: See, man, this is– who else? Who else podcast is somebody listening to multiple Amil tracks right now?
Sama’an Ashrawi: This is the only one.
Hannibal: In a crowded landscape…
Sama’an: In an over-saturated market…
Hannibal: In an over-saturated market… This is unique.
Sama’an Ashrawi: Hey y’all, this is Sama’an, welcome to another episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape. On this episode we’ve got one of the most hardest working people in show business. I met this guy through my mentor Bun B. With Hannibal in specific, we met at a now defunct festival in Austin, Texas, called Fun Fun Fun Fest, which (RIP) was my favorite festival ever. Bun and Hannibal were both performing, Run DMC was headlining, I can’t remember who else performed, but while Bun was onstage I went over to Hannibal and I said, “Hey, man, I’m working on this documentary about Bun’s group, UGK, you make fun of one of their songs in your set (“Pregnant Pussy”), so maybe you wanna be in my documentary?” And he was like, “Yeah, sounds good!” And I was like, “Oh! That was really easy.” So we walked back to his hotel, we did the interview there, and that ended coming full circle as you’ll hear in the story because my UGK documentary ended up catching the eye of Drake and is, I guess, kind of the reason that this whole story happened in the first place, which is crazy. And the two songs that we’re gonna talk about: one is “Building A Ladder” by Hiatus Kaiyote; I first was introduced to Hiatus Kaiyote’s music through my then-co-worker, Shante Merida, at Revolt TV, when I used to work at Revolt. The other song is Jay-Z’s “All I Need,” which, well, I’m not gonna spoil it, I’m not gonna even tell you why that song is so cool, you’re just gonna have to listen and find out. So, let’s let Hannibal introduce himself.
Hannibal Buress: My name is Hannibal Buress. I’m from Chicago, Illinois. I am a philanthropist, architect, thespian, one of the top actors of this generation — dramatically and comedically — underrated martial artist, motocross rider, I’m a part-time EMT, and I just got 25% equity in a gauze company.
Sama’an: And what are we gonna be talking about today?
Hannibal: Music! Talkin’ about some music [bars] / and some songs [notes] / goin’ to the river, hoppin up in a boat [floatin’] / row, row, row your boat / gently down the stream [STREAM]. You know what that mean. [MIGOS!] [MAMA!]
Chapter 1: Are We Influencers?
Hannibal & Sama’an: [take hits from their inhalers]
Sama’an: You double up when you do it?
Hannibal: Sometimes. Yeah.
Sama’an: I’ve never done the double up technique.
Hannibal: Yeah, I got a bunch of inhalers now, dawg.
Hannibal: I’m ballin’. Shoutout to my homie, Mo Amer. Mo Amer brought me about 12 inhalers from Jordan ‘cause they only seven dollars a inhaler…
Sama’an: What up, Mo!
Hannibal: …over-the-counter, so I got ‘bout 10-12 inhalers, I’m kinda ballin’, you know.
Sama’an: Shoutout to Mo, shoutout to inhalers.
Sama’an: Shoutout to asthma. Asthma Boys in the buildin’ tonight.
Hannibal: Asthma Boys in the buildin’ tonight / you know how i’m feelin’, my lungs is tight / you ain’t even gotta get your inhaler out / I got my Proair right here / can’t breathe boys in the house [house, house, house, house]
Sama’an: [laughs] That went way better than I thought it would. Umm!
Hannibal & Sama’an: [laughs]
Hannibal: It wasn’t perfect, but I got through it. I got through it! [laughs]
Sama’an: I will never have the freestyle skills of… you.
Sama’an Ashrawi: So, I wanna rewind to 2015.
Sama’an: Goin’… hoppin’ in the time machine, goin’ back. Starting at a macro level, when you think of 2015, what comes to mind? For you, and also culturally.
Hannibal: For me… 2015 I was doin’ my TV show that year. Then we did season four of [The] Eric Andre [Show] also. Did Comedy Camisado in the Fall. I think we finalized the editing and the deal with Netflix for Hannibal Takes Edinburgh. Yeah, just a bunch of shit.
Sama’an: Who did the theme song for Why? (Hannibal’s Comedy Central TV show)
Hannibal: Hiatus Kaiyote.
Sama’an:And that was one of their songs that you really liked that you got for the theme or they did an original song?
Hannibal: No. They did an original.
Sama’an: Okay. What was the song called?
Hannibal: It was called “Why?” Because the name of my show was Why? I didn’t name it “Why?” and I actually wanted to change the name, and I had planned on it, because they decided it was gonna be “Why?” early and then I just was thinkin’, “Oh, I gotta change it,” and then time kinda got away frome, and then it was like, “Ohp, I think we’re locked into this.” It wasn’t a bad name, it was just…
Sama’an: It was pretty literal.
Hannibal: …I don’t think it was the best I could’ve come up with. If I sat in a room with a few creative minds for a couple hours we probably would’ve came up with something pretty dope and fly. Anyways, I digress. I had seen [Hiatus Kaiyote] a couple times before. I actually interviewed Hiatus Kaiyote a few years back– I had a web series that didn’t end up going, but it was called Talking To Strangers and I talked with them and a few other people, totally unprepared as an interviewer. Like, straight up did not even… insulting… lookin’ back it was bad that I was interviewing people because especially the ones I didn’t know, I hadn’t listened to songs, I was just like, “Sooo you guys, how long you been together as a band? Ha-ha. When you guys gonna break up? Waka waka.”
