Interview: Jensen Karp explains how Kanye West ended up owing him $300 on Tomorrow Daily
Welcome back to the show friends our guest today were very excited to have them he's a writer, comedian, an art gallery cofounder, a podcaster.
And he has a new book called Kanye West owes me 300 dollars.
Which is not just a snappy title.
We welcome Jensen Karp.
Thanks for being here, man.
Thank you for having me.
It can't be a sappy title.
It has to legally be true.
That's why it's the title.
My lawyers told me that over and over.
As long as he technically owed me $300, we're fine.
So he technically owed you 300 dollars.
He does, he owes me, yeah.
So let's start with that.
Okay, let's just get that right out of the way.
So when I was 19 years old I was pretty much Los Angeles' biggest battle rapper, which is weird because I look like an accountant, but I was killer.
I could murder anybody.
And that turned into a million dollar record deal at Interscope with Jimmy Iovine, and that was like the Yankees of the music business.
And so I recorded an album with them.
I recorded with Redman and Fabolos and DJ Quick and DJ Clue, and Maya, Sugar Ray, which is less impressive.
But one of the people I worked with was a young Kanye West.
We became close friends.
He's not sort of the guy you know now.
He was a very kind of Quiet somewhat humble guy, a little strange.
Not funny with twenty twenty.
[CROSSTALK] Not ranting about jogging sweats, no.
He's sort of a monster now but at the time very sweet.
We became friends, hung out, movies, dinners, all sorts.
I couldn't do that.
You know me as a person at this point a couple minutes in.
I could not hang out with this version of him as you know.
One of the things I did was we wanted to record.
We recorded a song together.
And as a producer not a rapper.
No one really knew he was a rapper.
And he had to leave.
He had to go to his mom's house.
Train's about to leave.
Wait, wait, so you made a record with Kanye West-
You were the rapper.
No one knew it was a rapper.
I just think that's a cool story.
Yeah [INAUDIBLE] would never even admit he was a rapper.
Like when he told me he was a rapper it was a secret.
I'm a rapper.
And I thought really that's crazy I know when he was being pitched as a producer he couldn't really be both at the time.
He's also like a big dork, he had adult braces and stuff.
So people were like
Stoked on him being rapper.
He didn't have the right look at the time.
Or his fervor.
It was too exciting, it was hard to understand.
Even for me and everyone else.
So we recorded, he said he needed to leave.
I said listen, I'll get a car service for you.
The label gave me way too much money.
And he's like, no, I'll pay you back.
I don't want it.
And he would text me, two ways at a time.
He would two way me every week about the $300.
I didn't even want it.
But after awhile when someone does that, you're like, yeah.
You owe me $300.
Send me the check.
So we kinda lost touch around a couple of months after through the wire, after he got in the accident.
And we haven't spoken since.
But it is my biggest outstanding debt that I have in my life.
That's my favorite thing.
Yeah, it's the largest debt.
And I feel like now, I could probably afford it.
I would assume.
I guess we're all little questioning when he said it was $53 million debt.
I figured it was time for me,
You forgot to add that
He made add it.
He's like it was 50 to 7 but then I remember that car that Jensen got me I'm gonna throw that in.
Maybe, who knows.
No, I have not had much conversation with him so who knows.
And since that time you have kind of done a little bit of everything.
You have a podcast
on Earwolf network.
Earwolf network, yeah.
And you got, do you still do the show with the baby?
We did a show with a baby for a long time, we did a show called Baby Talk in Los Angeles Dan, [UNKNOWN], and I.
We would interview a 6 to 8 year old every month at the [INAUDIBLE] tutor.
With three of our comedian friends, so if you ever look for Billy [UNKNOWN] F off to a seven year old.
We have the perfect show for you.
That's our core audience.
People looking for that on Google.
Well they're all on YouTube.
We have Blake Griffin, John Maloney.
We had so many great comedians come through and do it, and there's like nine episodes on YouTube.
So you also cofounded an art gallery.
Yeah that was right after the rap career.
One of the greatest art galleries here in Los Angeles, I've visited it many times.
So basically, when I left the music industry, Ended on sorta bad terms, which you'll read in this book.
And I needed to find somewhere where I could sort of whole heartedly curate.
Not worry about someone else telling me something to do.
And a gallery's perfect for that.
You can put whatever you want on the walls.
And you can live and die on your decisions.
And luckily 13 years later we're still in business.
Yeah, I mean, a gallery isn't exactly a,
Well, on Melrose.
Yeah, Melrose is like.
It's very regional.
It's not a turnout there.
Yeah, it's a turnover rate of about three months.
So we have 13 years where pretty much one of the longest running businesses on the block now.
That's pretty awesome.
And you do a lot of pop culture stuff, too, which is really cool.
Yeah, and directly with the companies a lot of times.
Like we worked with Breaking Bad and Lost.
In the Oscars and The Avengers and we just did The Force Awakens with JJ.
