Jonah Hill On Hip-Hop And Coming Of Age In The Mid90s : What's Good with Stretch & Bobbito The writer/director of the film Mid90s joins Stretch & Bobbito for a lively conversation about how hip-hop influenced his life, how he used to collect tapes of their WKCR show, and why seeing LL Cool J in concert at 13 was a little weird.
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Jonah Hill On Hip-Hop And Coming Of Age In The Mid90s

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Jonah Hill On Hip-Hop And Coming Of Age In The Mid90s

Jonah Hill On Hip-Hop And Coming Of Age In The Mid90s

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  • Transcript

ROBERT GARCIA, HOST:

What's up, everybody? Peace. Just heads up, there may be some strong language in this episode.

ADRIAN BARTOS, HOST:

Ooh (ph) - some bad words.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

JONAH HILL: They don't want the kid from "Superbad" making, like, the skateboarding and hip-hop movie. And I get it, bro. Like, I get it. I would roll my eyes so bad. They'd roll back in my head, and I'd see the back of my skull.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BROWN'S "CHASE")

BARTOS: Hey, party people in the place to be, be, be, be, be. My name is Stretch Armstrong.

GARCIA: Word up. This is Bobbito Garcia, aka Kool Bob Love. I'm going to give them a mid-'90s ooh-ooh (ph).

BARTOS: Ooh-ooh. Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Yes. Yes.

BARTOS: Had to bring it back, had to bring it back.

GARCIA: (Laughter) Yes. You know why? Because on today's WHAT'S GOOD episode - and that's the podcast you're listening to - we have a guest who directed a film titled "Mid90s," Stretch.

BARTOS: And we are in a mid-'90s state of mind, joined shortly by our boy, Jonah Hill.

GARCIA: I've never met him. I know you've had some run-ins with him on the street.

BARTOS: He's been living in New York, apparently, for the last 5, 6 years, so I have seen him around.

GARCIA: You know, the more guests that we have that you have hung out with randomly, the more I realize my life...

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: That you don't get out enough.

GARCIA: Yeah, it's like - it's like, once again, Stretch has hung out with this guest.

BARTOS: It's funny because, when I met Jonah, we met because he heard me talking. And then he turned and was like, Stretch?

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: And so when he says he was a listener of our radio show in the '90s, despite living in Los Angeles, I knew he was telling the truth.

GARCIA: Right, it's authentic. And, as is his film, "Mid90s," complete authenticity with regards to the treatment of hip-hop culture...

BARTOS: And skate culture. I went to the film with my boy, Curtis Kulig, who's...

GARCIA: Oh, the artist.

BARTOS: That's right. But he's got, like, a deep history in skating.

GARCIA: Did not know that.

BARTOS: And he just like was looking at me through the film like, yo, nailing it, right? I know like, for us, like anytime we watch something that has hip-hop in it, like we're very sensitive to how it's treated and how...

GARCIA: Sure. Sure.

BARTOS: ...You know, if it's done with the right amount of, you know, research and reverence. And so on the skating front, I know he nailed it. In terms of the soundtrack, which is, you know, deeply hip-hop-oriented, it was spot on.

GARCIA: Jonah crushed it as a music supervisor, crushed it as a director, crushed it as a writer. He has been crushing it for 16-plus years as an actor. This dude is super bad, yo, and he's a real cool brother, man. So don't go nowhere. Check it out. Jonah Hill - coming up next.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HILL: Yo, I'm just hyped. I've been on, like, such a crazy press tour. But like, for real, I've met Stretch before. I've never met you, but I'm a huge, huge fan. I don't know if you saw the film, but he saw the film.

GARCIA: I peeped it.

BARTOS: We both did.

HILL: In the opening, like, literally, those are real "Stretch & Bob" tapes that, like, we used to get sent from New York when I was in LA from my uncle, Nick - shout-out, my uncle, Nick. Like I'm a true, true fan.

GARCIA: So your tapes included our wild and crazy live phone call section - sessions?

HILL: Yes. I would get the tapes from the ghetto blaster - from my uncle, Nick, in New York and - because we couldn't get it out in LA, you know?

GARCIA: No doubt.

HILL: And to me, it was like, I would wait. You're a kid. You don't get mail. You don't get packages.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: It's not like - you know, like it was what I looked forward to. It's like when you order something now off the Internet and you're hyped about it coming. But back in the day, it was so much better because it was like, I didn't know when it was coming. I didn't know. So I'd check the mail - like, fuck, no tape, fuck, no tape.

BARTOS: How often would they come?

HILL: Like - and it wouldn't be consistent because he was also a teenager.

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: Right, right, right.

HILL: So it's like, he'd be lazy as fuck. And he grew up out here in the city, and so he - like I would get it like probably every, like, two, three months.

BARTOS: And there'd be like a package of, like, 10 tapes?

HILL: Yeah, it would just be, like, whatever he could put together in his free time and...

