Reggie Watts is awesome, and I totally don't get him

Watts, chillin in the wheat fields of Williamsburg
Photo by Noah Kalina

I’ve been a Reggie Watts aficionado for some time now -- maybe since January. His video for “Fuck Shit Stack” was the most hilarious send up of hip hop culture I’ve seen in awhile, and one of the more visually creative videos. And I heard he was Seattle based, which got me very excited to see Pacific Northwest steez represented at his upcoming appearance at Conan O’Brien’s “The Legally Prohibited from Being on Television” tour stop, Thur/22 at the Nob Hill Masonic Center.

So I was stoked to get the chance to talk to the singer/beat boxer/comedian. Especially on 4/20. Interview dates don’t get much cooler. We’d straight kick it on the phone, giggle, talk about life, man. He says he’s in Seattle as we speak. What’s good in Northwest hip hop, Reggie?

“I haven’t lived in Seattle for over six years, and I’m not really a big hip hop guy,” says Watts. There is a medium sized pause as I mentally recalibrate, and feel out my new role as “reporter who doesn‘t get it.” Damn.

You’ll excuse me for being confused. Watts considers himself more of a comedic performer, but the majority of his work available online revolves around his prodigious musical talents that can be most readily understood in the language of hip hop. He’s been using a Line 6 DL4 delay box since the late nineties to concoct audio lasagnas of sound. And though the beats and bleats that come out of these largely improvised, layer cakes can borrow from retro commercial jingles and R&B hooks, the overwhelming impression they lay down is that of a super dope, low tech hip hop production.

I really like it. But, clearly, I don’t understand. So. Crap. But these things happen. What else can we talk about. Williamsburg? Blue Bottle coffee?

San Francisco Bay Guardian:
How’s Brooklyn, Reggie?
Reggie Watts: Brooklyn’s cool. Really cool parties, great comedy scene. I live in Williamsburg, and there’s lots of photographers, visual artists, everything’s there.

SFBG: And really, you’re not into hip hop?
RW: I like the beats, but I don’t really follow it. It’s kind of like sports. Well no, because I don’t really like sports at all. I have friends that will play me stuff, but I don’t know a lot about it.

SFBG: (grasping, trying to salvage predetermined flow of interview) But… “Fuck Shit Stack”! Such incisive social commentary -- you have such smart things to say about hip hop culture!
RW: I like real hip hop, that song to me is about that kind of stuff. There’s plenty of hip hop that’s more in the tradition of bohemian hip hop, poetic spoken style. I have a problem with the too cool, money money lifestyle. It’s been around for a long time.

SFBG: Can’t you say the same thing about all forms of music?
RW: I think more so now than any other time period. Communication and product placement, trying to sell things. The concept of money being given to people to perpetuate certain kinds of lifestyles. We see the direct effect in our hearts. When Nas came out with “Made you Look,” I was like oh shit, something’s going to happen, but it was kind of a one hit thing. I don’t mind materialism, as long as you use it creatively.

Allright. So what will you listen to, left to your own devices?
RW: Techno, glitch, dub step. But I’m also really into… I don’t know, I enjoy the Carpenters, Seegar, Marvin Gaye -- I pretty much really like everything. StereoLab I could listen to 24/7, Phoenix, I really like electronic music, ambient music.

SFBG: What are we going to see onstage at the show this week?
RW: 95% of what I do on stage is improvise, it’s up to the night and what’s going on. It’s usually me doing some really stupid shit for awhile, then I’ll do a song with the looping machine using really stupid lyrics. I’ll do a keyboard song, some more stupid bullshit.

SFBG: Are you excited to come to SF?
RW: Oh yeah, always a good time, I’ve got a lot of friends. And I’m excited for Blue Bottle coffee. We just got one in Brooklyn, I’m excited to see what it’s like out in SF.

SFBG: Oh yeah, we’ve got that Blue Bottle. It’s everywhere.
RW: It’ll fuck you up, in a good way.

Conan O'Brien's "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television" Tour feat. Reggie Watts

Thurs/22 8 p.m., $39.50-79.50

Nob Hill Masonic Center

1111 California, SF

(415) 776-4702