To celebrate the release of his directorial debut, Mid90s, Jonah Hill linked with A24 to put out a special 'zine, Inner Children. In it, Hill interviewed 12 people (including Michael Cera, Edie Falco, Na-Kel Smith, and Q-Tip) for a "snapshot of themselves" that he feels everyone has "from a time when they were young that they're ashamed of." Hill says it was him at 14, being "overweight and unattractive," feeling "ugly to the world" while immersing himself in the worlds of hip-hop and skating (which, if you've peeped the trailers for Mid90s, you see fits perfectly into his film).
While the issues of Inner Children aren't being stocked until Monday, Oct. 15, A24 blessed us with Hill's full interview with Q-Tip. Hill and Tip are friends, and while Tip wasn't involved with the film, he was one of the first people to see a rough of it. Their conversation dives into a number of areas, from their neuroses and thoughts on marriage to why Q-Tip held onto A Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory for so long.
Read the full interview below, and be sure to check out the 'zine when it drops.
Jonah Hill: You're someone that I consider a close friend and also one of my inspirations in life. It's a very interesting friendship because there are many layers to it. You know?
Q-Tip: Yes. My brother.
JH: You are my brother. You, my sister, and Frank Ocean—you were the first three people to watch a rough cut of the film. Do you remember that?
QT: Yes, of course. That shit is so dope, man. When’s the movie coming?
JH: We have Toronto Film Festival a week from Sunday. I locked yesterday and I'm in a full panic.
JH: I wanna ask you about this, because I remember hearing that they had to tear an album out of your hands. I think it was the second album, right?
QT: Yeah. No, it wasn't literally that, but I was mixing. I did some listening and everybody felt it was done. It was The Low End Theory and when I recorded it I had a cold through the whole thing. I'm probably the only neurotic one who notices it, but my voice sounds particularly nasally on a lot of those recordings.
JH: You're my most Jewish non-Jew friend. You're as neurotic as I am. I love it. I think it’s why we bond so well. You're like the coolest person I know, and the most neurotic person I know at the same time.
QT: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Larry David, right here. Boom. You know what I'm saying? Gary Shandling, everybody.
JH: Yes. Full Shandling.
QT: I had this cold, so we getting down to mixing it and starting to sequence it and I'm feeling better. So, I was trying to get to do a couple of the joints over, just my vocals. Everybody's like, "Come on, stop. It sounds fine." I was like, "You guys don't hear it." The guy's like, "Motherfucker you already are fucking nasal. Stop. This shit is fine and you're bugging. Come on, let's go." Thankfully I let it go because it came out the same day as two of my other favorite albums, Blood Sugar Sex Magik by Red Hot Chili Peppers and then Nirvana Nevermind.
JH: Dude, imagine music today versus music then. On that one day, you got Low End Theory and Nevermind. Like, what the fuck? That blows my mind that there was a time in music when on a random Tuesday you get those two albums.
QT: Yeah. I think that we wound up being pretty lucky that I had a cold and I had to fuss around a little bit, and then it just all worked out.
JH: But do you see that as your dedication?
QT: The neurosis of not letting things go?
JH: I think it’s perfectionism. You’re a perfectionist.
QT: Yeah, it’s not sexy though. You drive people crazy. That happened with the last Tribe album too. You're allowed that a couple of times, but then after a while you kinda got to get it together.
JH: Why is it unsexy? Because it makes your crew and all the people responsible for getting it out very nervous?
QT: It's unsexy not only because the crew and everybody's waiting. You have this whole struggle with yourself that is really unwarranted and it gets into phases of ego. On the other hand you don't wanna be like, "Okay it's good enough. Let's just let it go." You can't do that either. So it's unsexy because of the psychological messiness of it.
JH: Right, because it’s coming from an egotistical place as opposed to a wanting the work to be in a great place.
QT: I think it’s both, and that's where it gets messy because then you start questioning yourself, like, "Am I really bugging? Am I being a brat? No, because I know that this part doesn't work and I know that this isn't what it is." You just gotta guard against that, and make sure you don't go crazy. Don't go crazy, bro.
JH: That part I haven't worked out yet, as you know.
QT: Well I haven't figured that out either.
JH: No shit. I just always love what you have to say. It always makes me smile. It always makes me think. It always makes me feel good.
I have this theory that everybody has a snapshot of themselves when they felt a lot of shame or pain. Mine, I'm 14, I'm overweight, I feel really ugly and unwanted. Do you have a version of that? And if so, do you still carry it with you, or were you able to move past it?"
QT: I was just always out, with all of my shit. I was fucked up, I was poor. Everybody knew that. I was mischievous. I was kind of quiet. I don't know. I can't really say that I had anything that I carry with me. I never really thought of it that way.