BARTOS: Amazing. That's called proper uncle-ing (ph).

GARCIA: I just want to officially say I was at the press screening for "Mid90s." It was like, you know, was, like, this theater of, like, 60 journalists. They got their notebooks out, whatever - doo, doo, doo, you know. Stretch had already hipped me that, you know, our tapes of our '90s radio show...

BARTOS: Oh, wait, wait. Let me interject, though, because my man at A24 was like, there's something involving you and Bob that made the film, and then it got cut out, but I think it's back in now.

HILL: I put it back in.

BARTOS: So I was like, yo, Bob, we're in Jonah Hill's new film. Bob goes, who's playing us?

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: I was like, nah, nah, nah.

GARCIA: No, like, who's portraying us? (Unintelligible).

GARCIA: That's so sick.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Yeah, and for a second, I was like, yo, that'd be dope.

BARTOS: I need that kind of confidence.

HILL: Dude. That's so sick.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: So I'm watching it, and I'm like, oh, word, like, the nuance was just so lovely, like, the buildup in the opening title sequence. And I'm like, word, all right. And then all of a sudden, I see, like, 30 "Stretch & Bobbito" WKCR 89.9FM radio recordings, like, neatly stacked and I had a hearty guffaw. I was like...

HILL: A hearty guffaw.

GARCIA: I was like (laughter) - like, there was nobody else in the theater that's laughing. I'm, like, the only one that caught it. You got me on that. I was like, you know...

HILL: It's respect.

GARCIA: Whatever you did to - if that was a play to authenticate, you know, who you are and your positioning in the '90s, it definitely - it's been like a stamp almost, you know, for people that...

HILL: It's a touchstone.

GARCIA: Yeah.

HILL: With skating and with hip-hop, it's important to do it correctly. Twenty years from now, I know I showed respect and I did something that was important for me to do. And people hate on everything, and that's life, bro. But, like, I stand by what I did. All the OG's that have seen it in rap or skateboarding are like...

GARCIA: Co-sign.

HILL: ...They're just like, dude, thanks.

GARCIA: Yeah.

HILL: And I'm not - they don't want the kid from "Superbad" making, like, the skateboarding and hip-hop movie. And I get it, bro. Like, I get it. I would roll my eyes so bad. They'd roll back in my head and I'd see the back of my skull. But, like, you know, like, I'm not an authority. I'm a fan. So, like, for me to get to even chop it up with you guys means I've made something worthy of talking to you guys, you know?

GARCIA: So with "Mid90s," you're the writer, you're the director, music supervisor. What pushback were you getting from the studio? With a studio, you got people in marketing that have a say. You have people in sales that have a say, people in distribution. You know, you have all these cooks and chefs in the kitchen.

HILL: Right. Well, for me, I wanted to be a writer-director my whole life. I accidentally fell into this amazing 16-year acting career, right?

GARCIA: Oh, word.

HILL: So I always wanted to be a writer and director. And I took an acting class to learn how to talk to actors, and I was so insecure and teachers were never nice to me, but they were like, you're such a great actor. I was like OK. And 16 years later, I'm making my first movie, like...

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: So I just went on, like - whatever filled the hole of insecurity, I went down that road. So with the studio and shit, this movie is a lot easier if I play some older dude in it and the kids from "Stranger Things" are the actors as opposed to real skateboarders, right? So for me, I had been allowed because of my privilege to go, yo, I'm not casting Disney actors. I'm casting skateboarders. I'm not going to, you know - I'm not - I'm shooting on Super 16. I'm shooting 4:3. This is my vision for the film. And I had people really protecting me. A24 is really dope - Ken Kao, one of the producers, Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, the producers - like, people had my back but because I was willing to walk away. I had waited so long to direct if I did it, it was going to be something that meant something to me.

So for me, I was willing to walk away if this got corrupted in any way because, A, I'm going to get the shit kicked out of me by skateboarders and, B, I'm going to get the shit kicked out of me by hip-hop heads and, C, I'm going to beat the shit out of myself because I didn't respect myself. So I just fought for four years, and this is my heart.

GARCIA: Along the filmmaking piece, the other question I had was, you know, you've also acted in films directed by the Coen brothers and Martin Scorsese and all these, like, you know, luminaries in the field. What departures did you take? What rules did you break in making "Mid90s?" What were the moments where you were like, yo, eff the regulations of the structure of how I'm supposed to make this film? Like...

HILL: Well, one thing was, you guys know, especially in hip-hop too, it's like homophobic language, misogyny, you know, how these kids speak to each other and about each other, I made a really conscious choice. I felt it was more fucked up to make a revisionist history than to show how ugly it was how people spoke to each other. So that's something, again, that I made a hard choice that, like, I even could have, you know, been like, wow, I don't even want to deal with this. But in my mind, it was more respectful to show how horrible it was how we spoke to one another and how people spoke at that time and treated women at that time.

