A Short Convo With… Jonah Hill: ‘I Was A Hardcore Hip-Hop Head’

In Get Him To The Greek (out June 4), Jonah Hill stars alongside British funny man Russell Brand as an intern who works for music-mogul-from-hell Sergio, played by music icon Sean “Diddy” Combs. But how much does the jovial actor really know about hip-hop? VIBE tested out Hill’s musical street-cred and found out he’s quite gangsta. —Keith Murphy

VIBE: In Get Him To The Greek, your label boss Sergio happens to be played by the same man who signed one of most influential MC’s of all time—The Notorious B.I.G. How familiar were you with the hip-hop scene from that ’90s era? 
Jonah Hill: I was a hardcore hip-hop head. I had on my Rawkus T-shirt everyday. Soundbombing II is like one of the greatest albums ever recorded. I’m talking Mos Def, Common, Sadat X, Pharoahe Monch, High & Mighty… all that stuff. [During that late ‘90s period] for me, until like the Strokes and the White Stripes came out in the early ‘00’s, indie rock music was kind of dead. And independent hip-hop music was just great. But before that I have to say early ‘90’s hip-hop is just the best. Souls of Mischief is like one of my favorite rap groups, and T-Rex and all the Bay Area stuff like Peanut Butter Wolf and Madlib; all that stuff was great. There was nothing going on in rock music. And even mainstream hip-hop, besides Jay-Z and [early Bad Boy], I wasn’t feeling a lot of it. Independent hip-hop to me was carrying the torch for the best new music out in the ‘90s. Gang Starr was always one of my favorites. Wild Pitch Records and all that stuff were just incredible.

Were you ever tempted to pick up the mic and get your backpack rap on? 
[Laughs] Actually yeah, but I wanted to be more of a hip-hop producer. DJ Premier and Prince Paul were my heroes. Those were the guys that I was obsessed with. I had a MPC. I would go to Fat Beats [legendary downtown record store in New York] every weekend, take the bus, and buy vinyl and just try to sample all the great drum records.

Oh, you were hardcore, huh? 
Seriously. I would just make beats all day. I was in rock band also; played bass and piano. But at the end of every show we would play the instrumental from Nas’ Illmatic from beginning to end just to warm up the crowd. We learned all the instrumental parts to Illmatic basically [laughs].

Okay. So we are down to the final four of VIBE’s Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All-Time Tournament which features Kanye West, Dr. Dre, The Neptunes, and DJ Premier. Who you got? 
No disrespect to Kanye West and The Neptunes, but you have to go with DJ Premier vs. Dr. Dre . It’s insane not to. I bet you Kanye and Chad and Pharrell would tell you the same thing. The Chronic and all the NWA records that Dre produced as well as Snoop’s Doggystyle… wow! You couldn’t walk down the street without every car playing The Chronic. And Premo to me… that woud be a hard battle. Gang Starr is one of the greatest hip-hop groups ever. Both of their styles are just so unique.

You have a great future in politics. Is that your final answer?
Who would win between Dre and Premo? I actually know them, so I wouldn’t want to say it [laughs]. It’s just too tough.


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