JH: I guess actually knowing you, it make sense. Your thing is like, if you're just outward with all of it, there’s nothing to hide.
QT: When I was young, I used to… God, now I'm telling it, so it's not a secret no more, and I didn't even really think of it until this interview. So thanks, Jonah. And now I've realized it. I saw Caligula, and I must have been about 9 or 10.
JH: Where did you see it, on TV?
QT: Nah, in the hood, everybody just had a copy of it. In the hood, the older kids would go, "You go watch Caligula."
JH: Because there's so much sex and nudity and stuff, right?
QT: Yeah, and it was like, "Wow, I want to see more porn." I used to watch a lot of porn, as much as I could. Then it was like VHS porn, and shit like that. Your boy has the VHSes, you borrow them from your boy. It was the Jane Kennedy sex tape that was in the hood.
JH: You would never think the bangers in the hood would be like, "Jane Kennedy sex tape and Caligula."
QT: Yeah, no, that was the hood thing.
JH: But at that time, would you be talking to your friends about it? Like, it wasn't something you were hiding, you were like, "Damn!"
QT: No, because you'd be with a whole bunch of kids watching that shit.
JH: So you're not embarrassed of it because all your friends were doing it as well.
QT: No, but you are kind of embarrassed because of the lengths you would have to go to to get the shit. You know what I mean? Like, "Hold your porn, you got the porn? " "We all going over to the crib?" It was very neighborhood-ish and, mischievous, kind of like in your older brother's or older sister's shit.
JH: Yeah, of course.
QT: That's real shit.
JH: I think you've hit on something that no one's really hit on that I've interviewed, which is the idea of where you want to get to. Like for me, even being able to say what that version of myself is to you or anybody, or in a magazine, is a big step. It's not shameful if you're just like, "Yo, this is how it is." You own it, then you don't have to be embarrassed of it anymore.
JH: From a young age, you were just like, "Yo, here's the shit, I don't like this shit. This is what's weird about me, fa la la." That's a true confidence, maybe it's been a long journey to get to that thing you maybe naturally had as a kid, which is just to be like, "It ain't shameful if you own it."
QT: I don't hold on to shit too long, though, bro. That's just me.
JH: If something painful happens, you don't—
QT: Obviously, when you lose somebody, that's one thing, but outside of that, I deal with things in the moment or the time period. It usually doesn't go that much further.
JH: So you process it at the time, and then you're able to let it go.
QT: I had to. To survive. I had to.
JH: I can't imagine. I think that's a very good skill to develop. You can process things and let them go.
QT: It's hard, though. I find, as I've gotten older, it's been harder. That process becomes longer, as you get older. You hold onto things maybe a little bit longer, I think.
JH: Why do you think that is?
QT: Maybe the idea of mortality. I don't know. You get more sentimental as you get older. You've probably gone through more emotional things. I know the thing that really bugged me is I really want to have a wife and kids. It's not necessarily one of those things you keep with you that you struggle with, but that's one of the things that I currently am like, "I need to figure that out, now."
JH: Yeah. I have the same thing. We talk about it. What do you think is standing in the way of that?
QT: More times than not, it's you. It's you. It’s myself. I'm standing in the way of it.
JH: It's you standing in the way, but what is that part of you that's standing in the way of it?
QT: I don't know, maybe it's the same thing that stood in the way of The Low End Theory. Or the same thing that stands in the way of Mid90s being locked and finished.
JH: Right, your obsession is so much with your work.
QT: No, no, no. Your obsession could be with being good, or not wanting to fail. Not wanting to have a failed relationship. I don't have any fears of that, but… I don't know.
JH: Well, I think you do have fears of that.
QT: I just want to do it. I just want to have it happen. Wife and kids, you know.
JH: It's the fear of failure, I think you're right. With a relationship, there's no control, because there's a person that's not you. For me — why work is easier than that stuff — is because I know if I work hard enough, and sit in the fucking editing room, or write my ass off for hours and hours, I'm in control of it working. I think relationships are scary in that way.
QT: You can't control another person, and you shouldn't want to.
JH: Exactly, but it's scary that they could just leave, or change. I think the control element, sometimes, makes me scared when it's relationships with friends, or a girlfriend, or something.
QT: Yeah, because you want to be loved, you want to be respected. You don't want to be lied to, you don't want to lie to someone. You don't want to be hustled. You want to be able to be yourself, you want to be free, you want to be kind, you want to truthful, and loving, and honest. All these things that anybody would want.
And so you have to accept things. You have to be easy. It's human beings, it's people, it's love, it's emotions, it's nuance, it's context. You have to be more understanding and inviting, and you have to be optimistic.
JH: That's so wonderful.
QT: Yo, do I sound crazy?