So for me, that's a choice that, you know, if this was at a major studio, they'd be like, yo, leave that out. We don't even want to invite that in. And to me, the only people that would have hated on it - it's because of that. But they don't understand that my point is showing it is the point. Showing it is - as honest and as hard to watch as it is - is the point I'm trying to make.

Another thing is sexuality as currency, you know? The kid has his first sexual experience, and he's shaking because he's nervous, and he's not enjoying it. It's not about joyous connection. He only smiles and is happy when he realizes it gets him props in his group of friends and he raises up through the animal kingdom, right? And so for me, that - but that's real shit that, like, I had observed and had to unlearn. It is, you know, hard to watch at times, and people confuse an artist putting shit out honestly in a time period to them supporting it.

BARTOS: You acknowledge that as a well-known actor, you have a certain privilege, right? Like, you could sort of just pick any project. Just curious if that invited a certain amount of scrutiny that was, you know, weighing on you perhaps.

HILL: Coming in as an actor that's well-known, people have all sorts of conceptions about me, kind of like, hey, he's this comedian. He's this kid. He's foul-mouthed, blah, blah, blah. And it's like, I get it, bro. Like, I totally get it. I could have done the same movie over and over and I started to do dramatic movies. People were hating on me for that. Then I get, like, success in that arena and then I'm like I'm going to be a director. And now people are like, another fucking actor trying to be a director, bro.

It's like, stay in your lane, G, stay in your lane, you know? And then I, like, make a movie that reflects a time period accurately and the people that hate are like he'll get such delight out of these misogynistic scenes and blah, blah, blah. And it's like, you know, I'm not going to apologize for what I want to create, who I am. I don't want more respect. I don't want less respect. I just want to be treated like an equal like I treat everybody else like an equal, you know?

BARTOS: So let's go back to that opening scene where you see the image of - the glorious image...

HILL: The most glorious shot in the film.

BARTOS: The height - it's the apex of the film.

GARCIA: The tour de force of the "Stretch & Bob" tapes.

BARTOS: At two minutes in - no, but Sunny is - he's surreptitiously trying to get his fingers on his older brother's tapes. So I'm just wondering if there's an autobiographical aspect to Sunny and his discovery of music and things that will eventually become a huge part of his identity.

HILL: For sure. I mean, the movie's not, like, a biopic. It's not, like, my "Walk The Line" where it's, like, me just making a movie. It's, like, a story I created and characters I created. But it's autobiographical in the sense - only the sense of that it's personal. Like, I connected to the loneliness of being that age and finding a group of people, right? And I connected to skateboarding and hip-hop. And for me, the part that is personal is, like, my older brother. He passed away in December, and he's - you know, I miss him very much, but he - I would go in his room to see what was up. Like, that was your education.

Before I found skateboarders, he showed me what was up. Like, yeah, I would just write down the CDs he had. I would write down the Jordans that he had. I would try and just take inventory of, like, what was up. And it completely shaped - because actually - for me, the first records I got were from him. And it was right before Pharcyde and Hiero and Souls of Mischief and all that. So the kind of arty rap was more like Native Tongues East Coast, so he was super East Coast - like super, super East Coast. Like, what was cool about skate culture for me and when I got in that world - it was right when Souls of Mischief and Pharcyde came out and the West Coast had artier, weirder shit. That was really big. Like, when Pharcyde hit, it was like everything. It was like things shifted for, like, young weirdos on the West Coast in rap, you know what I'm saying?

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: Like you felt like - like, Fatlip is OG. He came to the premiere and it was like, I met Fatlip. And I was like, yo, you're kind of OG talking about your feelings in rap, you know? Like the - like "Bizarre Ride II" is like he kind of talks about being a nerd. He kind of talks about not getting girls. He kind of talks about, like, being made fun of. And then "What's Up Fatlip?" is, like, I think are really OG, like, vulnerable. He's so vulnerable in that song. And I think that is now hip-hop in a lot of ways - like Drake, a lot of the, like, SoundCloud. It's, like, mad emo. But I think Fatlip was kind of the first dude to kind of go there and break that wall of like I'm the shit, you know?

BARTOS: And big - I mean, "Passin' Me By" is a - I mean, that's just a massive record, right? You could play that anywhere and people lose it.

HILL: "93 'til Infinity" and "Passin' Me By" to me represent my youth. Like, that's when I think about walking around listening to music, skating around poorly - not as a good skateboarder, an unathletic skateboarder. That's what I think about is - those two songs I think the most represent being 14 skating in LA at that time, you know?

GARCIA: So because it's not your biopic but there are elements of your life that are represented in "Mid90s" - I mean, your brother is not with us anymore to have watched the premiere, but was there a conversation like, hey, like, people may see this film and connect it to our relationship? Please be aware of that. Or, you know, did you share the script with him? Did he co-sign it?

