The first Nardwuar interview I ever watched was a vintage clip of the Vancouver, British Columbia native interviewing Busta Rhymes on the set of 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection. Nardwuar besieged the Brooklyn emcee with questions about horror movies, Ice-T’s role in Tank Girl, and his potential role as the Cowardly Lion in a remake of The Wizard of Oz. The questions were wild enough, but Busta’s bewildered reaction to Nardwuar’s trademark “doot doo da loot doo” signoff makes the three-minute clip an all-timer.
Nardwuar’s extensive research skills and manic persona have endeared him to millions over the past 30 years. Born John Huskin, the 51-year-old interviewer (and radio personality) routinely surprises interviewees with gifts and intimate knowledge, only family and close friends should know. His catchphrases are iconic; his colorful wardrobe would make Craig Sager blush. His aesthetic and unflappable energy have minted him as one of the most recognizable and controversial journalists in the world. You don’t get sampled at the end of a Lil Uzi Vert song for nothing.
During quarantine, I’ve been revisiting some of Nardwuar’s finest moments. Since every Nardwuar interview is a good interview, here are the 10 most entertaining Nardwuar interviews, ranked. Doot Do!
10. Nardwuar vs. Curren$y
Half the appeal of a Nardwuar interview comes from watching the artist’s reaction to his questions in real-time. In 2013, New Orleans stalwart Curren$y began his interview with a question of his own: “How do you know you’re not gonna hit me?” Spitta asks after Nardwuar whips the microphone in his face. Attitudes cool when Nardwuar offers Spitta a Pimp C t-shirt, and they speak about New Orleans folklore and his father’s band, Point of View. Spitta is one of several artists to conduct multiple interviews with Nardwuar, and their chemistry is palpable. Watching two friends get together after some years apart is always fun, especially when they spend three minutes arguing about the virtues of weed records.
Favorite moment: Curren$y asking Nardwuar’s team to add a sword sound effect to his mic swing.
9. Nardwuar vs. Mac Miller
Mac Miller was never shy around a camera. The late Pittsburgh rapper gave all of himself to those lucky enough to interview him, and his time with Nardwuar in 2011 is no exception. Talk of rare Big L records gives way to a hefty crash course on Pittsburgh rap groups like Strict Flow and The Govament. Nardwuar even delves into local sandwich spots and Mac’s appearance on a local news channel, much to his delight. Watching Mac and Nardwuar feed off of each other’s energy is special. Mac shares belly laughs with friends and jumps out of his skin when Nardwuar comes with surprising facts. Mac’s Nardwuar interview is a snapshot of Mac before his prime and a perfect way to remember one of the Most Dope.
Favorite moment: Mac picking Nardwuar up during his freeze-frame.
8. Nardwuar vs. Waka Flocka Flame
Watching Nardwuar work his charm on Atlanta’s Waka Flocka Flame is an endurance test. In the first few seconds of their interview, Waka looks like he’s going through the motions. But then Nardwuar brings out an old SWV record to get Waka and Wooh Da Kid alert. The more facts Nardwuar draws—about an obsession with salt and vinegar chips and old Kilo Ali records—the more Waka opens up. It may seem standard for a journalist to keep a rapper entertained, but watching Waka’s enjoyment visibly increase makes this interview special. Name another interviewer, let alone an individual, would know to ask Waka, who was born in Queens, New York, about his relationship with Doug E. Fresh?
Favorite moment: Nardwuar earning the Brick Squad pendant.
7. Nardwuar vs. Rico Nasty
Rico Nasty’s energy is undeniable, which made Nardwuar’s 2019 interview with the Maryland rapper a recipe for chaos. Rico and Nardwuar, not even two seconds into the video, are screaming at each other. The friendly air keeps things lively while Nardwuar surprises Rico with Joan Jett and N.O.R.E. records and a cassette of her 2018 breakout project Nasty. Very few people are capable of matching Nardwuar’s energy. Rico might be the first to match him note for note and scream for scream across their 17-minute interview. Whether they’re talking about Old Bay seasoning or watching Cheech & Chong on Netflix, the duo’s energy is electric. Don’t watch this one with the volume up too high.
Favorite moment: Muting my computer when Nardwuar and Rico scream at each other.
6. Nardwuar vs. Future
Regional hip-hop history is the best hip-hop history. As an Atlanta native and an extended member of The Dungeon Family, Future is chock full of Georgia rap history. Nardwuar uses his six-minute interview to question Future about the significance of Kilo Ali, MC Shy D, and the 69 Boyz. And, of course, a brief chat about cheesecake created one of Rap Twitter’s favorite memes. Nardwuar’s research always leads to fascinating regional questions you won’t hear in many other interviews. Even though Future’s interview is one of the shortest in Nardwuar’s vault, hearing Future speak about Atlanta’s history and some of his favorite artists is a pleasure. Also, now we know Popeye is his favorite cartoon character of all time.
