Actor Jonah Hill is a two-time Academy Award nominee who shared his favorite band, some fellow LA natives and his love of hip hop – both old school and new – in his Guest DJ set. He stars in the follow up to the soon-to-be summer blockbuster 22 Jump Street.
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1. Vampire Weekend - Step
2. Haim - Days Are Gone
3. Wardell - Opossum
4. Schoolboy Q - There He Go
5. A Tribe Called Quest - Buggin' Out
Anne Litt: Hi, I’m Anne Litt. I’m here with actor Jonah Hill. He’s a two-time Academy Award nominee for his performances in Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street and stars in the upcoming film 22 Jump Street. And today we’ll be playing excerpts of songs he selected that have inspired him over the years and recently as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Welcome Jonah.
Jonah Hill: Thank you for having me.
AL: So glad you’re here.
JH: I grew up in Los Angeles and I went to high school down the street from here. I’ve been listening my whole life so this is really cool, to be on KCRW.
AL: Excellent. Well, why don’t we get started with Vampire Weekend, you chose the song “Step.” Talk about why that’s special to you.
JH: Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend is one of my close friends in real life. We’ve been friends for years and years, and their first album came out either a week before or a week after Superbad, the first film that I got recognition for, did. So we kind of shared this weird experience at the same time.
I feel like we’re the same age and – as The Strokes did when I was a senior in high school – they kinda changed the aesthetic of rock. I really feel like they had a similar impact, with the boat shoes and the Cape Cod era stuff. I think they’ve continued, album after album, to get better and better.
They’re just my favorite band. I think they really define people my age. Every album they release, I always say to Ezra, they’re talking about certain things that I’m actually going through because we’re the same age so I’ve kind of grown up along with them.
Whenever I need music to have on during a party or just to hang out, they’re always my number one.
Song: Vampire Weekend – “Step”
AL: That was Vampire Weekend with the song “Step.” Next up, is an LA band called Haim and “Days Are Gone” is the name of the song. Tell us about this band.
JH: They’re just one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. This isn’t a single, this is what their album is called, "Days Are Gone”, this is the title track. I don’t think it’s been released as a single, but it’s my favorite song of theirs.
Ariel Rechtshaid, who produced Vampire Weekend’s last record and the Haim record, he has this thing where he can make really weird, indie music within pop or vice versa. That’s kind of his trademark right now.
Like “Diane Young,” off the Vampire Weekend record, is this big pop record, but has weird, weird stuff on it that’s just truly bizarre and indie feeling.
That’s the goal -- at least with me and films too. I love making things that are not just so niche that only a few people see them.
I like making things for everybody, but still feel like they maintain their artistic credibility.
Song: Haim – “Days Are Gone”
AL: That was LA band Haim with the title track from their album Days Are Gone. I’m Anne Litt, sitting right here with Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill talking about music on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project.
Up next, you brought in a band called Wardell. Why are they special to you?
JH: They’re friends of mine and it's exciting when I hear a band that’s new and I feel has something to offer. Especially, as I’m 30 now, not 18 or 19 when I was really devouring new music all the time and knew every new band that came out.
Now I feel like, being a little bit out of the loop, it takes something to special to make it to me because I’m not as aggressively searching for it, or have the time to just sit on the internet all day and listen to new bands.
Song: Wardell – “Opossum”
JH: A lot of these people I have some sort of relationship with, but that’s not why I’m playing them. I think, besides the fact I know them, they’re a great band.
AL: But doesn’t a connection like that sometimes make the music even more special?
JH: I would say they have to be better, because usually when you know them and they play you their music, or if I play them a film or something, they have to be nice even if it sucks. And it’s so awful to pretend you like your friend’s band and it’s such a great feeling when they’re actually great, because you don’t have to be false in any way.
AL: We just heard a bit of “Opossum” by Wardell. And now we’re moving onto something totally different, but definitely in your wheelhouse. It’s Schoolboy Q and the song is called “There He Go.”
JH: Well hip-hop is, I would say, more so a part of my musical taste than anything else. At least, the biggest lion’s share of it is hip hop.
I grew up worshipping hip hop and I love all different kinds of music -- I love Trojan records, 50s, 60s, 70s, reggae, dancehall stuff, Tropicalia -- I’m all over the map. But hip hop has been the thing that most consistently moves me. This guy, Schoolboy Q is a newer rapper. He’s on his second album now, I believe.
This song is off his first album and it was my song of the year. I just listened to it over and over and over again. There’s something really cocky and confident about it, as well as really, almost intimate and moving. The piano is kind of intimate and moving and he’s being really cocky and confident, but you can tell there’s something beneath that.
Song: Schoolboy Q – “There He Go”
AL: That was a track by Schoolboy Q called “There He Go”.
Now the last track you brought in is a favorite, A Tribe Called Quest, and you chose “Buggin’ Out.” Now did you specifically choose this track for a reason or are you just talking about A Tribe Called Quest as a movement?
JH: Well, a Tribe Called Quest was the most definitive music for me growing up. They inhabited all of the qualities I ended up looking for in enjoyment in music which was: artistic credibility, unbelievable musically, rhymes that said something and had a real point of view while being authentic and heartfelt.
They’re just the Beatles of hip-hop and I think Low End Theory is the Sgt. Pepper’s of hip hop, which was said in Michael Rappaport’s documentary. I think maybe Pharrell said that, so I’m ripping that from him. But, I think it’s true.
This to me is my favorite music and this song is my favorite song off that album. A Tribe Called Quest were the biggest part of my musical taste formation.
Song: A Tribe Called Quest – “Buggin’ Out”
AL: I love it. Thank you so much for coming in Jonah.
JH: Thank you, this was a delight.