HILL: You know, my brother - may he rest in peace - like my family, they're very supportive of me being an artist, right? I said to them, it's personal in the sense that I felt lonely and alone and needed to find connection outside of my house, right? But that's not my brother. That's not my mom, my dad and - there's no dad. There's no sister.

GARCIA: Yeah.

HILL: You know, my parents are married, right? So it's more just like characters I wanted to create, things that I noticed about people growing up, feelings about growing up. So it wasn't as delicate. I think they were more sad to see how I felt growing up. I think for them, it was hard to see that I felt bad 'cause they were just sad. They don't want their kid to feel bad or whatever, you know? So, you know, the best version of ourselves - you pour your heart out and you know you did that and you don't give a fuck. As a human being, we're all human, we all have egos, we're all sensitive and you sometimes do that. Like, with this film, it is very vulnerable to put it out into the world because, man, it's like having - sending my kid to school for the first time. Like, is he going to get the shit kicked out of him? Is he going to get pantsed, like, or is he going to get - is he going to have a group of friends or are people going to support him, you know? It's like - it's vulnerable in that way but you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. Like, after having done this, I realize if I'm lucky enough I'm going to make things from my heart and I hope I get to.

BARTOS: So were you the type of kid that was, I mean, were you, like, a people-pleaser? Like, you were trying to make your parents think that you were happy, adjusted - I'm all good?

HILL: Yeah, being funny for me was definitely a mechanism of like, I'm OK. It was like, don't beat the shit out of me. I'm OK. You can't hurt me because I'm funny, and I'll hurt you. There's a mean element to it - a defensive element to it. And these are things I want to explore further if I get to make more films - you know? - because, yeah, I felt like shit, and I felt like I didn't deserve anything. And I beat myself up and other people - and then I became a well-known actor, and people are like, look at this fat clown from "Superbad," blah, blah, blah. And you're like - I'm not complaining. I have a privileged life. I'm a fucking white, straight, male movie star. Like, I get it. People can hate on me all day.

But I'm still a human being, and I still didn't have the value - even the baseline value for myself because any time I'd put myself out in the world, people would just kind of, like, make fun of me and shit. I used to have to put myself down also - like, because I'd be like, yo, if I don't put myself down, they're going to think I'm a jerk because I'm in movies. And then you go home, and you're like, damn, I feel how I just talked about myself - that's actually how I feel. And that's not good either, you know? It's just a baseline of, like, accepting a compliment, being an adult and just, like, being cool with who you are - knowing who you are. And when people say crazy shit about you or to you, you got to try your best to just maintain that level of respect for yourself.

GARCIA: Yo, curveball. So what was the first...

HILL: Curveball - your momma's so fat (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: What's the first - what was the first...

HILL: Hey, Jonah, slip on this banana peel - curveball (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: What was the first hip-hop jam you ever went to?

HILL: I'm trying to think of the first concert I went to.

BARTOS: It was that good.

HILL: Yo.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: You can't remember.

HILL: You know what it was? Because it was - the reason why it wasn't as memorable to me - it was LL.

GARCIA: Oh, word.

HILL: Right?

HILL: It was LL, and it was...

GARCIA: LL Cool J is...

HILL: Hard as hell. Because "Radio" is one of my favorite songs, right? And it was in a skate video, so that's how I knew "Radio" because it wasn't the time period where I would know old LL. So it was more, like, sexy LL. So the concert was, like, way more sexy than, like, "Rock The Bells" and "Radio." And I was like - that's why I'm like, it was a little odd because it was, like, him with his shirt off and shit. And it was me in awe like - because I had just heard "Radio" in a skate video called "Mouse," right?

So Spike Jonze made a skate video called "Mouse," and one of the best parts is, you know, this - rest in peace - skater Keenan Milton skates to "Radio," right? And I heard the song, and I bugged out. And I was like, this is one of the illest songs I've ever heard in my life. And I was like, oh, my God. I saw in the LA Weekly, like, skating around. I was like, LL Cool J's playing. And I got there. I was, like, one of the only dudes there.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: And it was like - I was like 12 or 13. And it was mad sexual, and I was like - I did not hear "Radio." I did not hear "Rock The Bells." It was, like, him licking his lips and shit.

GARCIA: "I Need Love."

HILL: Yeah. And I was like - no, it was after. It was, like, "Mama Said Knock You Out."

GARCIA: Oh, OK.

HILL: But I was into that song, of course. But then it was like - got mad sexy. And I was like, yo.

BARTOS: "Pink Cookies In A Plastic Bag Getting Crushed By Buildings."

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: I don't know what that means.

HILL: Yo, that's why it's kind of a funny - I'm glad you asked me.

GARCIA: He did used to lick his lips. I forgot about that.

HILL: Dude, he was licking his lips the majority of the concert - because my friend and I were like, yo, does he need, like, Chapstick or something like that?