I have a number of things that I purchased there on the walls in my home.
I love it.
Bunch of Ghostbusters stuff.
Yeah, we worked with them directly.
Ghostbusters event was amazing but so all of this
Stuff, all of your very eclectic life, all of the endeavours that you've been part of are in this book?
No, this is just the rap career.
This is basically my childhood in Woodland Hills, California which is not quite a city of much minority Sure, yeah.
Mostly just whites, a lot of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.
And I came up rapping, it was my passion since the first moment I heard it.
And I became very good through training.
What was the first rap you heard?
What was the thing that jump started it all?
This group called Third Base, not necessarily a big famous group, but they were two white dudes, the rappers.
And they spoke to me.
They didn't try to appropriate the culture.
I knew even if that age that this wasn't my music.
I knew to love it and to understand it, but not to sort of steal it.
I learned that through Motown, and things that I've studied.
And so these guys, Third Base, made it their own.
And that was the first time I heard it and went you know what?
I can do this.
And that was what I was into, yeah.
And then it ends the last day I decide to rap.
Wow, that's cool.
And you made your start of your career, just extemporaneously or sitting down and writing.
For the book for wrapping?
Write I really first.
I mean like 6th grade.
So, it's like and it's still kinda good.
I mean I look back and explain stuff and I'm like, this is pretty funny and it's in the book.
I put some lyrics in 6th grade.
They're decent And then freestyling.
You're like, Miss Sinklesteen, is that what?
No, I was rough.
No, no, no.
You could read in the book.
I was definitely claiming to have sex with women.
No, I was sixth grade.
You understood what rap was about.
Yeah, I had studied long enough.
At the time, that was, that was it.
At the time that was-
That's all hip hop is still, please.
And so yeah, I knew what to do.
And then I became, I liked battling.
Battling was what I wanted to do especially because comedy was so ingrained in me.
And so that's free styling at that time.
So that's how I got into free style battling, is that I wanted to use comedy and music and that was the easiest way.
Do you still rap?
In the last ten years I've, the Clippers asked me, I'm a huge Los Angeles Clippers fan They asked me to do a song two years ago for Halftime, and that was the first time I had rapped on a microphone in a decade.
So they put that at Halftime, and then since, for the book, I put out a couple things.
I did a song with Mike Shinoda from Lincoln Park, which we just released for the book.
And then I have a song with Nova Rockafeller from Canada.
So there's some things I'm doing.
I put out a freestyle for the book.
So some things I'm doing to promote, and I still have it.
[LAUGH] That's good, that's good to know.
Excellent, still crushing it
So in the book there are a lot of these sort of interesting factual encountered with people.
Like one of my favorite thing that you mentioned in that.
You have a trailer for your book.
Listen, if you're not sure about buying it, go watch the trailer on-
The trailer will sell it.
[INAUDIBLE] It's great.
It's right here.
And you talk about how Mark McGrath threw you a 25th birthday party.
21st birthday party, I'm sorry, threw you a party and then you never spoke again.
We've spoken, I've never seen him again [LAUGH].
Okay fair enough.
He actually tweeted the other day.
I did not send him a free book.
He tweeted himself reading the book.
That was nice of him.
I don't know if he knows he's in it.
But he hasn't gotten to that page yet.
I don't think so.
I just tweeted at him, I was like, thank you so much, I hope you like your chapter, with like, a heart.
Because he was very nice to me, we had a song together, and he was a friend.
And then after the, he got a, I mean I guess I can spoil this, he got a humongous Virgin Mary tattoo that night Cause he was so drunk
And he got a Virgin Mary tattoo on his neck and he had it removed shortly thereafter
So no matter how crazy I think my 21st birthday is I did not beat Mark McGrath.
He's not even religious!
You just pointed that out
Yeah, I'll take that right here
Bull or the virgin Mary.
The virgin Mary is fine.
She's a lady.
It very much sounds like this was not to use a book metaphor but a chapter in your life.
That had a beginning, middle, and end.
And you are past it now.
Absolutely and that's a lot of therapy.
That's ten years of therapy.
Cuz when you're 19 and you sign a record deal for a million dollars and they tell you you're gonna be on TRL and they tell you you're gonna work with Timbaland and they tell you all these things, and then that doesn't come together, as much as that sounds like a smallest violent in the world, it is not.
It is very painful for a child.
And at 36, I'm a grown man, I'll take any of your disappointment, my parents are divorced, I'm fine.
When you're 21 and you know that this is your job, and also I went to college, I graduated, I could have went another route, I was a sitcom writer by trade
Like I could've done those things.
Instead, I lost two or three years because of rapping.
And it's my passion but I was promised a bunch of things, and those did not come through.
Now I feel good, but its time is very painful.
Yeah, I'm sure that's really hard.
So what do you think now about sort of the landscape of, I mean, obviously We talked about this with Jackie too
People who are independent, able to get their music out there regardless of labels and things like that.