Hannibal: And so it was bad. But yeah I’d interviewed them. And then maybe the next year or two years later at SXSW, I saw their live show and it was great, and turns out they were fans of the Eric Andre Show, so we’d go to their shows. I went to a couple New York shows of theirs. They’re amazing live. And then I was at an LA show during pre-production for Why? and the show was good and then I was at the show and I said, “They should do the theme song!” I was at the show and I was like, “They should do it.” So then I asked them to do it.
Sama’an:And also in 2015 there was a big rap beef…
Hannibal: Oh yeah! Damn that was two years ago huh?
Sama’an: Drake and Meek Mill. And That’s a different story that I’ll tell for another time, but, I wanted to bring up both Hiatus and Drake because in 2015 we both ended up at a dinner that Drake threw for Bun B and we were pretty much the first people to show up to that.
Sama’an: It was pretty much just Drake and the catering staff.
Hannibal: We were super early.
Sama’an: Like way too early.
Sama’an: We could have shown up like two or three hours later.
Hannibal: It was… being in a big, empty event space… I mean, you could do it, but… if you don’t have to, you shouldn’t.
Hannibal: But it worked out.
Sama’an: It worked out fine! But! One good thing that came out of us showing up early was, when we were there, Drake came over to us and was trying to make, like, affable small talk.
Sama’an: He was like, “So what music have you guys been listening to recently?”
Sama’an: And, independently, you and I had both become huge fans of Hiatus Kaiyote. So we were like tag-teaming and telling [Drake], “Oh you gotta listen to this band, Hiatus Kaiyote.” And he was like, “I never heard of them.” And so we had to like tell him, convince him, to mess with their music.
Hannibal: Did we really push?
Sama’an: We pushed. It was like – he was like “Nah, I haven’t heard of them and, uh, you were – you were saying why they were dope and it triggered me to think of – he’s a big fan of Little Dragon and at the time Hiatus Kaiyote was on tour with Little Dragon so that was my, like, connecting the dots for him. I was like, “If you like Little Dragon, these guys are opening up for them, that’s why you should mess with them.”
Sama’an: So we fast forward to 2017. First song on More Life is “Free Smoke” –
Sama’an: Which features…
Hannibal: Hiatus Kaiyote.
Sama’an: A Hiatus Kaiyote sample.
Sama’an: Should we take credit for that?
Hannibal: Uh… I don’t –
Hannibal: I think – I think you have to ask, you know? Before you just take credit, you have to ask and say “Hey.”
Sama’an: Do you remember, uh…
Hannibal: Do you remember, uh… When we were – it was like at a weird, kinda, big event space in Houston and, uh –
Sama’an: There was a lot of hors d’oeuvres.
Hannibal: There was hors d’oeuvres, it wasn’t nobody there, you remember this conversation? Oh, no? Alright.
Sama’an: Alright, cool.
Hannibal: But, I mean you might as well for your – who – I mean, for – for things to take credit for, you might as well amongst your friends until somebody says otherwise.
Sama’an:Until he comes in and rebukes it.
Sama’an:I feel like –
Hannibal: That would seem like a weird battle to take –
Hannibal: I’d take on that type of battle. Like, “Mother – you didn’t tell me shit!” I would take on that battle just for fun, like, “Wow he really cares a lot, huh?” Hm.
Sama’an: Wait, you would take on the – you would defend that we – to take credit for it?
Hannibal: If I was in the same situation and it wasn’t the case that you had put me onto that, and I found out about somebody –
Sama’an: Oh you would take – you would be Drake, you would –
Hannibal: If – I would be like, “Nah man. What you talkin’ about.” And I’d pull out receipts of like text conversations with friends where they sent me the link, “This is what happened. Shut up!”
Hannibal: Like, “Wow. I didn’t know he cared so much. Why does he care so much about that? Seems like – seems like he had better things to do, huh…” But yep, maybe we should. It sounds great! It was a great use of a sample. It was unexpected when I heard it, too.
Sama’an: And then the song is like – and then the beat is like really hard, so it’s like the opposite of the Hiatus sample.
Sama’an: It’s like, jarring. Like you hear this beautiful piano and…
Chapter 2: Asthma Boys
Sama’an: How did you first discover Hiatus Kaiyote?
Hannibal: Through – I mean, I had been set up to interview them –
Sama’an: That was literally the introduction?
Hannibal: That was the introduction and then I saw them live at SXSW and… was it… an Okayplayer, event? I think?
Sama’an: So it took you some time – you saw them live before you really listened to their music.
Hannibal: Yeah. I saw them live, that was – that was how I got introduced to their music.
Sama’an:So I listened to Hiatus Kaiyote on the way here and one of the comparisons I really like to make is, I feel like, Nai Palm’s voice is, like, like almost like Stevie Wonder. Like, you know that song, uh, “By Fire”?
Hannibal: Hiatus or Stevie?
Hannibal: Uh… I’m not – not off top.
Sama’an: That one – so I’m gonna sing it for you because I’m really good at singing, but it’s the one where, like –
Hannibal: [Whispering] Don’t sing it… Don’t do it, dawg.
Sama’an: She makes the voice, like, follow the guitar.