BARTOS: I did a private party, and LL was a performer. It was for Motorola in LA, and this dude came out. He was so Diesel buff.

HILL: Jacked, yeah.

BARTOS: And I swear, like, someone covered his body in oil.

HILL: Yo (laughter).

BARTOS: They really did. It was crazy. And he was licking the lips. I don't know if this is really going to make the cut.

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: I don't think so.

HILL: But it is interesting for my - because the reason why I wasn't as - like, I remember Tha Alkaholiks. That was my next show...

BARTOS: Tha Liks.

HILL: ...Was Tha Liks after. So, yo, like, I saw Tha Liks. Xzibit came out. This is like - I was mad young. That's what I consider, like, my first - where I was, like, turned up. I was, like, going crazy. I was, like, 12 or 13. They were spraying beer on us. I think it was my first taste of beer was - because like - I'm not kidding. I think my first drop of beer was when Tash, like, opened a - shook up a beer and opened it onto, like, my face in the crowd. And I love Tha Liks.

GARCIA: (Laughter) You got to script that. That's got to be in the next film.

BARTOS: I can see that.

HILL: Yo, but that's what it was like because in LA you could smoke weed way before you could drink because there was no way - they were super strict about alcohol. So we'd always be smoking weed, but we were never drunk until later, until it was, like, you figure out how to get alcohol. And I remember so - like, it was, like, a cartoon. I was at Tha Liks concert going crazy. I shoved my way to the front because I was really little, right? And I get to the front, and Tash just shakes up a Corona and blasts that shit in my face. And I was like, this is the coolest moment of my entire life.

BARTOS: You were like, LL who?

HILL: Yeah. I was like, this is home. I was like - you know that feeling of like - and they were just so dope. Tha Alkaholiks are a great West Coast group that was like...

GARCIA: Yeah, they were great live.

HILL: ...And you would see them - they would always play around LA constantly - small venues. It was so fun - so fun.

BARTOS: Yeah, we showed them a lot of love. So, I mean, at any point, were you like - especially when you were younger and insecure and lonely and everything that you just described - did you ever look at hip-hop as something that maybe you could not just be a fan of but actually do and be like, yeah, I'm going to show people?

HILL: Oh, you want to know - I got to be honest. I said this on "The Breakfast Club."

BARTOS: Because we've all been there. We've done it.

HILL: Well, you guys did it. You literally did it.

BARTOS: Oh, no, no, no. We - no, no, no. I mean, I'm talking about like - all right. I had a birthday party.

HILL: You made beats, right?

BARTOS: My 35th - yeah, yeah. But, I mean, to a degree. My 35th birthday party, a friend from high school who I almost never see, he shows up, and he hands me an envelope.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

BARTOS: He was like, just put this in a safe place. I look at it when I get home, and it's a DVD, and it says, we are going to die for this. And it's a video, on the DVD, of a rap song we made in 1989, and it's a video.

HILL: And you're MC or you're DJ? Or both?

BARTOS: I made the beat.

HILL: You rapped on it.

BARTOS: And the three of us are rapping.

GARCIA: Gulp.

BARTOS: And through the '90s, you know, when I'm on the radio and my profile is increasing, I'm like, wow, I really...

HILL: Don't - please, don't put this out.

BARTOS: This can't get out.

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: This will ruin my life. All credibility will go down the toilet in about 30 seconds.

HILL: You can't live your life like that. That's the point of life, though. That story perfectly encompasses what I think about life, which is you can't be scared of that coming out. It doesn't shake who you are or what you built.

BARTOS: (Laughter).

HILL: And our generation - our generation is all about not selling out. It's corny to, like, do anything that's not like super true, true, true. With working with this younger generation, it's amazing to see how they don't think that way. They look at the OGs and they're like, they're not even rich. You know what I mean? And I'm like, yeah, but they have the most credibility. And they're like, so? You know what I mean?

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: They're hyped Migos is on a song with Katy Perry because that means Migos is richer and blows up more, right, you know? So I was like, whoa, Migos - when we were shooting, Migos came on a Katy Perry song, and I'm like, yo. I'm like, isn't that fucking wack? And they're like, no, so what? Like, good for them. And I'm like, man, we were very different. You know, like it was very different.

So like - but to answer your question, I did talk about this on "The Breakfast Club." But I did - I made - I spent years making beats in my room, going to Fat Beats. Shout out, Fat Beats.

GARCIA: Word? They just opened up their store again in Los Angeles.

BARTOS: They reopened, yeah.

HILL: That makes me so happy. I spent so - after skating, when I realized I just sucked so badly, I was DJing, I was making beats, I would DJ parties, I would...

GARCIA: Word?

HILL: Yeah.

GARCIA: What was your DJ name?

HILL: Well, that's the - that's the problem.

GARCIA: What?

HILL: Spindrome. Like syndrome, dude.

BARTOS: (Laughter).

