It's not every day a rapper pays tribute to his favorite sitcom with an entire mixtape devoted to the show. Isn't that honor usually reserved for movies like Scarface or American Gangster? It's even more unusual when said rapper's favorite sitcom is Seinfeld, a show not regularly considered Must See TV for African Americans.
But The Mixtape About Nothing indeed exists, evidence of how Wale, the 23-year-old rapper behind it, is trying to goad the hip-hop community into thinking in new ways.
Born and bred in Washington, D.C., Wale has been making people take notice since signing with Amy Winehouse producer Mark Ronson's Allido Records last year; his first official full-length is due in January, he says. He began snapping up fans both famous (Lindsay Lohan) and not with previous mixtape 100 Miles and Running.
For Nothing, available as a free download on Wale's Web site, www.elitaste.com, he samples Seinfeld audio clips — even, on the opening track, the show's immortal bass-guitar theme music — and emulates Jerry Seinfeld's standup shtick via lyrical musings like, "Hmmm, what's the deal with this rap stuff..."
Wale recently spoke with the Houston Press about his love of Seinfeld and how, just like the show, Nothing is indeed about something after all.
Houston Press: So has Jerry Seinfeld heard the mixtape, and if he has, is he pissed?
Wale: Oh, no, he heard it. I mean, he's excited about it. I mean, he's not mad. It's not like there's anything derogatory about him in there.
HP: Do you think he'll do any promotion for it?
W: I mean, I'd be down to do anything. I'm a fan of him and Larry David and most of the people who were part of that show. But there hasn't been talk about it. We come from two different worlds, you know.
HP: The most fascinating thing is how this mixtape is inspired by a show with a notorious rep for being about as white as it gets. Back when I was growing up, white people watched Seinfeld and Friends, while black people watched Martin and Living Single.
W: Right, right, right. But the thing is hip-hop culture, urban culture, we're inspired by gangster flicks with mostly white Americans [and] Italian Americans, and kung-fu movies, which are basically Asians and Asian Americans.
We're inspired by other cultures [besides] our own, and I looked at Seinfeld the same way. Rather than saying, "I don't like what's in the show," I incorporated my life into it — [asking], "How does it relate to me and my life?"
HP: When did you become a Seinfeld fan?
W: Maybe in its fourth season. I just really got into it. [I was] just channel-surfing, and I thought, "This is funny." And when the DVDs started coming out, it was a no-brainer. I had to see everything.
HP: You got Julia Louis-Dreyfus to say a few foul-mouthed words at the end of one song. How did you hook up with her, and were you surprised by what she gave you?
W: For a new artist, I like to think I'm very connected. She wasn't that difficult to reach. A friend of a friend put it together. You can never really say, "I don't think this person will do this; I don't think this person will do that." A lot of people in the entertainment business do have open minds, and if it's artistic and creative, they're down most of the time.
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HP: I was wondering if you were going to address the whole Michael Richards controversy here, and you do on "The Kramer," where you take both white and black people to task for using the N-word. Was that something you felt you had to address?
W: I mean, it's obviously something that I had to address. It all ties into the Seinfeld theme and the characters' themes.
HP: I love how you incorporate most of a go-go backbeat into most of your songs. Being from D.C., did you feel it was essential to make that a part of your sound?
W: It's just a part of me. It's something I wear on my sleeve. This is the type of music I grew up listening to. So it's just only right that I use it on the bulk of my [songs]. I think that's what you're supposed to do, represent where you're from and be about that. So I'm about where I'm from.