Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer are comedians fronting like a rap group. We help them live out the hip-hop dream with their realest interview ever.
This feature appears in Complex's June/July 2011 issue.
If Young Jeezy is your favorite rapper’s favorite trapper, The Lonely Island is his favorite nerdy white comedy troupe that makes funny rap songs as a side hustle. Since joining Saturday Night Live’s cast and writing crew in September 2005, childhood pals Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer have made an indelible mark on the sketch show—and, surprisingly, the music world—with music videos that mock rap and the group members. Joints like “Lazy Sunday,” “I’m on a Boat” (with T-Pain), and “Dick in a Box” (with Justin Timberlake) exploded on the Internet, leading to The Lonely Island dropping its debut album, Incredibad, in 2009.
With the group’s sophomoric sophomore effort, Turtleneck & Chain, out now and winning on the strength of recent hits “I Just Had Sex” (with Akon) and “The Creep” (with Nicki Minaj), Complex decided it was time to stop treating these dudes like comedians who rap and give them a straight-up rap interview. If you want to know what it’s like working with Lorne Michaels, peep every other Q&A they’ve done. This time, it’s strictly stunts, blunts, and hip-hop. A one-two, a one-two, here we go.
How would you describe Lonely Island’s “movement?”
Akiva: Bowels, clearly.
Andy: The Not Rappers Movement?
What atmosphere do y’all like in the studio?
Akiva: It traps the light in the room, makes it feel kind of like church.
Andy: Yeah, you wanna be on the mic believing that doves might fly through at any moment…and then gunfire.
Does your entourage roll through?
Andy: We have occasional visits from various wives…people delivering food.
Akiva: We keep it very private—more like, I imagine, Sting records. Much like Sting.
Andy: I would almost describe it as a tantric experience—very slow and grinding. Minus the sex part.
Are there any skeletons in your closets? What’s hurting your street credibility?
Andy: Everything? You kind of have to have street cred to lose it, so in that regard we’re doing great.
Akiva: We’re going straight at zero, it’s a flat line the whole time.
Jorma: If you can get lower than zero, then we have lost street cred.
“Lazy Sunday” had a lyrical backpacker vibe, but then “On a Boat” was super materialistic—wassup with that?
Andy: Mo’ money, mo’ problems, really.
Which of you is most likely to do a stint in jail?
Akiva: Yeah, Jorm.
Why would you get knocked?
Jorma: Whatever it was, it was sexual.
Andy: More like failure to renew your driver’s license.
Jorma: Yeah, I’ve got a pending misdemeanor. I’m dealing with it right now, actually.
Akiva: He caught a case! He didn’t take the picture for his expired license, and then he was driving with it thinking he had renewed it. He’s a real bad boy.
Andy: That should write your “99 Problems,” Jorm.
Akiva: What’s worse, Jorm: catching a case or catching feelings?
Jorma: You know it’s catching feelings!
Andy: You know what I say about catching feelings: never that.
Who’s most likely to go to rehab?
Andy: He’s really nice but he flies off the handle the most, you know, ’cause he holds that all inside. Whereas me and Kiv are just mean.
Jorma, you sound really angry on “We’re Back.” What was going through your mind when you were recording it?
Jorma: I was just thinking about my misdemeanor case.
Kinda like Tupac?
Akiva: It’s the mo’ money, mo’ problems; all of a sudden they try to take you down.
Andy: Once Jorm knew he could go to jail, he became a real studio rat.
Akiva: He just wanted to get it all out.
Andy: He was laying down tracks that didn’t have beats yet, like, “Gimme a metronome! Put that shit in later!”
What does “We’re Back” mean to you?
Andy: And also, like, about how we have horrible dicks.
Akiva: That’s the subtext. People barely get that.
Jorma: We didn’t want people to get it twisted: We are the crew with the smallest, weakest, most pathetic dicks.
Akiva: In the time between our records, there were cats on the scene trying to take that crown. We had to put it down!
Most rappers wouldn’t brag about that.
Andy: Bragging about how great and big your dick is—there’s nothing dangerous about that.
Does success have you seeing more naked women?
Andy: I would say less. Jorm especially less because he’s just been in the studio.
Jorma: I don’t know, my wife has really opened up to me since the whole rap thing happened. I get to see her boobs all the time now.
Andy: I’m able to afford a better Internet connection now, so in that way I’ve been able to see a lot more boobs.
Was there any concern that “I Just Had Sex” would alienate people who haven’t just had sex?
Jorma: It’s an aspirational song, not inspirational. Ass-pirational.
Andy: Not Asperg-rational. That’s people with Asperger’s. I’ve been referred to as “Ass-berg” before, so I think it also has to do with me.
What was the genesis of the turtleneck and chain style?
Jorma: That’s what we looked like in junior high, when we first met each other.
Andy: We all wore the thin cotton turtleneck with the super-skinny chain. For us, that was kind of all you could do. And, as I’ve mentioned many times, with a little splash of Drakkar on top.
So, what made you guys wanna bring back the turtleneck?
Andy: Just felt like it’s a hot look and people have been sleeping on it for a while.
What do you guys think makes an outfit stand out?
Andy: How fat is your turtleneck and how skinny is your chain? We play a lot of big bank takes little bank, but with turtlenecks and chains. A lot of people leave our parties shirtless and chainless. We just keep stackin’ ’em out and out and out.
The Lonely Island has been on a boat and on a skyscraper. What’s next in terms of the opulent lifestyle?
Akiva: Banana Republic stores.
Jorma: Uh, I didn’t get to be on a boat, so if I could even just get like a small dinghy, that’d be pretty rad.