GARCIA: It's not that bad.

HILL: It's pretty bad, bro.

GARCIA: Nah (ph), Spindrome?

BARTOS: Come on. Pun names?

HILL: And then - yeah. And then Real Eyes - R-E-A-L and then - Eyes.

BARTOS: Eyes (laughter).

HILL: Come on, dude. Like, I was so serious, like trying to be so dramatic about it.

BARTOS: You needed a partner named Recogn-Eyes. Be Recogn-Eyes and Real Eyes.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

HILL: Right, yo. You know what the best feeling for me was? So I had a MPC, and I would just like spend all, you know, all my nights just like making beats, listening to records. And what I loved about it was, like, you'd find a sample - right? - and you'd think, oh, my God, this is the greatest. I found like - I'm going to make this beat, and it's going to be like the illest beat ever. And then you realize, it's been sampled.

I was like, oh, that means I have good taste. You know what I mean? So it just - I was never like, this is what I'm going to do with my life. But it was cool when you would find something on your own and be like, oh, someone I actually respect already sampled this. That means I have a good ear. So that was a cool thing to look back on.

GARCIA: You didn't foresee making beats becoming your profession, but you did music supervise "Mid90s." There were nuances in the music supervision that I know - similar to the tapes coming on screen and me laughing out loud - I know that 99 percent of the people in that room would not have a clue of the echo out or the reverb slap or the blends or...

HILL: Or, that was the night everything changed, before the GZA comes in.

GARCIA: The way - the way - the way you looped a certain intro. It was like - it was all - it was flawless, dude.

HILL: That is the best compliment. And that observation truly means a lot to me because I treated it as a DJ. I was like, I'm the DJ of this movie, so whether I'm taking intros and adding things to them, or blending Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score into The Pharcyde, those blends, to me, are so part of it. I am trying to present something to a group of people that would never be interested in it.

GARCIA: No doubt.

HILL: And that's important to me. So I'm not some sort of dude who's going around like, I'm an authority, or I'm like the voice. It's just like people are interested in my film that are like an older, straighter, more like whatever generation. I just have access to it, so I'd rather present the palette in an honorable way.

BARTOS: Hip-hop is notoriously difficult to license because of...

HILL: Samples.

BARTOS: ...Unresolved writer disputes and whatnot.

GARCIA: Sampling disputes (laughter).

BARTOS: So did you experience any of these challenges in...

HILL: Yep.

BARTOS: You did. I couldn't even - I couldn't even finish the question, and yep.

HILL: Yo because in making - even before we started shooting, I go - I'm talking to the financier and stuff, and I'm like playing him the songs. All those songs were written - the scenes were written to those songs. Every single one. So I walked the financier and the producers through like, this is the song for this scene. This is the song for this scene.

And one of our producers was like, yo, like, I don't know what - like classic hip-hop, like '90s hip-hop, is notoriously impossible to get in movies because you have to pay 40 sample - the artists that they sampled. And I go, the movie does not exist without this. There isn't one without the other. So we really worked hard ahead of time with very little money. And what really helped us - I got to give a major shout out to my friend and one of my heroes, Q-Tip. Because I knew that he was going to give us a song, and if he co-signed it and Tribe co-signed it, it really...

GARCIA: It's like the domino effect?

HILL: It is like you get one, and like, people show up because they respect him. And so, as my friend, him, Frank Ocean and my sister saw the first cut of the movie. And I was like, did I fuck up, Q-Tip? I basically - was like my first question. He's like, you nailed it. And he gave me the song, and that really - him and Morrissey were the first two. And it was like, if I get them, like, other people will show up to the party, you know.

BARTOS: How did you get Morrissey so early?

HILL: I wrote him this letter about what that song represents in my life. And, like, a lot of kids I grew up skating with were Latino and so - and Mexican. So like, for some reason - this is like a weird thing - like Morrissey is massive in the Mexican community in LA, like massive. He's like Michael Jackson or something. Like, I don't - whatever it is, it's so ill.

And so my friends who were Mexican, like, their emo music they would listen to was Morrissey. And so I was just trying - and I just picked up from them and learned from them, just wanting to be like your older friends and stuff. And so when I would get like really like sad, I would listen to Morrissey.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: I wrote him this really personal letter, and he literally wrote back, like, good luck with "Mid90s" - Morrissey. And I was like...

GARCIA: Word?

HILL: ...Freaking out, just to my producers in A24, like Morrissey just said "Mid90s." This is a thing thing that I wrote in my room, by myself, for three years when I was like depressed or whatever - angry. This was my best friend. And Morrissey and Q-Tip know "Mid90s" is a thing. Morrissey and Q-Tip, I got to thank them so much. And then, obviously, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scoring the movie. It just - it helped things along because we didn't have a lot of money, but we did have people believing in it. That means a lot.

