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Actress Rashida Jones is best known for her comic touch on NBC sitcoms “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” but digging into her music tastes it’s hard to ignore that she is also the daughter of music mogul Quincy Jones. She grew up surrounded by legends and pays homage to both her past and the groundbreaking artists of the present, like Radiohead and Jay Z, in her Guest DJ set. In addition to her TV work, Rashida stars in the film Monogamy, opening March 11.
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1. I Can't Help It- Michael Jackson
2. Cant Knock the Hustle- Jay Z (Feat. Mary J. Blige)
3. Morning Bell- Radiohead
4. Boplicity (Live)- Miles Davis & Quincy Jones
5. Love Rhino- Sunny Levine
Garth Trinidad: This is Garth Trinidad from KCRW and I am here with actress Rashida Jones. She is best known for her roles in the NBC comedy series, “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation”. She’s also the daughter of music mogul, the one and only Quincy Jones, so music is in her blood, needless to say. We’re here to talk about songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ project. So, Miss Rashida, what have you brought for us today?
Rashida Jones: For you… thank you for having me, by the way. I’m very, very honored to be here. I’m a huge fan of KCRW — and yours, Garth. Well, for one, this Guest DJ project is systematic torture…to pick five songs that you feel like define you, encompass your life, inspire you…it’s just mean. It’s just cruel, is what it is.
GT: But, since we made you do it, I see you’ve picked Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It” as your first choice today.
RJ: I will never fully believe that he’s not on this planet, but he kind of will always be, anyway. It doesn’t really matter.
GT: Why this song?
RJ: I am still sweating, because my choices don’t feel like I could fully encapsulate how I feel about music but, that being said, I could do things like this where I could pick a song by one of my favorite artists, that’s written by another one of my favorite artists - Stevie Wonder - and then produced by my wonderful Dad. So, I got like a triple whammy there.
Song: Michael Jackson — I Can’t Help It
I was really young when they made this record. I was…three? So, it’s deeply ingrained in my brain. It feels as much like breath as breath can feel — this particular album and then this particular song, ‘cause this was always my favorite song from this album.
I remember being in college and rediscovering it. I mean, there’s something that happens to your brain, where all of a sudden, you see something in a different light and in a different way. The complexity of the production and the orchestration, where there’s actual orchestration through the entire song. You have just wonderful levels and dynamism and I just kind of found it anew for myself as I got older, which was really nice.
GT: Michael Jackson with “I Can’t Help It”. Rashida, what’s the next song you’re going to play for us?
RJ: Jay-Z is…I’m sure he would say the same thing, he’s the greatest rapper alive. (laughs)
I can’t say enough things about Jay-Z as an artist, as a wordsmith, and as a brand. I just think what he’s done and what he continues to do and how curious he stays and how open he is to evolving. I’m just always completely impressed by him.
Song: Jay-Z — Can’t Knock the Hustle
He keeps it pretty real and he stays curious and I feel like the musicians that withstand all the tussles and the chaos of music are the ones that stay curious. This album is such an introspective album for him compared to the later ones that, there’s more partying going on. It’s melancholic, and I feel like it’s hard to do that as a rapper and still get people to dance and he manages to do that here.
GT: Jay-Z, “Can’t Knock the Hustle” with Mary J. Rashida Jones is our guest DJ for KCRW’s Guest DJ project.
That was music from Jay-Z. Track’s called “Can’t Knock the Hustle”.
Wow, this is also one of my favorite tunes by Radiohead. I see you’ve brought along “Morning Bell”. What’s up?
RJ: What’s up?? Radiohead…I mean, Jay-Z and Radiohead are the same to me in the sense that there is not one album that I can’t listen to from beginning to end and be totally happy and satisfied and go on my own little journey.
This song creates a mood for me that almost no other song can create, and it’s the kind of thing, when you really are not feeling great, and you’re okay with that, and you just want to get into it — you want to sink as deep as you can and don’t want to talk to anybody and you want to shut the blinds and just feel, you know, just indulge — just indulge in your own sadness. This song really does that for me.
Song: Radiohead — Morning Bell
RJ: It’s just emotion. You know, it just kind of goes through all the levels of emotion. So, if I want to feel something and I’m not feeling something, I will play it. If I’m feeling something already and I want to feel it deeper, I will play it.
GT: That was music from Radiohead. The track is called “Morning Bell” and Rashida Jones is our guest DJ today. You chose a piece from Miles Davis.
GT: Why did you end up choosing “Boplicity”?
RJ: “Live at Montreux”, which this cut is from — I was there, when I was thirteen or fourteen, and which is also really nice to have been there and have it be recorded forever.
And I took a jazz class my freshman year — this is a really embarrassing story. We had to do a paper and it was about Miles Davis’ solo. I may or may not have gotten drunk for the first time in my life the night before I wrote this paper, and when the teacher gave it back to me, he said, ‘That’s great, but you didn’t write a paper about the trumpet solo. You wrote a paper about the other horn solo that’s on the track.’ I was really embarrassed because I have to hold it down a little bit, generationally, and that was the last time that I would ever treat jazz with anything but my utter respect and full attention.
Song: Miles Davis — Boplicity
GT: Did you get to meet Miles?
RJ: I did. I had one interaction with him. There’s a documentary about my Dad called, “Listen Up” and it was the party for that. I was looking at a piece of art. It was a definitely a pretty serious artist and he walked up next to me and he goes, ‘It’s nice, huh?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s great.’ And that was it. That was enough for me, though.
GT: That’s all you need, right?
GT: A little bit of Miles goes a long way.
GT: That was music from Miles Davis — “Boplicity”. Rashida, what’s the next song you’re going to play for us?
RJ: This is not out of bias that I say this, but this is one of my favorite artists, Sonny Levine.
He also happens to be my nephew but, that aside, he’s incredibly talented and this album, “Love Rhino” inspired me a lot. I’ve been writing and I co-wrote a script with a friend, and we actually wrote a movie around this album. It is kind of the perfect breakup album. He really exorcised all his demons. This is the title track from “Love Rhino”.
Song: Sunny Levine — Love Rhino
GT: Do you use music to prepare or assist or inspire your process as an actress?
RJ: On “Parks and Recreation” we do tend to get pumped up in the parking lot. One of us will put on a track and everybody will come and just dance around the person’s trailer, ‘cause you need to keep the energy up. You have these 14 hour days and you need to keep being funny! You know, hopefully keep being funny. It’s more about getting the party started,” so to speak, for comedy.
GT: My darling, Rashida, thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com today.
RJ: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Are you kidding? This was fun. Anytime!
GT: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, you can simply go to http://KCRW.com/GuestDJProject.