Hannibal: Follow the beat, yeah.
Sama’an: Like, [sings “By Fire”]
Sama’an: You know what I’m talking about?
Hannibal: Well no, she does that a lot, where she is, like, singing – she becomes a part of the beat –
Hannibal: Versus singing on it, where she’ll ride, you know, the progressions and things like that. She’s really good at that.
Sama’an: Her voice is like – becomes like an instrument, like, on the song, like, falls into the song.
Sama’an: It’s like, I don’t know, it’s, like, wild to me. But, like, a bunch of people have sampled their music. Like, Drake sampled them, uh, Anderson Paak on his album –
Sama’an: Hiatus Kaiyote in the hip-hop world. And then I found like an old Chance song that samples Hiatus Kaiyote. I can’t remember the name of it, though, but, it’s like, you can’t find it on one of his albums it’s on, like, YouTube. But, like, what do you think makes their music so good to sample?
Hannibal: They just make… Just good shit. I don’t know. It just works. It’s, uh, I opened for them one show, I just – I’d describe the music – it’s, like, it’s sex music, but it don’t – it’s not really – the songs don’t be about sex that often.
Hannibal: And they got a sexual vibe but if you really listen she’s talking about some… way other shit.
Sama’an: But it’s definitely music that’s made by someone who’s had sex before, like, 100%.
Sama’an: Like, the biggest argument I ever got in with one of my college roommates was about whether or not Michael Jackson had ever had sex, and my roommate was like, “I don’t think he’s ever had sex.” And I was like, “You have to be a crazy person to think that.” Like, look at his music videos, like the guy clearly – he’d done it before, right?
[Editor’s note: This interview was recorded before the Leaving Neverland documentary was released. We at The Nostalgia Mixtape want to make it clear that we believe victims of sexual assault who are brave enough to come forward and share their stories.]
Hannibal: Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo [musically] that’s what I –
Hannibal: That’s what I would be – that’s what I always thought when I watched Michael Jackson videos. This dude be fuckin’!
Sama’an: He knows what he’s doing.
Hannibal: Moonwalking into it.
Hannibal: I had to stop fuckin’ this morning, ‘cause my asthma started acting up. And I was getting’ it in and I had to take a break. And I said, “Hey, I, hey,” and then so I – luckily, she was, like, facing down, so I was able to grab the inhaler out of – ‘cause, I’ve used the inhaler in front of girls post-sex and then – it’s been a mistake because they – they use that against me in an argument.
Hannibal: When things go – “Oh you couldn’t breathe when you were,” so I tried to – now I – I hit the inhaler out of sight during sex situations. If it’s not – if it’s just regular asthma, just chillin’, I have no problem, but, mid-sex I dip off into the corner and I hit it, and then I get back in. Yeah.
Sama’an: The reason that I ended up getting an inhaler was because, after college, this young woman that I had a crush on invited me over to her place for – literally to watch Netflix, but this was before “Netflix and Chill” was, like, in the – in our culture, like, the –
Sama’an: The lexicon. And she didn’t tell me she had cats.
Sama’an: And so, we’re like watching and, like, let’s say we’re like rounding first base, like, going to second base, and, like, I feel like my airways, like, closing. I was like, “Nah, I can power through this,” like, I’ll be fine. And, uh, there was, like, this point where we were like making out, I thought I could switch to, like, breathing through my nose. Nope, huge mistake. And she like – she literally stopped me and was like, “You don’t sound – this doesn’t sound like a normal breathing situation.
Sama’an: And I was like, “Yeah, I think I’m having an asthma attack.”
Sama’an: So she – I feel like she, like, saved my life like she made me, like, a cup of tea, like, on the spot –
Sama’an: Totally opened up my – so, I didn’t tell my parents that part, but I was like, “Yeah, I think I just had an asthma attack.” Like, “I might need an inhaler”.
Hannibal: It’s rough out here.
Sama’an: It’s not easy. You gotta have all these techniques, like –
Hannibal: It’s – I gotta – I gotta get of these inhalers. I gotta get something – get a shot or something… Something better.
Sama’an: There’s gotta be something like, like how you had the eye surgery, there’s gotta be, like, something for that, for asthma.
Hannibal: Yeah, they has to be an advanced asthma treatment. Hit me up if you know what it is. I’m tired of this life! Some people cut – some people stop eating gluten.
Sama’an: You think that’s, like – and they think that’s, like, the key?
Hannibal: I’ve heard – I’ve heard first-hand accounts, like, not just – not internet sleuth myth shit, or whatever.
Sama’an: Not, like, message boards.
Hannibal: Nah, just straight up, somebody that I know, cause I – and they didn’t even – I was overhearing them talking to somebody else. I wasn’t – they weren’t even talking to me they was like, “Yeah, I had asthma for a while and then, you know, stopped eating gluten and then the asthma cleared up.”
Sama’an: I’m almost willing to test that out, because asthma is annoying but, like, I like too much stuff that has gluten in it.
Hannibal: I’m willing [sighs], I’m – you know what, I’m willing to – I might be willing to try it just to – just ‘cause I don’t think people be expecting me at restaurants to be like, “Is this gluten free, though?”
Hannibal:“Uh, is this place – what’s the gluten free option?” And so, to – just to say that a lot… yeah.