BARTOS: So "Mid90s" is a film about individuals and a story that happens very specific to them as people, but it's also a film about a specific cultural moment, place and time. And I'm just curious, you know, for those that aren't a part of the culture - maybe someone who lives in, say, Idaho - what are you hoping they take away from your film?

HILL: I was like, it has to be so specifically correct to the subcultures that are portrayed in the film. That's what I care about the most. But at its core, I'm telling a story. That's just a backdrop. And I'm telling a story, a really emotional story, about how fun and how painful it is to grow up and find your tribe, right? And at its core, it's like you can look at any film. You know, you look at - "Amadeus" is one of my favorite movies, right? Like, I don't care about...

GARCIA: (Singing) Amadeus, Amadeus.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: I don't care - I don't care about...

BARTOS: Rock me, Amadeus.

GARCIA: Rock me, Amadeus.

HILL: Yeah, I just like...

BARTOS: Falco.

HILL: I don't care about that culture, but the story's so human, you connect to it. And, to me, I don't want to shove any message down people's throats. I really believe that it's been amazing to watch people who aren't part of hip-hop or skate culture really connect emotionally to this film because it's just about growing up.

GARCIA: Let's take a quick break. And coming back out, we're going to have some real fun. If you think the first part of the interview was fun, you're in for a treat. We'll be right back.

HILL: Amazing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: And we are back with Jonah Hill, and it is time for the Impression Session.

GARCIA: Wait, I've got to give him an - ooh-wee (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: My 12-year-old self just did like a fucking backflip, dude. I mean, like...

GARCIA: You should give them a yo, yo, yo.

BARTOS: Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo, yo.

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: I don't do that anymore.

HILL: That one - yo, that one - that one like - that hit deep, guys.

GARCIA: He retired. He retired from yo, yo, yo.

HILL: I'm glad the tissues are over here, dude, 'cause that was epic.

BARTOS: You're wilding.

GARCIA: So this - this Impression Session...

HILL: Sorry, I'm actually - that was - that was actually really important to me.

(LAUGHTER)

BARTOS: I can't tell if he's acting or not.

HILL: I'm really not, bro. I'm really not. Like, this is the kind of shit you do this shit for. It's amazing. Like bucket list.

GARCIA: What we're going to do right now is play you a track, each. Simply want you to react, and that's about it.

HILL: Just react to the song?

GARCIA: Yeah. Whatever it brings out.

BARTOS: Yeah. Emotionally, intellectually...

GARCIA: Don't get too emo.

BARTOS: ...Or I don't like this or I like it...

HILL: I go in that direction.

BARTOS: ...You might know it, you might not know it.

HILL: I go emo, dude. That's just part of who I am. I won't apologize for it.

BARTOS: Whatever. What do you want to do? Barbecue or boogaloo?

GARCIA: I'll go first.

BARTOS: OK.

GARCIA: Yeah, I'll go first.

(SOUNDBITE OF LES DEMERLE'S SONG "A DAY IN THE LIFE")

HILL: This was in the movie, and it got cut. You want me to rap? Am I live right now?

GARCIA: Yeah - we're not live, but you can talk.

HILL: Oh, this is the sample. I thought O.C. was about to come in.

GARCIA: (Laughter).

HILL: I was literally about to rap the whole entire O.C. song.

(SOUNDBITE OF LES DEMERLE'S SONG "A DAY IN THE LIFE")

HILL: I mean, that song was in the film, that O.C. - "Time's Up" by O.C. And the scene got cut, but that was like one of the songs I wrote the movie to.

GARCIA: Do you know the name of the artist for the original?

HILL: No.

GARCIA: So it's Les DeMerle - "A Day In The Life." It's a cover of a Beatles record.

BARTOS: I have the original album.

GARCIA: And O.C. rhymes over for the anthem of me and Stretch's eight-year radio career.

HILL: "Time's Up," one of the greatest...

GARCIA: Yeah.

HILL: I put the song in as respect to you guys and O.C.

GARCIA: Oh.

HILL: And then the scene got cut.

GARCIA: Nah, nah, nah. Come on, chill.

HILL: For real. Well, the doc - it's so heavily featured. It's so - O.C. is so connected to you guys in the doc. Like, it's dope.

GARCIA: Well, our documentary - "Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives" - the opening title sequence is to O.C.'s "Time's Up." So it's like...

BARTOS: Yeah, it's the one song...

HILL: You lack the minerals and vitamins (laughter).

BARTOS: Irons and the niacins.

HILL: Fuck who that I offend.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: I just remembered the opening line.

GARCIA: I can't - I was hoping to see it in the film. So how come it didn't make it?

HILL: Dude, it was crazy. We edited this whole thing to him falling to, like, when it's like (vocalizing). And it just was - it ended up breaking the ethic of the film where it's like - that's where skate films go wrong when you try and be, like, stylized and make it cool, as opposed to just show it existing - people not landing shit. And so immediately, when I break that ethic, I tear it out of the movie, you know? But it was just a cool thing to edit because me and my editor had fun because that song has such dramatic (vocalizing). Like, you could just do surprising shit in the edit with it. But it ended up breaking ethics, so it was ghosted.

