Craig Robinson, comic and star of The Office, Hot Tub Time Machine, Shrek Forever After and many more, has signed on to host 2010 VH1 Hip Hop Honors (airing Monday, June 7 at 9/8c), so we thought we’d take some time to chat with him about the parallels between hosting and stand-up comedy (and stand-up comedy and hip-hop), which acts he’s excited about seeing, his musical background (fun fact: he was an elementary school music teacher before breaking into showbiz) why he doesn’t rap in public and the funny thing about the Dirty South and baby-making music…
This Hip Hop Honors is devoted to the Dirty South. You grew up in Chicago but does that style of hip-hop strike a particular chord for you?
Yeah. I mean, I’m a hip-hop fan. I’ve been doing my little research here and there, so it’s been like, “Oh man that’s from the dirty?” Or, “That’s produced by Timbaland?” I didn’t realize I was as big of a fan as I am, actually.
Is there anybody that you’re particularly excited to help honor or watch perform?
I’m looking forward to Luke. I mean, all of them. It’s great because a lot of this stuff was out when I was in college or when I was becoming to be a man and some of the stuff I was listening to going, “YEAH! YEAH! Damn it feels good to be a musician!” I wasn’t gangster.
Luke had a show on VH1 a while ago. I interviewed him for that and I was like, “You have no idea how much you taught be about sex.”
He was the king of having fun. I remember being in the club and Luke talking about “I wanna rock, I wanna rock, I wanna rock!” and the whole club going crazy.
It’s that kind of track. From what I can gather, stand-up comedy and hosting an event like this are similar activities. Has that been your experience?
I hear what you’re saying, but with hosting you have actual duties. The job is mixing laughter with the duties. The good thing about this we’re doing some videos, we’re doing some live stuff, and they’re incorporating my style by allowing me to use my band and play some music and do what I do. It’s really a mix.
Obviously you come from a musical background, and that’s continued through your work, particularly in Hot Tub Time Machine. Have you ever tried your hand at rapping?
All the time, but nothing I would ever let anyone hear. That’s such an art form. I’ll freestyle and play around and every once in a while something might sound clever, but I would never disrespect rap by going, “Oh I’m rapping now!”
So you don’t be doing any of that during the show?
Not to my knowledge, no. We want the viewers to stay tuned in.
Obviously, Def Comedy Jam bridge struck the bridge between comedy and hip-hop long ago. But just in your personal experience, do you see any parallels between rapping and stand-up?
Yeah, there is a freedom that comes from both. Doing stand-up, you say whatever you want and represent your life. Same thing in hip-hop: this is the life that somebody leads and this is how they’re spitting it. They’re just talking about what they know and they’re bringing it to the forefront to a beat.
Tracy Morgan has a long-standing association with Hip-Hop Honors. How do you feel about following in his hosting footsteps? Are those big shoes to fill?
Absolutely. Tracy is the man. He’s a bad dude. I’m going to just go in there and do my thing. I can’t replicate Tracy Morgan. I don’t think anybody can. I’m going to do what I do. They’ll probably hand it back to him next year.
Are you nervous at all? Do you get nervous about this kind of stuff?
At first I was nervous, but the more we’ve been collaborating on what’s going to happen and to see who’s performing, the more I’m ready to get at it. I want to have some fun and do my thing and then bam! Get to introduce Luke and all the other great artists that are coming. I’m more titillated than nervous at this point. Nerves went out the window now it’s time to get it on.
Speaking of comedy, you know what’s funny to me about the Dirty South? It has this reputation for being so sexually charged, but it’s rarely baby-making music. Maybe H-Town’s “Knockin’ Da Boots,” but that’s about it.
Well, like you said, Luke taught you to have sex. Hip-hop is sexy. It represents having fun. It represents a good time. There’s definitely some getting lifted and getting down going on. I don’t know if it’s not baby-making music. I think it’s definitely fun party music. It’s f***ing music! That’s what I’m trying to say nicely. Some of it you can just f*** to! You know, none of that baby-making, romance, or “I love you.” Just bam! Let’s do this!
It’s baby-making music, hold the baby. It’s contraceptive. I guess Jermaine Dupri also has made some genuine baby-making jams in his day.
I love Jermaine Dupri from his stuff with Bow Wow to Kris Kross to Jay-Z. I think one of my favorites is probably “In the Ferrari or Jaguar switching four lanes / With the top down screamin’ out, ‘Money ain’t a thing!’” “Funkdafied” with Da Brat. Jermaine is a producer extraordinaire.
And see, you just rapped for me.
Ha ha. Well you know, like I said, I’ll do it and have fun but I wouldn’t ever get up and say, “Oh yeah, I’ll rap.”
That’s very respectful of you.
Oh, no doubt. I appreciate it. It’s an art form, man. It’s like the piano — you got to study it.
It’s kind of insane that it took this long to get to the point where you can call hip-hop an art form and pretty much nobody would argue with you.
Yeah. Art being what art is, you have to develop it and you got to trust your gift and you got to go through some hard knocks. I’m sure a lot of these artists went through battles to figure out how to contain these gifts and harness them and ride them. So I guess it is sort of the same with hip-hop, and I’m glad that the moment has arrived.
Yep, that’s what Hip Hop Honors is all about. Any surprises that you can tease for us? Anything we can expect at all?
This is a jam-packed show and it’s going to be off the hook. There’s nothing I can say that’s going to surprise because I don’t want them to come to me, saying, “You told him what?” I just want to keep my job, at least for this year.
[Image via Getty]