Sama’an:Could be, like, a good “new year, new Hannibal” thing. Like, 2019 –
Hannibal: Get t-shirts. “What’s the gluten free option?”
Hannibal:Make it cool. “What’s the gluten free option? WTGF.”
Sama’an: Make wristbands. Bracelets.
Sama’an: Like, LiveStrong, remember that?
Sama’an:It could catch on.
Hannibal:I think so. What’s the – “I need to know the gluten free option / If it got gluten the shit ain’t poppin’ / Put some gluten free crackers in my stockin’. For Christmas / I represent Compton, it’s bitches / and they all got socks on.”
Sama’an: I could see that being a trap song, like, “what’s the. Gluten free. Option.” [Mumbles].
Hannibal: Mhm. [Mumbles].
Sama’an: And then, like, you could sample the inhaler, like, [makes inhaler sound repeatedly]
Hannibal: [Makes inhaler sound repeatedly]
Sama’an: Speaking of gluten free, how did you first discover Drake’s music?
Hannibal: Was it – was it that song – “Youda fuckin’ best… Youda best… Best I ever had…” Wait. Was it that or was it, uh, “The Winner.” Did “The Winner” come out? Do you remember that?
[Hannibal sings tune of “The Winner”]
Sama’an: Was this mixtape Drake?
[Hannibal mumbles first verse of “The Winner”]
Sama’an: I don’t remember that one but I’m glad you’re singing it –
Hannibal: Yeah – couple – yeah, uh, “So Far Gone.” “Successful,” those tracks. I think that was… 2009. Because I remember I was still living on – I used to stay on Metropolitan and Union, in Brooklyn. And so I remember being unemployed, and, stayin’ –
Sama’an: Could you relate to that?
Hannibal: Oh, the “Successful”?
Hannibal: Was that – around that time I was like, “Yeah, I want to be successful, too! I get it, man! Motherfuckers is broke out here.”[Laughter]
Sama’an: That was a different Brooklyn, too, so that was not the nice Brooklyn. That was like the –
Hannibal: It was getting there but it wasn’t – it wasn’t – it was the – it was the second stop into – into the L so it was right above it, so it was starting to get there. Definitely, I mean, it’s different then – then now. It’s fucking crazy. I stay just a couple blocks from there now, but yeah. Around then, those tracks. “You’re the best,” and, uh, yeah.
Sama’an: Around that time, like, when, like, “Youda, youda best,” and “Best I Ever Had,” and those songs were coming out, I, uh, admittedly used to hate on Drake, like, really hard. And – for like a long time – and, uh, it wasn’t until I had this – I had a talk with Bun, and we were, like, at a show and, like, I can’t remember what it was but, like, a new Drake song had come out. I was like, “Man, why,” this was before I knew, like, how close him and Drake were and I was like, “Man, why are you listening to Drake, man? Drake sucks.” And, like, he was like, “Sama’an, what are you talking about?” And I was like, this is how – this is how cringe-worthy my takes were on music – I was like, “Man, he’ll never be as good as Mos Def,” [laughs]. Bun was like, he just like put his – his face in his palm and he was like, “Sama’an. Is Drake trying to make the same music as Mos Def?” And I was like, “Nah.” He was like, “Alright, so why are you comparing them?” That was like a light bulb moment for me.
Sama’an: Once I stopped, like, comparing, like, all rappers to each other, and realizing that there’s, like, different lanes, then I was like wow Drake’s, like, actually, like, the best at what he does.
Hannibal: He knows how to make songs.
Sama’an: Like, he has a team of, like, mad scientists, like, locked up in like a dungeon just writing, like, hit after hit. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous!
Hannibal: Yeah, he switches up the sound before it gets stale.
Sama’an: Right. How does he know how to do that? How does he know?
Hannibal: Focus groups. [Laughs]
Sama’an: So when – so that dinner that we were talking about, the way that happened was, I got a call from one of Bun’s managers, and they were like, “Drake’s putting together a dinner for Bun, he found out that you have a bunch of, like, UGK interviews,” and I was like, “Yeah,” which is actually – that’s actually how we met.
Sama’an: Um, and they were like, uh, they wanted to know if they could use some of them to, like, play throughout the dinner and I was like, “Holy shit,” like this is – this is amazing, like, hell yeah. So, like, I stopped what I was doing, like, I cut up some clips and, like, emailed them to whoever on Drake’s team and, uh, I remember right when I got the call, though, like when I was editing the stuff, I, like, went on my Twitter and I was like, “Let me just see if I’ve ever talked shit about Drake on Twitter,” and delete those tweets!
Sama’an: Because I was imagining, like, Drake surfing through my Twitter, like – [Laughs]
Hannibal: [Laughs] Nah.
Sama’an: I feel like Drake would be the kind of person that would do that. He would find, like, tweets of you talking shit about him and then, like, show them to your face.
