Is Nardwuar the Human Serviette one of the greatest interviewers working in the music industry right now? This is a serious question. The YouTube sensation — known for his plaid tartan pom pom hat, high pitched, nasally voice, and over-the-top enthusiasm — has also proven to be an incredibly well-prepared and disarming interviewer. His videos often reveal a hidden side of the artists he is talking to, and steer the conversation into unexpected, improvisational territory.
It’s a skill that is on display in the latest video that was posted today, which features Minneapolis’s own Brother Ali chatting with Nardwuar while he was on tour in Vancouver. Ali has what can only be described as an encyclopedic knowledge of music, and Nardwuar’s selection of oddball questions showcased just how deep his knowledge runs.
Here are a few revelations that surfaced during their interview:
1. Brother Ali is a huge Babes in Toyland fan
One of Nardwuar’s shticks is that he presents his guests with very specific gifts, oftentimes old records that he knows they will enjoy. After pulling out the soundtrack for the 1971 Blacksploitation film Sweet Sweetback’s Baaadasssss Song, Nardwuar presents Ali with a copy of Babes in Toyland’s debut record, Spanking Machine. Ali lights up, and immediately starts expressing his appreciation for the band’s drummer, Lori Barbero.
“The theme in all this stuff here, is people who society looks at as being powerless, commanding power for themselves,” Ali says, pointing at the two records he’d been handed so far. “She’s a kickass drummer, and she drove their band. That’s Minneapolis royalty.”
2. MC Skat Kat is from Minneapolis
Ok, I knew this one already, but now that it’s out there… Did you know that MC Skat Kat works at MPR? After years of holding it down as a DJ around town and working for KMOJ, Derrick “Delite” Stevens, a.k.a. the voice behind much of MC Skat Kat’s “solo” work, now works as a producer at the Current. True story.
3. Sage Francis is the only rapper to defeat Ali in a battle
About halfway through the interview, Ali recounts a story about driving to ScribbleJam with his Rhymesayers labelmates Slug and Eyedea. Sage was the only rapper that stood out to Ali as having the chance to defeat him at the battle, and sure enough, he did — using the word “sizzurp” that Ali had taught him backstage minutes before the battle round, no less. Now they are close friends.
4. MF Doom pretended not to know Mos Def
While on tour with MF Doom, Ali had the chance to watch an awkward exchange between Mos Def, who is a huge MF Doom fan, and Doom, who pretended not to know who Mos was. Eep.
5. Brother Ali unknowingly offended Prince
In another anecdote I hadn’t heard before, Ali shares that when the Current’s Program Director Jim McGuinn visited Prince at Paisley Park, he tried to turn him on to Brother Ali by playing his song “Fresh Air.” As soon as he heard the first line, “I’m the luckiest son of a b*itch that ever lived,” Prince told Jim to “Please turn that off, you know I don’t allow cursing in my house,” and wouldn’t let him play anything else. “He’s already disappointed me,” Prince allegedly said. Also — Brother Ali’s Prince impersonation? SPOT ON.
Watch the whole thing here: