Last Night

Don't Laugh: The Lonely Island Are the Best Rap Group Going

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Fri, Jun 7, 2013 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Lonely Island portrait at Sonos Studios
  • Lonely Island portrait at Sonos Studios
By Ben Westhoff and Katie Bain

Last night at Sonos Studio, The Lonely Island -- Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schafer -- talked about their music, debuted a video, and hosted a listening party for their forthcoming Wack Album, out Tuesday.

Collaborators include Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Pharrell, Too $hort, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, and Hugh Jackman, they noted. But their dream collabo remains Bill Clinton on sax.

See also: Top 60 Worst Lil Wayne Lines on Tha Carter IV

It's jokes on jokes with these guys, all formerly in the employ of Saturday Night Live. But one thing about them is often overlooked: Though they call themselves a fake rap group, they're actually, perhaps, the best rap group going right now. Seriously.

The evening opened with a DJ set by Asa Taccone, Jorma's brother and the lead singer of the group Electric Guest. The trio then fielded questions. They were asked about the best time they've had making a video ("I'm On a boat" they agreed, though the helicopter swooping past their faces on the boat's prow freaked them out) and how realistic "3-Way" was. ("Zero percent realistic," said Samberg.)

Our judgement may be a bit impaired because we love these guys so much, particularly Samberg, who briefly left the stage to give the rest of his Newcastle to his fiance Joanna Newsom. But fuck that, they're amazing, and considering that Wack is continuing in the same dynamic and hilarious tradition of their previous works Incredibad and Turtleneck and Chain, let's talk about what makes them so.

They call themselves a fake rap group much like The Daily Show claims to offer fake news. This despite the fact that The Daily Show completely works as a real news show, and The Lonely Island completely works as a real rap group. Call their songs parodies if you want, but they succeed beyond that. For starters, they use the same production styles (and often the same producers) as those on radio hits. Sure their beats may not be not breaking much new ground, but their production is as compelling as almost anything else out there. Long after "I Just Had Sex" stops being funny, you can still rock out to it.

click to enlarge Taccone, Schaffer, Sandberg and host Ben Lyons - CREDIT: JEROD HARRIS/GETTY IMAGES
  • Credit: Jerod Harris/Getty Images
  • Taccone, Schaffer, Sandberg and host Ben Lyons

They make jokes, yes, but there's more to it, especially in comparison with someone like Weird Al, to whom they admit they owe a great debt. (Last night Taccone talked about how they had him in the studio to hear "I Fucked My Aunt" and he doubled over laughing -- Taccone called it one of the greatest moments of his life.) But unlike maybe half of Weird Al's songs, The Lonely Island's stuff is all original; it's one thing to turn "My Sharona" into "My Bologna," it's another to satire entire musical motifs, which Lonely Island does on song after song. "Semicolon" lampoons hashtag rap while "Diaper Money" satirizes "grown man" rap, which yes is a real thing. "I got that wife pussy," raps Taccone, "And the best part about it/ Is no one else can have it/ And also I can't have it/ Unless she says I can."

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