Favorite moment: “Sensational.”
5. Nardwuar vs. JAY-Z
The circumstances leading up to Nardwuar’s interview with JAY-Z are incredible. In 2008, Pharrell Williams called Hov multiple times to put in a good word for Nardwuar. After Hov miraculously accepted, Nardwuar drove six hours to the Pemberton Music Festival to speak with Hov for five minutes. Cigar in hand, Hov drops a few gems about the cover of Jaz-O’s Word to the Jaz (JAY-Z provided the jewelry for the cover shoot) and accepts a poster of famous rappers from Nardwuar. As anyone who has followed his career knows, JAY-Z interviews are few and far between. Nardwuar being able to secure even five minutes of his time off of the goodwill of a previous interviewee (more on that later), speaks to his skill as an interviewer.
Favorite moment: JAY-Z talking with a cigar in his mouth.
4. Nardwuar vs. Lil Uzi Vert
Talking with someone who knows so much about your life can be intimidating. Lil Uzi Vert experienced this feeling during his second Nardwuar interview in 2018 during the Breakout Winter Festival. The interview begins with the two comparing clothes before Nardwuar gifts him a zombie bust and a poster of punk rock artist GG Allin. Things take a turn when he offers Uzi a Rob Zombie poster: “You know too much. I can’t do this,” he says impishly before darting out of the building and into a nearby van. As shocking as it is to see an artist abruptly leave during an interview, there’s no bad blood between the two. Their third interview at Rolling Loud 2019 ran a year later, and Uzi even sampled their infamous 2018 encounter at the end of his single “Futsal Shuffle 2020.” Uzi’s fear has spawned thousands of memes, and for that, we’re all grateful.
Favorite moment: “What Kanye do?”
3. Nardwuar vs. A$AP Mob
Getting the entire A$AP Mob together for an interview is no small feat, which is what Nardwuar managed to do in 2012 at a dingy warehouse outside of SXSW in Austin, Texas. Over 10 minutes, he asks A$AP Rocky about song lyrics, A$AP Ferg about making jewelry, and how his father designed the Bad Boy Records logo, and the group about their mutual love of Cam’ron and Black Moon. Nardwuar’s inquisitiveness coaxes a lot out of the Mob: their origins at Harlem’s Black Ink Gallery, the creation of Rocky’s breakout hits, “Purple Swag” and “Peso,” and a brief but fun appearance by the late, great A$AP Yams. As it stands, Nardwuar vs. A$AP Mob is one of the group’s definitive interviews, full of energy and laughter and water bottles balancing on heads. It also inspired a TikTok meme and could become a gateway to rap journalism for a new generation.
Favorite moment: The entire Mob singing Mase’s “I Really Like It” in unison.
2. Nardwuar vs. N.E.R.D.
Impressing Pharrell Williams is a hefty challenge. Twelve years ago, the Virginia triple-threat (rapper/singer/producer) had seen the world twice over, but he hadn’t seen Nardwuar. At least not in person. Alongside N.E.R.D. bandmate Shay Haley, Williams received the full experience during their 2008 sit-down. Things start light by Nardwuar standards: a conversation about what Nardwuar’s name means leads him to give Pharrell a book on skateboarders from Vancouver. Before too long, Nardwuar presents Pharrell an LP of the soundtrack to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and Wreckx-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker,” the very first song Pharrell was ever credited on. Pharrell is stunned: “This is one of the most impressive interviews I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
Nardwuar impressing Pharrell is a pure moment of journalistic bliss. Journalists live for the moment they’ve stumped an artist or get the golden “that’s a good question” response. Seeing Pharrell and Shay try to keep their composure while fielding Nardwuar’s questions in amazement is both inspiring and hilarious. This is why JAY-Z earned those five minutes.
Favorite moment: Pharrell’s blank, impressed stare.
1. Nardwuar vs. Odd Future
Nardwuar and Odd Future both thrive on anarchic energy. As such, their 2011 interview was predestined to be a wild ride. But no one could’ve predicted just how fun it would be. Most of the California collective is honored with gifts: Tyler, The Creator gets bacon soap and jazz albums; Hodgy Beats gets his own barf bag; Left Brain gets a copy of the Belly soundtrack on vinyl.
While the interview is a classic, seeing Nardwuar channel the energy of the collective into his questions is a sight to behold. Tyler’s jokes about Pharrell’s obsession with skateboards and the sexual applications of bacon are met with questions about his mother’s Canadian heritage and groups formed in high school. “You with the feds?” Tyler asks multiple times. Nardwuar’s interview with Odd Future is peak entertainment, informative and hilarious in equal measure.