BARTOS: Inside skating.

HILL: Yeah.

BARTOS: That's where we went.

HILL: Well, it's just like when movies go wrong - like, with hip-hop - it's like, if you make - you put the camera under the board, and it's flipping around, and look how rad these guys are - your movie is trash, you know? And so even though it was a fun exercise, had to get out.

GARCIA: Word.

BARTOS: Let's go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CLEAR BLUE SKIES")

BUDDY SLIM: (Rapping) Damn it, son, I think it's time we had a little man-to-man talking. I heard that you was hand-in-hand walking down the boulevard, middle of the day with this black chick. Tell me the truth, boy, or you can catch this slap quick.

BREEZE BREWIN: (Rapping) Let me get this straight, you're ranting and raving, behaving like a mad dog with rabies because my baby's not white. That ain't right. Pops, you got me puzzled because in the past with the black folks, you never struggled.

HILL: Insane. This one actually does fuck me up. I know I'm not supposed to get emotional, but when songs like this would come on in the car, and people would kind of start to get quiet - like, you guys didn't grow up in car culture. But, like, in LA, like, if this came on - when there were hip-hop songs that were kind of emotional - you know that feeling when you're in a group people, and you're listening to music like that, and a song like that comes on that actually is, like, pretty deep. And it's, like, that odd kind of quiet where everyone's not talking about it, but you could tell people were thinking. And that's what that song represents to me. Like, you know, just a banger - you know, O.C. comes on, and then it's like, that comes on. And you're like - that overly masculine quiet where people can't talk that they're, like, actually feeling something. And I remember - that brings me really back to growing up, like, really deeply.

BARTOS: It was like that for us. I mean, you know, a lot of the music that we would play in that studio - I mean, we didn't have car culture, but we were all...

HILL: Together.

BARTOS: ...In this confined space, as if it were a car.

GARCIA: No doubt.

HILL: So true.

BARTOS: And we're playing music that's just banging, right? And then I think - of course, that is the Juggaknots. The record is called "Clear Blue Skies." Bob had it before it was on wax.

GARCIA: I was playing it as a demo.

BARTOS: We'd play it, and it would just sort of, like, shut everything down, and everyone would be quiet. I mean, I really remember that. And then Q-Tip, who would listen to our show, heard it on the radio and would call up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GARCIA: OK, y'all live on air.

Q-TIP: Yo, this is Tip, man.

GARCIA: Yo, what's up, Tip?

BARTOS: Yo, Tip.

GARCIA: You on point?

Q-TIP: Yo, I got a request. What's that record about - the two dudes who did that record about the black kid dating a white girl?

GARCIA: The name of the group is called the Juggaknots. The name of the song is "Clear Blue Skies."

Q-TIP: Yo, you got to play that shit.

GARCIA: All right.

BARTOS: Didn't really - didn't know the group. It wasn't - it wasn't on some - yo, that's my man's record. I'm trying to...

HILL: Pick him up, yeah.

GARCIA: Yeah. It was like, yo, what is that? It's such a different record, and...

HILL: But that's what I mean when hip-hop - that moment with your friends when that comes on, people shut the fuck up because it makes them feel something. And at that time period, and being young, overly-toxic masculine people, you're like - you're like, yo, what the fuck? I don't feel anything. You know what I mean? And it's like - like, that kind of shit to me are those moments of quiet that are just kind of like - you remember them. You remember them, or at least I do, you know? And that song puts me, like, right there, you know - like, right in that moment. And it's amazing. I love that shit.

GARCIA: Word.

BARTOS: That's what's up.

GARCIA: Jonah, it's been ridiculously uplifting to bill with you and my boy right here. Looking forward to your next film - director or actor.

BARTOS: That's what's up.

GARCIA: You are the man, B.

HILL: Yo, this is...

BARTOS: It's great sitting with you, man.

HILL: Yeah, it is such a pleasure - and truly, in no bullshit way, a complete and utter joy and, like, check off my bucket list.

GARCIA: Word.

BARTOS: Cool.

HILL: So lots of love. Thank you.

BARTOS: Peace.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BARTOS: That's our show. This podcast was produced by Michelle Lanz, edited by Alexander McCall, Jordana Hochman and N'Jeri Eaton. Our executive producer is Abby O'Neill.

GARCIA: And if you duggy-dug (ph) the show, you can hear more at npr.org, plus bonus video content on Spotify on Fridays. While you're at it, please go to Apple Podcasts and rate, review and subscribe. That's how we know you are listening.

BARTOS: And if you want to keep track of us via social media, our Twitter is @stretchandbob and our Instagram is @stretchandbobbito.

GARCIA: Peace.

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