by Kelsey Hutchinson
Transitioning from a colorful rap lyricist to a film actor to a stand-up comedian was natural, says Christopher Reid, formerly Kid of the Kid ‘n Play duo that heavily influenced late-’80s and early-’90s style with their hip-hop-themed House Party films (and Kid’s hi-top fade haircut).
“We were already kind of acting,” Reid says. “That’s kind of an essence of rap … they'll create a persona that doesn't even exist. I mean how many rappers have we heard claim they were gangsters but they were from the suburbs? Or, their street history wasn't quite as extensive as they claimed it was? That's a form of acting. Particularly if you were a successful rapper, you obviously made people believe in this lifestyle that you're talking about that doesn't necessarily exist.”
Reid’s fade is gone now, and for the last 12 years he’s been influencing pop culture by touring across the country as a stand-up comedian. After topping charts with “Funhouse” and “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody” with Kid ‘n Play, Reid parlayed his House Party performances into gigs on TV programs like “Martin” and “Sister, Sister.” He wrote the theme song to HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” and has lent his voice to video games.
I caught up with Reid over the phone while he was standing outside a bar in West Hollywood to discuss the second-best decision he’s ever made, how hip-hop is elastic, and his appearance in a LMFAO video.
Hear Nebraska: How, if at all, does music inform your comedy? Does it have any influence on it?
Christopher Reid: They actually to me are quite interchangeable. I feel that starting as a rapper really helped prepare me unknowingly to be a stand-up comedian from all the stuff I've done from making records and stuff like that.
When it came time to start doing comedy in 2000, it's been about a dozen years. I had some good friends of mine, Bill Maher among them, suggest that I get into it. When someone that funny urges you to try something, you have to just try. And he's a good friend, so I respect his opinion. But it was once I got up there on stage, doing stand-up that it felt very familiar.
I'm like, “Wait a minute, I know what it's like because of being a musician, because of being a rapper, I know about being on stage. I know about controlling the crowd. I know about all those different things, and as a stand-up starting from scratch, that's half the battle.”
Half the battle is getting comfortable on stage. But that's a problem I didn't really have. All I really had to do was substitute the musical materials for the comedic materials. That's what the process was and because I have a background in music, I could kind of mix the two. My comedy has musical elements to it, if you will, which I think makes it kind of unique and it plays to my previous strengths, and I think it just makes it a more exciting performance for the crowd.
HN: Tell me about the biggest misperception you find yourself facing.
CR: Against me personally? That's an interesting question… You know what, I think early on there were more misperceptions about rappers doing other stuff. Now, it's a very common place and very ordinary for a rapper to star in a movie. But back when we were doing it, that wasn't the norm. A lot of times people didn't think that rappers could do it, or should do it, or that anybody would want to go watch them.
The thing that we were told back in the day was that as rappers, we were already kind of acting. That's kind of an essence of rap. Even to this day, it's basically acting. A lot of times in certain rappers’ situations, they'll create a persona that doesn't even exist. I mean how many rappers have we heard claim they were gangsters but they were from the suburbs? Or, their street history wasn't quite as extensive as they claimed it was, that's a form of acting.
Particularly if you were a successful rapper, you obviously made people believe in this lifestyle that you're talking about that doesn't necessarily exist. … The thing of it is that as rappers get older and we evolve, the rap game is essentially a young man's sport with some exceptions. I just try to bring hip-hop to all the other aspects of my career. I bring it to stand-up, I bring it to my acting, I bring it to when I host events, I bring it to when I do voiceover stuff. I think it's just coming from the world of hip-hop and always trying to represent it and always seeing it evolve and trying to be a part of it in some way.
Now, we have several young artists that my production group is working with. We have a young lady who sings and raps, we just cut a song on her and she's rapping about domestic abuse. We're going to drop it next month for National Domestic Violence Awareness month. A lot of times, if there's a way to make an impact musically and also make some positive moves in the community.
I think for young people, in particular domestic violence can start real early. I think if we have a young rapper, speaking that to young people in their language that's kind of a way to hit them. You have to be careful the way you preach to young people. If you're going to do it you have to do it in their dialect, in their slang or just approach it in a way they can get it easily.
HN: Speaking of young artists, tell me about what you think your part in the LMFAO video says about you. How did the experience of being on set of that video compare with the ones you were in early on?
CR: We had a really good time. I happen to be fans of the group, and I think we had a mutual friend, and the guy came up to me one night and said, "Hey man, these guys are looking for you. The LMFAO guys are looking for you. They're doing this video with like a house party theme and they want you to be a part of it." … I thought it was cool, the way they kind of flipped the script.
They're having this crazy house party and then they want me, of all people, to be the angry neighbor. A friend and I went down and shot in L.A. and you know what, it was kind of a cold, funky night. But the set was really really cool, and the guys are real nice, treated me with respect.
It's part of that kind of evolving and moving things forward. I mean, I can totally understand LMFAO and their style of music. It reminds me of music from our era. It's a lot of that really fun bass, and the kind of party anthem and stuff like that.
HN: Do you think the younger generation will bring back some of the old school styles of rap, as happens with fashion, or do you think they'll progress forward and keep creating new sounds? How do you think trends in music and comedy resurface?
CR: You know what, Kelsey, I think it's going to do both. I'll be honest with you, I think there are elements and the creative people involved that will always try and take their music forward and evolve and that can't be stopped. And that's natural, it's natural that's the whole evolution process. That's fine.
But I think by the same token, there's always the young people who will embrace the roots of hip-hop. You know, it's very similar to jazz musicians who come out and want to do all kinds of brand new shit and want to move to the future. But then again you have jazz musicians who love Miles Davis and [John] Coltrane and want to hearken back to that era. And I think that's fine, that'll keep hip-hop as a whole alive and healthy.
As time goes on and hip-hop gets older and older, I think it's important for the young people to continue to get into it and you gotta know the history. You should know the history! Once you know your history, it might be something you want to get involved with. You might want to hear those old artists or as an artist you might want to kind of recreate those times.
I mean, I hear young artists all the time that sound like the ‘80s or the ‘90s and it sounds cool, it's still their take on it. They're still talking about today's stuff, they're just doing it in a different kind of form and fashion. Hip-hop to me is probably the most elastic of all music forms. I've heard it stretched and pulled and tugged in so many different directions and it sounds good.
HN: As a wrap-up question, what is your impression of Nebraska?
CR: I've been there a few times. I've never had a bad time, I meet great people. It's kind of weird because when I was a little kid, growing up I'd watch a lot of college football. I remember watching Nebraska-Oklahoma games when I was a little kid. I remember way back in the day when Johnny Rodgers was playing for Nebraska, and Bob Devaney was there before Tom Osborne.
As I grew up, I became friends with some of the guys who played at Nebraska. We're going to have a blast coming out there. We're going to the game, we'll be knocking it out. I went to the UCLA game. First half everyone was happy, then they got their asses busted up.
You see a lot of people in red not happy. That's when you have to drink, that's when the drinks really started flowing. Everyone was like fuck it we lost, let's get drunk.
Kelsey Hutch is a Hear Nebraska intern. This is her first story, and no, she didn't do it only to talk about the hi-top fade: But come on, that hair! Reach her at email@example.com.