The Lonely Island

10 Questions for The Lonely Island

  /  05.10.2011

The Lonely Island

“I want to do something with Lord Finesse,” Jorma Taccone admits when asked about which one of hip-hop’s elite MCs he’d want to bring into The Lonely Island fold. While tween rap fans hope for a Soulja Boy union that could one day appear on “Saturday Night Live”—the home where Jorma, Andy Samberg, and Akiva Schaffer took their Lonely Island comedy troupe to new heights—the trio’s collabo wish list includes the likes of rappers they grew up on, such as The Pharcyde, Hieroglyphics, Too $hort, and N.W.A.

Clearly fans of a well-crafted 16, The Lonely Island showcase their rhyming skills—or laughably lack thereof—on Turtleneck & Chain, the follow-up to 2009’s Incredibad. The first effort saw the comedians tapping Justin Timberlake (“Dick in a Box”) and T-Pain (“I’m on a Boat”) while Rihanna, Snoop Dogg, and Nicki Minaj are just some of the A-list talents that lend an assist to several head-nodding tracks (combined with a few of the awkward and sexually-explicit kind) on the new album.

Friends for close to 20 years, the threesome, speaking from inside Universal Republic’s cushy conference room—Andy squats on the floor while Akiva and Jorma rest on separate couches—pick up where they last left off, almost finishing each other’s sentences. It’s apparent the Bay Area natives’ bond goes way beyond their penchant for gold chains and yes, you guessed it, turtlenecks. Read on as The Lonely Island reveals to why Justin Timberlake is a bully, why Nicki Minaj is their kindred spirit, and what track the Cash Money clique is welcome to jump on.

1. How did you come up with the group’s name?
Jorma: It was the name of a house that we were living in. It came about by Akiva writing a one-act play making fun of me for a movie I had rented.
Akiva: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof [was the movie], which is an excellent film. But we thought Jorma was being a little theatery. So I wrote him a play that was very theatery. Basically like anytime you have a group of dudes living in an apartment, they name the apartment, and ours was called The Lonely Island. When we started making videos and shorts, they were always in our apartment so we kinda backed into the name.
Andy: Do you know that’s just you that names apartments? I don’t know anyone else that does that.

2. What inspired the title of your single with Snoop Dogg, “Turtleneck & Chain”?
Akiva: When we were in junior high we would wear that. So it was a look. I wouldn’t say it was even our style; I think we were just trying to look like everyone else. It was the cool style.
Andy: It was right around those Kwamé times—you’d either wear a round polka dot button-up shirt or a turtleneck and chain.
Jorma: Ours were not dookie chains.

3. If you guys had to compare yourself to another controversial hip-hop group based on the vulgarity of your lyrics and content, who would it be?
Akiva: We should say for the record that we are not real rappers. We are comedians. We’re just fans of rap. Like [Adam] Sandler, he’d be pretty clean on ‘SNL’ and then he’d make his records and they’d be really raunchy.
Andy: Tenacious D was quite dirty. We compare ourselves to comedians before we compare ourselves to rappers.

4. What happened behind the scenes when working with Justin Timberlake that would surprise people?
Andy: Justin would just beat the shit out of us all the time. That’s a funny anecdote. He’d be like, “Why are you hitting yourself, nerd?” And we’d be like, “Give it a rest, jerk.” Stuff like that.
Akiva: He’s a bully. Just a lot of sucker punches to the gut.

5. What about when you recorded “The Creep” with Nicki Minaj?
Andy: She was cool. It was fun to watch her record. She has a lot of characters she goes in and out of.
Akiva: She was just really polite.
Jorma: She’s adorable. She’s even cuter in person.

6. Were you fans of her music before collaborating on that song?
Akiva: We had been fans of her mixtape stuff. We made the album last summer, when we were recording it. So it was before her album came out or anything, and we got in touch with her and she was game to do it. We were just psyched. We saw kindred spirits in the fact that she was playing characters.

7. How did you score the collabo with Santigold on “After Party”?
Andy: We were huge fans of her from way back. And then the place that we were mixing, this place Downtown Studios, she was working on her record in the studio next door. And we met and loved each other.
Akiva: We were just psyched to get to meet her. We’re like, “Santi’s recording next door. Oh my God, we should just go in and bother her.” We just pestered her, like, “Oh those are the track names? Those sound kinda cool.”

8. So was she immediately receptive to the three of you?
Jorma: She was great. She’s so funny.
Andy: She was like, “I feel ya’ll.”
Akiva: She didn’t say that.
Andy: Oh she didn’t say that? Well, I like to think she said that. We had this song that we had already kinda talked about her for and then we were sorta feeling her out to see if she’d be down, and she was.
Akiva: It was the easiest guest collab we’ve ever had because she was just 50 feet away. She was mixing her record the whole time we were doing ours, so we saw her multiple times a week for like a month and a half. So towards the end when we knew the time was coming to a close, we called her.

9. Has there ever been an artist that’s come to you with an idea and you used it, or is it generally the three of you who mastermind the sketches?
Akiva: They don’t come to us necessarily with an idea but they’ll come to us wanting to collaborate. Like we met Akon at the Grammys on the red carpet. He was like, “Hey guys!” which was a thrill for us that he knew who we were. So he didn’t come with the idea, but he was like, “I’m game for the future.” Then it was six months later and we were in the studio recording, being like, “How can we get Akon on one of these songs?”
Jorma: And then during the process, we were like, “This sounds like an Akon record.” It was the same thing with T-Pain. It wasn’t his idea, but we knew we should kinda make [the song] for him.
Akiva: Besides that, we write everything and just hand it over and be like, “You do this part.” But with “Motherlover,” we were already friends with Justin Timberlake so he came in from the ground up and came up with the ideas for a lot of the jokes and really wrote it. Then with rappers like E-40 and Snoop we’d give them bullet points of joke ideas and they’d write their own stuff. Like we can’t write a Snoop verse for Snoop.

10. One of the tracks on the album is called “No Homo,” which has become a widely used but frowned upon term in the hip-hop community. Why didn’t you choose to get a rapper on that?
Andy: We want to do the remix for that one. We’ll have anyone that wants to get on that. Anyone in hip-hop that wants to ride on our “No Homo” track, get on it.
Akiva: A big posse remix where everybody comes back.
Jorma: We just want to do a Cash Money remix. Get everyone from Cash Money on it [laughs].

–Georgette Cline


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