JH: No, dude. What you just said was beautiful. It really hit home for me, because, in our work, you're so right. We're very fortunate. You're saying be easy, be loving, be optimistic, but there is no trace of that in my work. I'm loving to everybody—, seriously, very loving, and big-hearted, but it’s pressure-filled. It's so stressful that I find it hard in a relationship to just be easy. You know I'm not an easy breezy person. I'm kind of intense and kind of neurotic. It's hard for me to just lay back in the cut and like just let things breathe. That scares me about parenting. That scares me about marriage.
QT: But you know what? You have somebody there with you.
JH: Someone told me a cool thing about parenting. They said, "Being a parent is like having your heart in someone else's body."
QT: Boy, we've gotten off into love land here, huh?
JH: I don’t think you and I have ever had a conversation that didn’t go in this direction.
QT: It’s true man. Everybody’s got to make these choices about their lives, and it goes for anybody in any industry, not just ours. Especially in 2018 America where a lot of people in this country are single, or unmarried, or divorced. There’s not a high percentage of us that are in committed or functional, working relationships. You and I are part of that ill percentage, my man. A lot of it has to do with the village we’re in. It takes a village. It takes not even a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a mind, to raise a consciousness.
Our village today, unfortunately, is one that is heavily induced with likes and social media, and you're always on the go, and we’re all trying to be the most. There’s no real balance here. We have to be more loving and forgiving.
I'm 48 now, and I could safely say that I'm halfway done and I've had a healthy part in two different generations. I should say that we are living in a time that emotionally there’s a lot that's weighing on us as people here. So when we look at movies like yours that point to our teenage years and formative years, we get answers. Work like yours is good. Sometimes to figure out those conundrums we have to remember the past.
JH: I don't even want to blow smoke. I'm just like always stunned when you get on a run of how thoughtful and intelligent you are. I always leave you feeling like I was just in a masterclass on life.
JH: What you're saying is so dense with ideas that are moving and scary to me. A lot of people I’ve been talking to brought up Instagram. It breeds a culture of being unhappy with what you have. It’s like “My life could be better.” My life, you know? I think it's poisonous. You're not at a Tribe concert, you're taking your Instagram picture at a Tribe concert. You're not getting married, you're showing people how dope your marriage is.
QT: Right. Right.
JH: But, maybe like how the generation before us was scared of how we were heading, maybe we're just old and we don't get where it's heading. Maybe in the next generation there's no marriage. You just have a kid with a friend and fuck people on Instagram until you're dead. Maybe that's evolution.
QT: I'm a believer in God's product, man. I think that no matter what gaming shit, or virtual life, or Instagram shit that goes on, the thing that's always going to have to weigh out is real life, and real people, and real situations. I'm just a firm believer in that.
JH: I really hope that there's still room in this world for deep connections and humanity.
QT: No, there is. I'm an optimist. It's out there. You’ve got to keep doing it. I got to keep doing it. All at once.
JH: I don't want to write about spaceships and shit. Like, I don't have that skill. For me, I'm just hoping like, yo, people are going to want to feel things and hear about life.
QT: Yeah, man. That's never going to stop. We're in a good place in that way.
JH: You never cease to amaze me. Every conversation we've ever had.
QT: Yo, likewise. You give me an extension, now I've got something to play off of and ruminate on. It's just a baton. We just keep standing on each other’s shoulders, man, until we reach God.
JH: The coolest thing my therapist ever said to me was, "True confidence is living with uncertainty." If I think about any of my anxiety, any of the things that cause me pain, I'm really looking for certainty in something. I want to be certain the movie is well received. I want to be certain if I marry someone, we're going to be in love forever. I want to be certain that my health and safety is okay. It's like, no, you have no control. You have no control over any of it.
QT: But here's the thing that makes it not so glum. What you should be happy about is that you're certain you're being the best version of yourself. You're certain that you want the best for yourself. You may not get it, but inside of you, you want the best for yourself. There are people who think that they don't deserve anything good for themselves, that they deserve the fucked up husband or wife, or the fucked up career, or the fucked up relationship with their parents. They don't even look for anything better for themselves. You have the desire to want those things for yourself, so that makes it a good thing too.
JH: Fuck yeah. What the fuck is wrong with you? You're not supposed to be so smart. It's not fair to the rest of us.
QT: No, I'm a fucking idiot, man. Ain't nobody smart. Man, we just all here. I'm trying to fucking hop in this water. I'm luckily at the beach. I'm the wave. I'm not the sand. I'm one of the motherfucking waves.
JH: Man, well enjoy the beach. You're such a special person in my life. I'm grateful for this conversation and for you, in general.
QT: I love you, boy.
JH: I love you too, man. Enjoy the beach. You deserve joy and relaxation.
Mid90s hits theaters on Oct. 19.