Hannibal: I think – yeah. I’d do that, too. [Laughs]
Hannibal: Yo, I actually had that, uh – [Laughs]
Hannibal: You know, it was just – I – it was this comedian, he did this list. And I’m – I’m Facebook friends with him and shit! And I never had any problems with this dude. And he had – I booked him on my show in Brooklyn before, I was always cordial and, he did this, “This comedian, I think, is underrated,” and “Comedian – this, this other,” and then “Comedian I hate,” and then he said me. [Laughter]
Hannibal: I’m like, “That’s weird.” I never messaged him or anything. I was just like, “That’s just weird.” And I just made a note of it, you know I ain’t never – you know, say no ill will of him or post about him, nothing. And then, uh, I post up, uh, a tour date on Twitter. And then, in the replies it was, uh, this guy asking to open for me. Sama’an: Oh my god. Hannibal, that’s crazy.[Laughs]
Hannibal: He’s like, “Let me come on the road with you man!” And I, you know, I could’ve dunked on him.
Sama’an: You could’ve slam dunked on him.
Hannibal: I could’ve dunked on him man.
Sama’an: You could’ve Vince Carter arm in the rim
Hannibal: And I could’ve fuckin’ gotten the quick, fuckin’, blog run of shit – Complex, UpRoxx, this site, this site, for the tweet, or whatever, and just posted up his shit. But I just DM’ed him. [Laughs]
[27:00] Sama’an: You send him a screenshot?
Hannibal: I send him a screenshot like, “That’s weird that you would ask to open for a comedian you hate.” Just sent him that. He went on this whole thing and –
Sama’an: What was his defense? What was his defense?
Hannibal: There’s no defe – he was just, I don’t know, he was just… But I just thought it was funny. I wouldn’t be online asking to open for somebody I was trashing also online. But it was, uh, a fun thing. But I definitely – I could’ve been super petty. I’m grown. If he caught me when I was twenty-eight, he would’ve got dunked on. [Laughs]
Hannibal: So you’re, uh, scrubbin’ tweets…
Sama’an: Yep, I’m scrubbin’ tweets. [Laughs]
[0:27:43] Sama’an: And I’m like Drake better not check my Twitter, he better not check my Twitter. And then that’s when they called me back and they – I think they saw my interview with you, like I sent them that clip and they were like, “Yo, like, do you think Hannibal would be down to do, like, a roast of Bun, like, at the dinner?” And I was like, “I could find out, I could see.” And you did it, but I feel like, I remember – in the moment did you, like, you forgot like a couple of jokes you were doing that night?
Hannibal: I forgot a couple jokes… It was just… Such a different –
Sama’an: The Mayor was there, like, Bun’s mom was there.
Hannibal: The Mayor was there, Bun’s mom —
Sama’an: You still talked about “Pregnant Pussy” in front of Bun’s mom.[Laughs]
Hannibal: Wait, did I talk about “Pregnant Pussy” there?
Sama’an: Yeah you did. [Laughs]
[0:28:24] [Hannibal x Bun stand-up interlude]
[0:28:57] Sama’an: Have you written better Drake jokes since then?
Hannibal: No, I haven’t written – I don’t really have any Drake jokes except for my bad impersonation.
Hannibal: [Drake voice] “I went to Toronto, I went to Atlanta / I used to drink Pepsi, now I drink Fanta.” [Laughter]
Hannibal: [Drake voice] “I went to Toronto – met the girl in Toronto, flew her out to Atlanta, I flew her to Atlanta, flew her – met the girl in Houston, flew her to Miami, she went back to Miami, then went out to Houston, kick it in Houston, we went out to LA, Calabasas we kickin’ it.” [Laughter]
Hannibal: [Drake voice] “Then we went to Torontoooo…. Baaaack to Hoouustonnn… Kickin’ it in Miami. Back to Toronto. Back over to LA. Went to Toronto. Met her in Houston. Flew her to Miami.” That’s part – that’s one aspect of Drake.
Hannibal: Focus – you know, it’s a little rough around the edges.
Chapter 3: Dunking On Kevin Durant
Sama’an: That same year, like a couple months after that happened – this maybe something that I need to apologize to you for – but, so I’m friends with this basketball player named Hasheem Thabeet, I don’t know if you remember him… Hannibal: Yeah. Thabeet! From Connecticut. Sama’an: Yeah, Uconn. Yeah. Hannibal: And then… he was on the Thunder, or, he got drafted by the Thunder? Or just ended up on the Thunder? Sama’an: He ended up on the Thunder. Hannibal: He was drafted by the Grizzlies? Who was he drafted by? Sama’an: Maybe the Grizzlies and then he ended up on the Rockets. Hannibal: Yeah. Sama’an: And then the Thunder is where he, like, probably played his best basketball. Hannibal: Is he out of the league? Sama’an: I think he’s playing, like, in Japan now or something like that. Hannibal: Oh that’s – he has, he’s having a crazy life every day. Sama’an: Yeah. Hannibal: A 7’1” black dude in Japan? Sama’an: Yikes. Big yikes. Hannibal: Yikes. Sama’an: Um, he – so anytime he would come to LA, he would always hit me up and – we met in Houston, which makes sense – um, he would always hit me up and, like, invite me to hang at stuff and, like, there was one night that I won’t talk about now but, like, I never drink but he invited me, like, after one of the Thunder games against the Lakers. I drank with the guys and don’t remember a lot. Um, but he invited me to Kevin Durant’s house, uh, like shortly after the dinner in Houston. Hannibal: Mhm. Sama’an: So, I literally spent like the whole day at Kevin Durant’s house. Half the day I was just working on some assignments I had. Just like on his back porch, then when I was done, we all, like, watched a movie together and me and Kevin were making small talk – Hannibal: Y’all watch, uh, Thunder Up? [Laughter]
Sama’an: [laughs] No.
