A few weeks back I was listening to my favorite podcast, Who Charted? With Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack, and their guest was Jensen Karp. I had no idea who Jensen Karp was but by the end of the podcast I was sold.
The dude knew his shit. What shit you ask? Everything.
Jensen Karp and his co-host Matty Robinson are completely engaging. The guests are always interesting and charming and the content is right up my alley; new shit that I need to be up on.
I recently sat down with Jensen and we talked about a gang of shit included Nelly, cured meats and old white guys.
Interview with Jensen Karp – GO!
SYFFAL: Our readers are the lowliest group of carpet baggers, guys who strip copper from construction sites and conspiracy theorists this side of Sweden. For some reason they have tagged us as their go to source for everything music and cultural.
So please help us help them by answering the following:
- Who the Fuck are you?
Jensen Karp (JK): My name is Jensen Karp and I'm the co-owner of pop culture art space, Gallery1988. I also have a weekly live podcast on Kevin Smith's SModcast network called "Get Up On This." I have a varied past that includes being an Interscope signed rapper, writing for the WWE and being a kid actor in the child-friendly Kidsongs video collection, but that's all for your finding really.
SYFFAL: What makes you such an expert on everything?
JK: I've had a pretty terrible case of OCD since I was around 5 or 6 years old that basically forces me to obsess over things passionately. Luckily it went from counting and rituals into just pure fandom. Where at 10 years old I used to have to make sure to say my prayers before bed perfectly 2 times without stuttering (or my parents might die), I've been able to now just make sure I know almost everything going on in Pop Culture in a similar scary fashion, especially in the field of hip-hop. And in turn, I've been blessed enough to make a living off that knowledge and my love for art. I'm always fearful one day the pop culture aspect of my disorder will fade away and I'll go back to counting times I've washed my hands. I live in fear basically.
SYFFAL: If you could make a cologne that smelled how you imagine the rapper Nelly to smell, outside of the main ingredient which is obviously love, what would be the 3 other ingredients that would St. Lunatickle your nose?
JK: Slo Down's sweat, Ashanti's disappointment and Tim McGraw's credibility.
SYFFAL: I first learned of you from Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack's amazing podcast Who Charted? I actually learn of most podcasts from other podcasts, so in this spirit please hip us to three podcasts, other than your own, that we should be checking?
JK: I feel like I listen to podcasts you already listen to, but I do dig Paul Scheer's "How Did This Get Made," Pete Holmes "You Made It Weird" and Kumail Nanjiani & Emily Gordon's "Indoor Kids." I mean, I know about a lot of podcasts, but I really only regularly listen to the ones you've known about for awhile.
SYFFAL: Like many of us white suburban guys who came up in the 80s and 90s you are obsessed with hip hop. Why do you think this resonated so hard with our ilk? And what is the most embarrassing thing you did in an effort to be more down? For me it was wearing a purple and gold Malcolm X hat with my air brushed overalls or wearing anything mustard color.
JK: I think when you're raised in a super snow white suburban neighborhood and you're able to read its bullshit, you're hoping to grab onto something different to distinguish yourself. And our generation was right there for the commercial birth of hip-hop. I KNOW a lot of kids looked at rap the same way they loved movies like Scarface, as a retreat to live vicariously from their normal LL Bean existence, but I was never like that. The gateway drugs for me were the Beastie Boys and 3rd Bass. I never wanted to feel like I was co-opting too much, so even though I dug UTFO, Slick Rick and the Sugarhill Gang, I knew I was overstepping my boundaries. I loved it, but didn't want to pretend I was relating. Then the first few white guys popped up a few years later, and it just made it less weird in my mind to rap myself and also engulfed myself in it. At that time, it mashed up all I needed - something different to rebel against the folks in Calabasas, CA and enough relation for me to not feel like I was encroaching on someone else's artform. BUT, I also owned airbrushed overalls and the most embarrassing thing I ever did was pay $200 for a purple parka from Merry-Go-Round that was by Michael Biven's Biv 10 clothing line. That shit is so obscure; no one even knows what I'm talking about. But it had Bivens's name on it, so I jumped and spent everything I had just because of that. Now I look back, and that's insane.
SYFFAL: I remember the BIV 10 wears, I was a huge Another Bad Creation fan, which was creepy because I was a freshman in college. Speaking of late 80s/early 90s hip hop do you have a go to artist of the era that you use as a joke? For me its Brotherhood Creed or Rough House Survivors.
