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Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
August Brown

You think Jaboukie Young-White’s stand-up is funny? Check out his filthy new single

Two weeks ago, Jaboukie Young-White, the 28-year-old “Daily Show” comedian, actor and FBI antagonist, released a virtuosically filthy club track, “BBC.” Rest assured, the title’s acronym isn’t an ode to British television. But his debut single (for Interscope Records, no less) is a genuinely adept slice of early ‘90s Chicago house music in the spirit of raunchy, lo-fi labels like Dance Mania.

Given house music’s exultant “Renaissance” this summer — “ I feel honored that I was thinking within any remotely similar mental headspace as Beyoncé,” Young-White said — “BBC” could definitely hold its own in DJ sets alongside “Cozy.”

On the phone from his home in New York City, Young-White (musically known as “Jaboukie”) talked about his lifelong passion for Chicago dance music, his writing on an animated film inspired by the late rapper Juice Wrld and what he owes to his now-departed “Daily Show” mentor Trevor Noah. (Young-White was a correspondent from 2018 to 2021.)

Q: “BBC” genuinely slaps as a club track. What’s your background in writing music and producing?

A: I grew up in a musical household. My dad was a DJ and I was around a lot of dance music growing up in Chicago: house, juke, footwork, a lot of the electronic music that’s starting to see a renaissance. I wanted to learn an instrument, but that never worked out, so I developed a sense of humor. In college, I took a film score class that gave me the basics of sound design. I tinkered around, and when I moved to New York in 2016, I said I was gonna make comedy, and make music — and of course two weeks in, I ran out of money. But it was always something I was in love with.

Q: Were you a fan of labels like Dance Mania growing up? You can definitely hear the influence of something like “Hit It From the Back” on this track, where the punchlines are hilariously raw about sex.

A: I feel so honored you picked up on that. Some of my favorite songs of all time to this day are still like “Bounce N Break Yo Back,” tracks that were filthy, like almost anatomical in their descriptions. DJ Clent, DJ Rashad, those late ‘90s-2000s records that sound like they were recorded in a shoebox but go so hard. And they had a sense of humor that I was immediately drawn to.

I wanted “BBC” to be catchy on a visceral level, but I’ll always be playful, it’s how my brain works. I’ve been doing comedy for 10 years, and I had someone describe this song as a pivot — I don’t it see it as that. My favorite early comedian was mixtape-era Lil Wayne.

Q: You do have that line about him in the song: “You m— out of bars like Wayne when he dropped ‘No Ceilings.’”

A: Wayne would say this laugh-out-loud funny stuff, but he wasn’t undercutting the music. He could express a real wit on his records, and I wanted to be able to honor that sensibility.

Q: I saw that Perfume Genius was pretty high in the replies when you released “BBC.” What were the reactions from your musician friends?

A: That Perfume Genius quarantine project, when it came out, it was my soundtrack. So when “BBC” came out, it was crazy that something that we did was being seen by him. I do know some musicians through comedy, but I don’t want to twist someone’s arm to help me out or get a feature. But the artists Vagabon and Homeshake, I shared a lot with them at first.

Q: This song came out around the same time that “Bros” bombed in theaters, while Steve Lacy has the No. 1 song in the country. “BBC” is hilariously graphic about gay sex. Do you think there’s a changing of the guard for the sensibility people want in queer art today?

A: Over the pandemic, I spent so much time in my point of view, not being in contact with other people, that I kind of forgot the concept of being gay for a week. I love stuff that can live in that space. But the unfortunate part is that when you’re marketing to a mass audience, it’s really difficult to get the money people to believe it’s a viable business strategy. As much as people can be down to watch queer stuff, there’s always going to be a disconnect. People in positions of power who move the money won’t think queerness is a proven cash cow in enough mediums. But you can’t put a price on personal freedom.

Q: You’re an uncle to R&B singer Kehlani’s son with your brother Javaughn. Are you and she close?

A: We see each other a lot. I sent her the song asking if she had recommendations for vocal coaches. I used to love singing as a kid — I had this amazing music teacher in school who got fired for doing too many gospel songs at a white high school, so I swore off singing for a long time.

I’m not gonna ask Kehlani to get on a song, but I did ask her how to make it better. She was like “WTF” when I sent it to her, and that was one of those little things along the way, where I thought, “Maybe if I really focus, put a lot into it, it can get to the point where it can stand on its own.”

Q: You’re writing for an animated film project inspired by the music of Juice Wrld that seems a lot more experimental than your typical biopic. How did it feel to be entrusted with that responsibility after his death?

A: He was a genius. I’ve been watching videos of him freestyling and he had a level of preternatural talent that just underlines the tragedy of everything. He came out of the gate so developed, to be cut short is just a really tragic thing to grapple with. I’ve been taking the time to become a steward of the music that he left. For me it’s been all encompassing — talking to people about what he left behind. I’m trying to focus on the muse, the thing he tapped into, and figure out how to celebrate that and avoid the pitfalls of romanticizing early tragic deaths.

Q: What are your thoughts on Trevor Noah leaving “The Daily Show”?

A: I’m interested to see where the show goes because Trevor’s point of view was one that a lot of Americans were not expecting. He has such a global perspective and I’m interested to see if that can still be filled. The fact that he gave me the opportunity and believed in me, and genuinely gave me room, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought he was going to be this buttoned-up, sensible, polished man, but he was down for chaos. I’m going to love making my “30 Rock” about it all.

Q: Last thing: You’re now labelmates with Kendrick Lamar, Olivia Rodrigo and Lady Gaga. Who are you most excited to meet at the Interscope office Christmas party?

A: Oh wow, so many people, but probably Playboi Carti. I described one of his ad-libs as a ‘postmodern distillation of modern capitalist ennui or something, and he liked the tweet. I kinda died.


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