Hannibal: Have you seen that?
Sama’an: [laughs] No, I don’t know if I ever wanna watch that. Is it worth it?
Hannibal: I watched a little bit of it. It’s so weird because it started popping up on my Netflix after he left the Thunder. [laughs] I didn’t know it existed until after he left. It’s a weird, Space Jam-y vibe movie. But, whatever. Go on.
Sama’an: This day that I came over to his house was like the day before Drake dropped “Back to Back,” it was right after Meek Mill had made the accusations, and dropped the Quentin Miller demos or whatever. Kevin was heated.
He was like, “Drake’s my favorite rapper, man. If he doesn’t write his own stuff, I don’t know what I’ma do. I don’t know what I’ma do. I’ma be upset.”
I was like, “Look, man…” This was after I got the wisdom from Bun.
I was like, “Do you enjoy his music?”
He was like, “Yes, I love his music.”
I was like, “So does it matter if he wrote it or not?”
He was like, “Aight, maybe you’re right, but I don’t know, man!”
And [Editor’s note: Like a year later] he gave me his number and I texted him because he couldn’t remember where y’all had met. Or you couldn’t remember where y’all had met. But it was in Chicago, right?
Hannibal: It was at United Center. I went to one of the USA…
Hannibal: Nah. USA Men’s Basketball. One of the warm-up games. They were playing some country from South America, Uruguay, maybe?
Sama’an: This kind of ended up being a slam dunk moment for you. Because he was… what was he mad about?
Hannibal: Well, no. You said, “I’m with Durant,” he said he couldn’t remember where he saw me. I said, “The USA game. Courtside.” And I jokingly said he was scared I was gonna roast him for going to Golden State. So he didn’t speak [to Hannibal.] Because a couple other spoke to him, said what’s up. But umm [laughs] I said he was scared he was gonna get roasted. And then you said he said “bring it!”
Sama’an: And then…
Hannibal: And I said, “Okay!”
Sama’an: And then you brought it.
Hannibal: I brought it several months later.
Sama’an: That was like the highlight of my 2016 [Editor’s Note: 2017] when I saw you at… What was it, like a video game thing?
Sama’an: Was it All-Star?
Hannibal: All-Star Weekend, NBA 2k thing. Yeah.
Sama’an: That was great. Good job.
Chapter 4: The Battle(s) of Carbondale
Sama’an:So I just wanted to ask if you had any… Is there a song that’s tied to an earlier memory in your life?
Hannibal: Yeah. My second time ever on stage, I walked to Jay-Z “All I Need” off of Blueprint. April 2002, I think that show was? March?
Sama’an: You still in college at this point or…?
Hannibal: Yeah, sophomore in college.
Sama’an: Okay, so tell me what was happening in your life. This was your second stand up show, were you fully committed to the idea that you could be a comedian full-time?
Hannibal: I wasn’t thinkin’… I mean I was 19. So I was just doin’ it and enjoyin’ it at that point. I liked doin’ it, but it wasn’t any… it was no real game plan at that point besides try to get on stage more. Because it was a different time, too. Podcasting was not a thing yet. Just, the access to the information about being a stand-up wasn’t available in the way that uh… So it’s just a long way of saying, I was just doing it. I wanted to keep doin’ it, but I didn’t really know the mechanisms of how to do it and how you work. That was my second show ever. So it was just trying to get on shows, that’s it.
Sama’an: And why did you pick the Jay Z song?
Hannibal: I think I really liked that song at the time. I didn’t go into that gig thinking I was having intro music. It’s my second show, so I’m not even thinking intro music. I think I was listening to it a lot and I just liked that beat and the sample and when they were like, “What do you wanna walk on to?” I was just thinkin’ about what I had been listening to a lot at that time, and it was that track off of [Blueprint].
Sama’an: Did they just hit play from the beginning or was there a specific part of the song?
Hannibal: Yeah I think they probably played it… Wait, hold on.
Sama’an: How does it go?
Hannibal: It’s a little talking at the beginning so I think they played it at the drop. Yeah.
Sama’an: Does it start with the hook? This is a Jay Z song that I’m not super familiar with.
Hannibal: It’s the beat. [sings beat]
“All I Need”
Sama’an: Just Blaze era.
Hannibal: Yeah, it’s Bink though.
Sama’an: Oh, this is Bink?!
Sama’an: Sounded like Just Blaze.
Hannibal: I also like when 10 people get shouted out real quick.
Hannibal & Sama’an: [laughs]
Hannibal: That was a lot of shoutouts! Rap, with the references. That’s one thing that you can get away with in rap that you can’t get away with in comedy. Like, you can’t just fire off 10 names that nobody really knows, unless you’re explaining some shit. Rap, you can shoutout your homies and shit. Lil’ Mark, over there! People are just like, “I wonder who that is! It sounds good.” And then people around the world will be talkin’ about this person, or just shouting that lyric. The references… A lot of them don’t age well. Especially when they be talkin’ about current events. “I was in love like Flavor Flav!” Mu’fuckas 20 years from now are gonna be like, “What the fuck? What is he talkin’ about?”
Hannibal: “Yeah, man, my problems was tall like Shawn Bradley.” WHAT?! [laughs]
Sama’an: So you play “All I Need,” that’s your intro music. Put me in the… paint a picture of the setting. Where was this?