JK: For 50 episodes my friends Jeff & Eric Rosenthal and I had a podcast called "Hypemen," which was basically just the pinnacle of white Jewish kids sitting around being hip-hop nerds. It's available on iTunes. On that podcast, with almost every episode I was able to throw a Rampage The Last Boy Scout joke into the mix. It's my go to. And for the record, I dug Brotherhood Creed AND Rough House (Tim Dog FTW, and Schwartz tried to sign me back in the day).
SYFFAL: I think you are confusing Rough House Survivors and Rough House Records. As a former rapper I find it hard to get into hip hop these days, not because I think that it ain’t what it used to be, but because more often than not it is what it used to be, old people are ruining hip hop. We usually cover acts that aren’t getting a lot of buzz that we think are fresh as Fuck. I am wondering if you would give us a few thoughts on each of these artists:
JK: I dig KA, to an extent he's from the Jay Electronica mold, but with a heavy Wu-Tang Killer Bee affiliate and Mobb Deep swerve. That video is sick, and I can never hate on RZA-influences sample production without distinguishable drums.
SYFFAL: Isaiah Toothtaker
JK: Not necessarily my thing, but I'm also not going to talk shit about a guy with serious neck and face tattoos. He's also in with my friend Steve from Hood Internet, so I just might have to hear more. The thing I do appreciate about him is that you don't hear many artists where you can say, "This reminds me of Freestyle Fellowship" and be proud while saying it. I'd be willing to hear more for sure.
SYFFAL: Dark Time Sunshine
JK: I've seen this before, and remember thinking this is a really cool 2012 Company Flow. Nice production, steady raps. I'm in.
JK: Don't love this track, but am impressed by Dustin Cavazos cameo'ing like a young Big Boi on this.
SYFFAL: Sir Pressure
JK: Not for me. Sometimes I think Slug may have hurt rap more than we think.
SYFFAL: I often dream of stalking Kevin Smith, if only for his stellar collection of custom hockey jerseys, I seriously love that dude. How did you hook up with the smodcast network? Any chance of a cross over episode with the guys of Tell Em Steve Dave?
JK: I've known Kevin for years through his production partner Scott Mosier. Scott has been a buyer at my art galleries for quite some time. I had an idea for an art show called "Crazy 4 Cult" where 100 artists do pieces all based on classic cult films. I approached Mosier with the idea like 6 years ago and he suggested he bring in Kevin into the fold. Kevin loved the idea and basically has been a die-hard supporter since. Kevin and I have kept up that relationship and he ended up writing the foreword for the "Crazy 4 Cult" book we released on Titan last year and just being a supportive force in my life. He had me on his live radio show/podcast a year ago, and he realized quickly that I had a real passion for radio. We got to talking and he offered me the slot. I was stoked because a lot of stuff in Kevin's world revolves HARD around just Kevin's world. I felt like bringing my show to SModcast had the opportunity to bring some new blood to the network. Honestly, I don't listen to Tell Em Steve Dave, but I acknowledge it's not for me in the same way that my show isn't for them. I think I compliment the universe well, but live pretty far outside of it.
SYFFAL: Way to crush my dreams. Sorry to focus so much on rap, but I even though I don't listen to it much these days I love talking it with people that are knowledgeable about it. So to continue with our series of questions with the number 3 in them, what are the three biggest issues facing rap today and what are the 3 best things about rap today?
1. The Underground - Not sure I can dedicate enough time to this answer, but in the 90's and 00's we found ourselves with a very strong underground that was established by a set of influences those specific underground rappers had. It didn't fit the mold of what was popular or on the radio, so that's where you sat comfortably. And every once in awhile, someone blew up from it (Eminem, Jurassic 5, Black Eyed Peas, etc.) And now, if you're disliked on 2DopeBoyz or NahRight, you just become underground, purely from the fact you don't have success. Where Odd Future has an underground mentality, don't you dare call them underground. And I get why. It's become a dirty word to be different, and in turn "underground."
2. The Endorsement - In 2012, 99% of the time you need to be endorsed by another rapper to be heard on a larger level. That's good news for Wale and Meek Mill, but bad news for everyone else. Rappers need to be able to break on their own, and I think that's affecting what we hear in the end. Does Lupe not having a true co-sign hurt him? Most likely, because we all know he's technically better than Big Sean, but the endorsements are different.
