The kids at Mass Appeal hipped me to a piece written by Gaby Whitehill wherein she bellyaches about having a bad experience with a rapper she admires, Motor City Madman, Danny Brown.
Below you will find snippets of her sorrow:
I know there’s a lot more to him than that, however, which is why I’ve come armed with a mix of standard questions about his music, some serious subject matter [I wanted to ask him what he thinks about government internet surveillance, for example] as well as a handful of light-hearted questions, if he was in the mood.
He’s not in the mood, however. He’s not in the mood for anything. He gives one-word answers to questions about his music. He doesn’t want to discuss anything serious. And he sure as hell isn’t in the mood to have fun. Whilst the interview crashes and burns, he’s openly making unpleasant comments about me to his manager, who’s still trying to work out how to order room service.
Interviewing musicians is a part of my job, and it’s mostly an enjoyable and interesting perk. I’ve had artists be disinterested and distant whilst I’m speaking to them, but they’ll still answer my questions and maintain an air of politeness. I’ve never, however, had someone go out of their way to humiliate me and make me feel like an idiot; someone who has given me no choice but to cut the interview short, as there’s a certain line that I can’t allow to be crossed. Danny Brown may be famous, and a good artist, but I’d have to be one hell of a masochist to sit there and take his shit any longer.
Okay, so I’m old as fuck and I’ve been writing about music and musicians for like, 25 years. I once had my feelings hurt by a musician. His name is Darryl Jenifer and he is a co-founder of one of the most legendary bands ever in life, the Bad Brains. Bad Brains — much like Public Enemy — changed my life. They helped me to form an identity. Made me feel pride and inspiration. I was so excited to interview Darryl for Vibe magazine. Vibe ain’t know nothing about hardcore punk, let alone a black hardcore punk band.
The Brains had just signed with Madonna’s Maverick Records for a shit load of money. I had the opportunity to interview Darryl over the phone. He was in the middle of recording God Of Love at Electric Lady studios; The Cars’ Ric Ocasek was producing. I’d never talked to Darryl before, but when he got on the phone the dude was just straight testy. I’d done nothing to him. His music had changed my life. Why was he hurting me so? What did I do to deserve this? Oh, woe is me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
His answers were short and my questions were, much like Ms. Whitehill stated, “standard.” He’s in the middle of stringing up his bass and dealing with the challenges of being in a band with one of the greatest frontmen of all time, Paul “HR” Hudson. Maybe his lunch was bad, too. Either way, I got off the phone with my boxer briefs in a bunch.
A couple of years later, the Bad Brains released a record called Black Dots — rare demos and things that I was really excited about. Adam Yauch played me some of these joints and they straight blew my mind. The Brains’ publicist hit me up and asked if I wanted to interview Darryl about it for ego trip Magazine and I reluctantly said yes. But Darryl was in a much better mood that day and we had a great conversation.
Today (shameless self promotion/literary selfie time) I’m in a band with Darryl called The White Mandingos. I’m telling this not just in an effort to promote our stunning album, The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me, I’m doing it to let you kids who want to write about music know that musicians are human beings, and sometimes, motherfuckers can be in a really bad mood — just like you. And sure, rapping is Danny Brown’s “job,” but are you familiar with the jobs he’s held before he was a rapper who rapped for your entertainment? Are you familiar with Detroit? Are you familiar with how black Americans express themselves when they are frustrated and being asked “standard” questions while they are in the throes of being frustrated? You’re dealing with an individual who a) doesn’t give a fuck and b) is in a lot of emotional pain that goes beyond rapping for your enjoyment or talking about the raps you enjoy.
I'm fucking exhausted
— Danny Brown (@xdannyxbrownx) February 20, 2014
Don't expect me to be a happy camper
— Danny Brown (@xdannyxbrownx) February 19, 2014
Bloggers, writers — look at your subjects as humans. Remember that you’re having a conversation with a human being. If you give your subjects that kind of respect — if you let them know, “Hey, my man, if you’re not in the mood to kick it right now, do you, we can connect another time” OR, “Hey homie, fuck music, let’s talk about what YOU want to talk about,” – in the end you will wind up getting what you were looking for and more. If they’re still being an “arse” after you done gave them options, then step off and throw a bag of cheese doodles at them on your way out.
Use common sense. Learn how to read people — especially if you have the opportunity to conduct the interview face-to-face. I go to interviews with points I’d like my subject to touch on but really, I go in to have a conversation with someone. In this media-in-your-face-all-day world, if you’re walkin’ into an interview reading stuff off of a paper — if you just stay linear and don’t REACT in the moment to what is being said — you’re going to go up in flames with your shitty script. Word to Soul Plane (I see you, Chuck).
Turns out Darryl was caught up in a crazy day when I called him at Electric Lady. He must have been like, “Who is this herb on the line asking me stupid-ass questions while I’m in the middle of trying to string my bass up. Who has time for this?” It’s funny though, because now, I’ve been on the other side of the interviews because of The White Mandingos. Shit is awkward. You’re connecting with someone for the first time who is asking you (sometimes) standard questions. Folks sound mad nervous sometimes. Then you do a bunch of interviews and you realize that you got asked the same question, the exact same way, five times in one day. It’s trippy. But don’t cry for me, Argentina. Coming from where I come from, I coulda been slangin’ rocks somewhere between Astoria Boulevard and 8th street. I’ll answer whatever questions you have.
Danny Brown — I hope things get better for you. Not that you need any well wishes from me.