Hannibal: It was like a theater in the student center on campus. It was a small theater. Maybe a couple hundred students showed up. I have a connection to it just because that was my first walk-on music ever. I used to listen to that song over-and-over in my dorm room. But there wasn’t… The show itself, I don’t have tape of it, but it went cool. I talked about campus shit.
Sama’an: Do you remember the joke you told right after your intro music? Like, the opener?
Hannibal: No. I don’t. I don’t remember. Probably something stilted and trying to be relatable. [hamming it up] “It’s crazy being in college, right, you guys? What’s up with the college security?”
Sama’an: “We got classes on Tuesday and Thursdays, but we don’t have ‘em on Wednesdays!”
Hannibal: “Lecture?! How ‘bout I lecture YOU! I don’t really wanna be here! HA!”
Sama’an: [laughs] And “All I Need” is on which album?
Sama’an: The original Blueprint.
Hannibal: Blueprint uno.
Sama’an:This is your favorite song on Blueprint or just at the time you were jammin’ it?
Hannibal: I think at the time it was… Well, “Renegade” was… But they’re different types of songs.
Hannibal: “Renegade” is more… That’s a walk out song for a fighter.
Sama’an: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Hannibal: What else? The “Girls” remix. And then “U Don’t Know.”
Sama’an:That’s a good walk-up song, too.
Hannibal: Yeah, I mean, “U Don’t Know” is a big walk-up song. “All I Need” is more of a smooth… But sometimes I like a smooth walk-up. Just a more chill… I used to walk up, only a couple times, to Wiz Khalifa’s “Spotlight.” You know that track? Off of Kush & Orange Juice.
Sama’an:How does it go?
Hannibal: I used to play that one a lot. Kush & Orange Juice, that was a dope mixtape. That’s how I found out Killa Kyleon got a great verse on there.
Sama’an: One of the unsung heroes of Houston rap music, Killa Kyleon.
Hannibal: “Up and awaaayyyyy we goooo…”
Sama’an: Tell me a little bit more about that era of your life… Where are you mentally…?
Hannibal: What, “Spotlight?”
Sama’an: ‘02, walkin’ out to “All I Need” …
Hannibal: ‘02? I mean, I’m a kid. I’m 19. I still have classes. I’m doin’ stand up, not that often, but I’m really excited about it. I was in this acting group called “Oops Entertainment,” I had some play going on, I forgot the name of it… I was pretty active and busy on campus.
Sama’an: What was your major at the time?
Hannibal: At that time? Maybe Radio-Television-Production, or Business… I might have changed it to Radio-TV the following year. Or maybe I had changed it already. But, yeah.
Sama’an:And you ended up getting your degree in that? Radio-Television?
Hannibal: I don’t have a degree…
Sama’an: Oh, that’s right!
Hannibal: … I have 90 credit hours of knowledge.
Sama’an: That’s right. When are you gonna go back, man?
Hannibal: I… don’t… really…
Hannibal: …see it… I don’t. I mean. I get why some people do it, to have the sense of completion and accomplishment, and to do it for their parents, and they go back, but, nah man. I’ll just keep listening to audiobooks and Malcolm Gladwell speeches, and I’ll live a continual, educated life that’s not recognized by [laughs] the degree board, or whoever the fuck. Yeah. I don’t need that, man. I had the time to do it then, if I was more focused I could have easily done it, it’s not really that tough to do, but, I didn’t do it during that time, and so, for me, there’s really no going back. Unless I’m really hard up for money and I do a reality show, “Hannibal Goes Back To College – He’s really broke.” That’s the scenario that takes me back to school. It’s like, divorce, they’re about to take the house away, and that’s the last idea.
Sama’an: Great. Love it. Tell me kinda like, I just want to have a more complete picture of that time in your life, so what are your extracurriculars? Are you going to a lot of rap shows like you do now?
Hannibal: A little bit. At that time we were doing Sunday School Sessions. [DJ] Tony [Trimm] hosted an open mic at his crib. Open Mike Eagle would perform there, and other rappers too. There used to be battles. I used to rap battle!
Hannibal: I used to rap battle just because there wasn’t that much stage time as a comedian in Southern Illinois, so I just took that as an opportunity to get up. I was like, “Okay, it’s not exactly a comedy show, but I can be funny here.” And I was pretty decent sometimes!
Hannibal: I would slide into the pocket sometimes!
Sama’an: I believe that.
Hannibal: And just kinda be really funny, or just… Yeah. I won a couple battles. I beat Open Mike Eagle in a battle once.
Sama’an: No way!
Hannibal: Yeah! Tony can vouch.
Tony Trimm: Yup, he did.
Sama’an:Wooowww. [laughs] Did you pre-research your punch lines or…?
Sama’an:On the spot?
Hannibal: No! Just on the spot. I said something like… Mike had dreads at the time.
Sama’an: Oh my god.
Hannibal: And I said something like, “I’ll cut your dreads off / plant em / and grow another one of you / and battle him too”
Sama’an & Hannibal & Tony: [hysterical laughter]
Hannibal: I said something like that.
Sama’an: What neighborhood was this in?
Hannibal: This was in Carbondale, Illinois. So this is five hours south of Chicago, about an hour and a half from St. Louis.