3. Lex Luger - Say what you will about Timbaland in 2012, but that dude back in the day used to switch up his style to extreme levels. He had his Jay-Z tracks and he had his Missy tracks. He had his Aaliyah songs and he had his underground 12" beat for Skillz. I think that young producers today are pigeonholed to produce the same "heat" over and over. If they stray, the rappers won't buy it. If it worked for "so and so," it'll work for me. That's terrible. Not sure who is to blame, especially since I read a great interview with Lex where he says he wants to show his diversity so bad but rappers won't let him. But let's blame someone for hearing the same beat over and over.
1. Young rappers hate us - This is great. Tyler, A$AP, Action Bronson - they HATE what me and you are doing right now. They don't want to hear from the old guys and that's a positive thing. Don't let us bother you. I met Tyga a few years back and he asked me who my favorite rappers of all-time were. I told him Gravediggaz and Camp Lo. He knew neither. I didn't get mad at all. I sort of laughed and said "You're 16, why would you know either of them? Good for you." To his credit, I saw him a few weeks later and he thanked me for putting him up on Camp Lo and he said he hadn't stopped listening to them since. I think they should leave the stupid over-analyzing to us, and just keep being themselves. Let the wave happen on its own, and we'll just be old and critical. And I hate "Rack City."
2. The mixtape - We didn't have that. Action Bronson just released Blue Chips w/ producer Party Supplies and it may be my favorite album of 2012 so far. AND IT'S FREE. Give me a break. The fact that that happens in 2012, is a blessing. We get so much free good music when I had to spend every dollar I had at the Wherehouse every single week as a kid just to hear good music. This might be the best part of hip-hop in 2012.
3. Lex Luger - Hear me out. What I hate about Lex, is also what I love. There are so many new and young producers I'm excited about, Lex being one of them. I love Clams Casino, Left Brain, Blue Sky Black Death, Hit Boy, Zaytoven, etc. These guys are just as big of stars, if not bigger stars, than who they produce for. Sure, I'm hoping for versatility that might not exist, but who cares? There are not a ton of throwaway beats anymore. Sadly, I think there are more throwaway rappers.
SYFFAL: Your podcast get up on this is about getting up on the freshest new shit before it becomes played out. So I am going to list a gang of categories and you can tell us the one thing people should get up on in said category:
JK: Tie - Grill Em All food truck and Daglas in Canoga Park
SYFFAL: High end attire
JK: Top Shop and Top Men's opening in Vegas in a few months and LA in 2013
JK: Sweet Chili Thai Sauce on everything
JK: Mamadou Ndiaye
JK: Oprah walking over hot coals
SYFFAL: Website (I am changing whatever you answer to syffal...j/k)
JK: Ha. Superpunch.blogspot.com
SYFFAL: Cured meat
JK: Carousel Armenian restaurant in Glendale, CA
SYFFAL: Band that is the next Radiohead
JK: Not "new," but I genuinely hope Empire of the Sun
JK: Nacho Picasso & Chief Keef
SYFFAL: TV Show
JK: The Eric Andre Show (debuting on Adult Swim soon)
SYFFAL: New age religion
JK: Based Music
JK: Meghan Rother (my gf, I know better)
SYFFAL: I understand you wrote for Lost. I was geeked out hella hard on that show and defend it to this day. Who was the hottest cast member in real life? Sawyer right?
JK: I didn't write for LOST, that would give me way too much praise. I sculpted and produced the final season alternative marketing campaign with ABC and Damon Lindelof/Carlton Cuse. It was labor intensive, but hardly under the microscope like being a writer for the show. It was amazing working with the team, but I'll leave the heavy lifting to them. Hottest cast member was the Lottery Ticket.
SYFFAL: That lottery ticket has gotten a lot of spank bank work over here too. Are you familiar with the site Philaflava? If so what is your favorite emoticon over there. if not what is it that you have against white guys in their mid 30s obsessing over every aspect of American culture?
JK: All I really know about Philaflava is the message boards, but I think that's all there is to know, right? My favorite emoticon from that site is the sad "Why are there no new High & Mighty songs?" face. But it is crazy that out of all the sites, this is the one that really won the whole white guys chiming in with opinions on a message board battle. Pretty awesome.
SYFFAL: Please promote anything that you would like?
JK: You can follow me on Twitter, where it's mostly just stupid pop culture jokes, @JensenClan88 and you can see all the gallery's doings at its site, gallery1988.com. I also have a weekly podcast on Kevin Smith's SModcast network called "Get Up On This," which you can find on iTunes or over at SModcast.com. In short, you can find me in a lot of places. Unlike Rampage the Last Boy Scout.