Do you think that if you were rapping now At that age do you feel like you would've gone through maybe a YouTube or a sound hud?
Would you have done indie or would you have gone for that record deal?
Look at me, I was made to rap on the internet.
[LAUGH] That's why I was asking!
Especially because at the time you have to understand, no one looked like me.
In 2016 or sounded like, I've never, I've dressed like this, I sounded like this my whole life.
In 2016 it's hard to find a white rapper who doesn't look like he belongs at Pacific Sunwear.
I was the first of that mold and I listened to it back then and went, this feels
Like even I heard it went, I'm trying because I can't be anything else.
I can't talk about guns, I can't talk about jewelry.
I did not live that.
It has to be me.
And it was startling.
Now I listen to it in 2016 and I'm not even really that creeped out by it.
It's just the way the world has evolved and the Internet being a big part of it.
Because if you're selling realistic rap from a kid who grew up in a middle class suburban home.
The strongest way to put that out is the internet, and I didn't have that at all.
Napster barely started when I got out.
It's true democratization of the medium.
Yeah, it helps and it gets you other audiences.
It creates subgenres within a larger genre, and I didn't have that opportunity, and I'm still happy with what I did, but My project was made for what would later become the internet.
Do you have a lot of time to listen to or look around for up and coming musicians that you're really into?
Like, is there anybody online that people should be listening to right now?
Yeah, our podcast is called Get Up On This, and it's me getting people up on musicians, apps, movies, TV shows, anything.
I love a group out of LA called Villain Park.
No one truly knows who they are yet, they're kids.
They have some connections, one of their brothers was a 90's underground rapper like I was.
But, they're incredible, and they're kids, and I don't even know how many, probably 1,000 followers,2,000 followers.
But they sound like a throwback group, 90's Pharcyde sounding, but they're kids, yeah.
Villain Park, okay.
I'm publicizing them, they've never emailed me.
I've never spoken to that.
Well you're the Mark McGraff of Villian Park's life right now.
Let's make it a little nicer for me first.
I appreciate the metaphor but, push it a little harder.
I like it, I like it.
So what's next after the book?
Do you wanna write more books, do you wanna do, cuz you do a lot of things.
What's next for you?
>.Well, right now I'm writing the espy's.
The ESPN Oscars.
It's my third year in a row this year we have John Cena so I'm super excited about that as a host.
Are you gonna go for the meme?
Are you gonna go for the meme?
Wait hold on.
They're are a lot of memes.
Are you talking about John Cena?
You'll have to tune in to find out!
I'm so jealous because I feel like he would be my best friend and we'd get along.
He's a great guy.
He seems like the coolest guy!
He's like everybody's best friend right?
Well I used to write at pro wrestling.
I wrote at Monday Night RAW, it was my first pro wresting.
That is amazing.
We need to have you on,
Just where I can just talk to you about that.
I'm a huge wrestling fan.
Yeah, I did 6 months in 2005 and it was a great experience not something I want to do ever again.
I quit very easily.
Did you get those crazy bits of [INAUDIBLE] phone calls where he was like, change it all.
Well I didn't get those calls [INAUDIBLE] but he didn't call the new kid to do that.
He was very nice to me and very sweet, and John was always a bright spot.
He was the guy who walked up to my mother and introduced himself when she came.
He's that guy.
Charm parade through and through.
Like a politician.
And so I've been so stoked to be reunited with him and be making jokes with him.
He went and bought my book in a store yesterday.
It was the most adorable thing I could think of.
If John Cena walked in and bought a book in my book store I'd be like what book is that?
Did anyone see John Cena buy this book, I'd yell it out.
But it's been fun.
Then I'm on the alternative press music awards with my friends Jack and Alex from All Time Low, they're hosting And then to Rob Riggle's pilot over at TBS.
So I have a lot lined up as far as things to get me away from my life, a little less self centered.
And then hopefully something new.
More projects, more things.
Well thank you so much for coming on the show.
Thank you guys
Where can everybody find you?
Yeah it's jensenkarp.com.
Everything I do Which is a lot of stuff.
It's all hub there.
And then on Twitter, it's Jensenclan88.
That's with a C though because I'm not racist.
So that's Jensenclan88.
That's so smart, well done.
Yep, that's it.
Sounds great, and I'm gonna check out Villain Park.
Yeah, and definitely go pick Kanye West owes me $300.
It's very funny.
And there are a lot of
Really great stories in there about a lot of your favorite nineties hip hop artists.
Wanna know something on the way out?
Maya loves quesadillas.
Don't we all.
I mean, who doesn't love quesadillas.
She told me it many times, and we'd talk about quesadillas for fifteen minutes.
Now we know how to get her to come to this show.
Just set up a quesadilla place.
Somebody call the taco man.
Alright, guys, that is it for Jensen.
Thank you so much, again.
We really appreciate it.
And we will be right back with our Into It
And also a delightful back it or hack it if you like taking pictures of space.
So, stick around, it's Tamar Daily.