Sama’an: Would y’all go to St. Louis for fun sometimes?
Hannibal: A little bit. East St. Louis. We would go maybe once or twice a semester. Something like that.
Sama’an: So those rap battles were also kind of necessary as like… there was probably nothing to do in Carbondale.
Hannibal: I mean. It’s a college town, so… you either chill around video games, you just kick it and smoke and drink, or you do your work. You figure it out.
Sama’an: You could do your work!
Sama’an: If you want.
Hannibal: Yeah! But no, the battle, I mean, it was… We had a pretty fun Hip Hop scene for that size of a town, I think.
Sama’an: Would rappers come through and do shows there?
Hannibal: Yeah! [laughs] Actually. They booked a show where it was a bunch of comedians and AZ came down. I was one of the openers, under one of my earlier stage names…
Sama’an:Was it… Amir?
Hannibal: Amir Natural.
Sama’an: Amir Natural.
Hannibal: Amir Natural. There’s flyers out there with Amir Natural and AZ.
Sama’an: A-N and A-Z!
Hannibal: I think Lavell Crawford was on that show.
Hannibal: And a couple other comedians.
Sama’an: This was at a time when people probably really wanted to see an AZ show…
Hannibal: Actually, AZ didn’t draw really well… But that was also a weird market. It was Carbondale, Illinois…
Sama’an: Wasn’t a lot of market research on Carbondale at the time.
Hannibal: … it was before internet rap was really hot like that and it’s a New York rapper. You know what I mean? So people knew of AZ through his first album, and that song, “Sugarhill?”
Sama’an: Yup, “Sugarhill.”
Hannibal: But it wasn’t…
Tony: I think The Firm had just come out too.
Hannibal: The Firm was like… ‘99.
Sama’an: I think that might have been the ‘90s.
Hannibal: The Firm was ‘99!
Sama’an: Is “Sugarhill” … AZ has a song where he basically re-does his verse from “Life’s A Bitch.” Is that “Sugarhill” or is that a different one?
Hannibal: I’m not sure. I’m not well-versed…
Sama’an: …in the AZ catalogue? There’s still time.
Hannibal: There’s still time… Yeah The Firm was ‘96!
Hannibal: Yeah, Fall ‘96.
Sama’an: Feel old yet? [Editor’s note: Sama’an, you don’t have to say everything that pops up in your head.]
Hannibal: You know what I was doing earlier for some reason? Somebody was asking me about something and so I jokingly typed back, “Y’all can bullshit with jokes if you want, mu’fuckas.” And then that reminded me of…
Hannibal: That’s Jay-Z’s quote off of the track with Amil, “4 Da Fam.” And then I started… I never listened to Amil’s album. It’s on… This is “Quarrels” by Amil.
Chapter 5: Amil & Amir
Sama’an: You know what? I would listen to that album all the way through.
Hannibal: I would give it. She had a unique voice!
Sama’an:Would you do an Amil and Amir tour?
Hannibal: Amil and me?
Sama’an: Yeah. But that’s what it’d have to be called.
Hannibal: Amil and Amir?
Hannibal: Amil n Amir!
Sama’an: I got Amil n Amir!
Hannibal: Got Amil n Amir!
Sama’an: Got Amil n Amir!
Hannibal: Amil n Amir / look in the mirror / I got a meal / it’s how I feel
Sama’an: Makin’ a mil’ in a minute / [mumbles]
Hannibal: Makin’ a mil in a minute / that’s 60 mil in a hour
Sama’an: [exhale ad-lib]
Hannibal: [laughs] Makin’ a mil in a minute! / that’s 60 mil in a hour
Hannibal: You know I got the hour / it’s 60 million / gettin that Oprah money! / I listen to Tony Robbins / Gettin’ motivated / All the hoes be slobbin
Sama’an & Hannibal: [laughs]
Sama’an: That would definitely be a milly rock song, not a dab song. Actually, that would be a dab song!
Hannibal: Milly rock into the dab?
Sama’an: It could be done.
Sama’an: Hey man, thanks for being on the podcast. I appreciate it.
Hannibal: No problem, man. It was breezy. It was a good time.
Sama’an: It was nothin’.
Hannibal: Yeah, man. You know.
Sama’an: It was a lot, but it was nothin’. You know what I mean?
Sama’an: Podcasts get recorded every day.
Sama’an: Oh, man. That was so much fun. Shoutout to Hannibal for making time for us. I love Hannibal because no matter how famous he gets, he’s still a fan at heart, so when new music comes out you can talk to him about it like, I don’t know, like he’s a regular person or something? Crazy. I also love hearing about young Hannibal in college because I never got to know that Hannibal. So I love the image of him doing a freestyle rap battle, and that punchline he had on Open Mike Eagle? We’re gonna have to get Mike on the podcast to tell his side of the story. That seemed pretty one-sided to me to be honest. But the game has changed so much since Hannibal was in college, you really have to admire and respect how he’s adapted to it. Like he was saying, when he was in college, there weren’t podcasts. You just did stand-up and that was it, and hoped you got on Comedy Central. So, yeah, shoutout to him. Thanks, Hannibal. And, yeah, tune in next time.
Thanks for listening to The Nostalgia Mixtape, this episode was produced by Jason Crow, and hosted by yours truly, Sama’an Ashrawi.
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