In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: These days, Jensen Karp is best known as a podcaster and the co-owner and operator of Gallery 1988, a pop-art focused gallery in Los Angeles that’s hosted art shows centered around everything from comedic heroes to Breaking Bad to cult movies. In the mid-’00s, though, Karp was best known as Hot Karl, an indie rapper who won freestyle competitions on L.A. radio stations and eventually signed with Interscope Records for Your Housekeeper Hates You, a never-released record that featured appearances from Redman, Will.i.am, Mya, Sugar Ray, MC Serch, and Kanye West. The latter is now one of the subjects of Karp’s latest book, Kanye West Owes Me $300: And Other True Stories From A White Rapper Who Almost Made It Big, which is out now everywhere books are sold. A hilarious and revealing look at life on the hip-hop sidelines, Kanye West Owes Me $300 finds Karp talking about his rise to almost-fame, as well as the Eminem-sparked incident that led to the whole thing falling apart.
The A.V. Club: Your HateSong pick is a weird one.
Jensen Karp: So weird.
AVC: It’s a deep cut.
JK: You didn’t know it existed, did you?
AVC: No, of course not.
JK: Good. Thank God. I was going to say if you even knew it existed, I would be offended almost. But I’m a historian when it comes to obscure B-side hip-hop or weird compilation albums. Those were my favorite things growing up, so this one always stands out to me as pretty much the most offensive, in my opinion. There’s been a long line of offensive hip-hop songs, but this one might take the cake.
AVC: Why is this the song you picked? Have you always hated it?
JK: Yes. This song has always been terrible to me. Obviously, as I grew up and got more of a point of view as a human being, as an adult, I realized other facets that I hated about it. But as a kid, I loved storytelling, and I liked the way rappers would paint pictures. And so, even at the age when it first came out on the America Is Dying Slowly compilation, the idea that Fat Joe at the end can’t stand the idea that women might think he has AIDS, and that he wouldn’t get sex anymore, that he has to say, “If you’re listening, I don’t have AIDS. It’s just a muthafuckin’ record?” It was the worst ending. It was like, “Dude, you can’t even tell a story?” And not only that, the overall concept, even at that age, thinking that loose women were purposely going out and infecting men with AIDS for no purpose other than being skanky women? Their narrative was insane.
AVC: The song’s pretty shitty toward women in general.
JK: I mean, the whole thing. The whole album.
The whole America Is Dying Slowly compilation has incredible rappers on it like Wu-Tang and all these guys. I bought it as a kid, because I would basically buy anything that came in on Tuesday at Wherehouse. And I remember thinking, “If I wasn’t educated at all about sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS specifically, I would think that women were out there like hunters, and they were just picking people off in the rap industry one by one just sort of purposely giving people the HIV virus,” which is ridiculous.
AVC: It’s also like, “Oh no, they’re not trying to get pregnant. They’re trying to give someone AIDS,” which is less likely for a woman.
JK: Statistically, it’s not likely. It’s not likely that this would happen, and that women, when they get the AIDS virus, don’t fall into their own depression or fall into their own sickness. Instead, they decide to make it about infecting men with it. It makes no sense.
AVC: They’re thinking, “Fuck you. I’m going to take you down, Fat Joe.”
JK: Specifically Fat Joe more than anyone, even though at the time, and still today, he’s a nominal backup because we lost the better rapper in Big Pun. But he definitely thinks that women are out to get him.
Sadat X is on that song too. Sadat X, who went on to have even more controversial opinions. It’s very hard to be the second most-uneducated person on a song when Sadat X is there, because he went on to say ridiculous things in interviews even now.
So, both these guys, their opinions were just garbage, even back then.
AVC: When you heard the song did you know what they were talking about or did it take you a while to really figure it out?
JK: I was always obsessed with Fat Joe saying at the end, “It’s just a muthafuckin’ record,” because I just knew that he was so obsessed with getting women on the road that he knew what would happen if the rumor got out, like, “Yo, did you hear that song where Joe says he got AIDS?” People would think it’s a real rumor, especially after Eazy-E had AIDS. I guess he just assumed people were morons when, in real life, he was the bigger moron.
So, I was always kind of obsessed with that and being like, “Oh, come on. What are you doing? Why are you not understanding that it’s a song?” I never thought Kenny Loggins actually lived in the “Danger Zone.” Like, in other forms of music, I never actually believed the things being said. I don’t think Phil Collins saw that dead dude at his concert.
In this case, not only are you completely mis-estimating what is going on here about your life and statistically how women will give you AIDS, you’re also perpetuating incorrect knowledge into our society. We had sex education by that point of my life, and everything in the song went against it. That was what I was probably most offended by. Fat Joe is very surprised in the song that you can get—which by the way is so rare as well—but he was saying, “I can’t believe you can get AIDS from just going down on a girl.” Sure, I guess it’s possible, but the odds are not in his favor.
It’s the same way that growing up, they told us about killer bees. I was so afraid of killer bees, and to find out later that wasn’t really a thing out here. Fat Joe was that for sex ed. He was all fear-based. It was this huge song of fear. He was the most Republican rapper ever and he just made everyone want to go abstinent.
AVC: Obviously, he’s doing a public disservice. On the other hand, it’s important that people know that you can get AIDS from oral sex, it’s a bit of a toss-up.
JK: It’s a catch-22. A lot of times people say not to, but in this case, I think we should just shoot the messenger. Do you know what I mean? I think the message might be somewhat okay, but I definitely think we’re being told it from the wrong direction.
Also, the song is just called “Nasty Hoes.” It’s not even really focused on AIDS. It’s just saying that there’s this predator out there, and this person is going to get you if you’re not on top.
There was always that urban legend that a man woke up, and in lipstick it said, “Welcome to the world of AIDS” on the mirror. I don’t know if you remember that urban legend.
AVC: That’s like waking up in a bathtub full of ice minus a kidney.
JK: He starts the song like, “’Welcome to the world of AIDS’ is what she wrote on the mirror with the red lipstick before I woke,” or whatever. This was the woman’s goal. She wanted to infect Fat Joe—who is technically Big Pun’s hype man—she wanted to infect that man—again, basically Big Pun’s weed carrier—with AIDS. That was her goal, almost like she has notches on her bedpost of rappers she’s infected. In what world does Fat Joe think this is happening? We only had Eazy-E, I think, as far as hip-hop people with HIV. It’s like a weird hunting season that Fat Joe thought happens.
That was always my thing, too. I became fearful. Even at that age, I was like, “Is he right? Am I missing something?”
AVC: “Maybe I’ll become a super successful rapper and someone will try to give me AIDS.”
JK: Exactly. Because I grew up in the suburbs, and I listened to hip-hop for the right reasons, which was to understand a culture that was beyond mine, and to understand what was going on in places outside of my sheltered bubble. For good reasons, I believed what was happening in the Ice-T records, and I believed what was happening in the N.W.A records, and Dead Prez, and Paris, and all these groups that were sort of the CNN for the streets. That was what I liked in hip-hop. I liked the authenticity. So, to hear someone sort of throw that off into the wind, I was like, “What the fuck are you doing?”
AVC: A lot of those records were authentic, but a lot of them weren’t. What do you believe, and what don’t you believe as a 12-year-old?
JK: As a 12-year-old, I usually was able to weed out the authenticity pretty well, not that Vanilla Ice was a hard one to pick apart. For other ones, likes Boss—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Boss—she was a female rapper on Def Jam, and she had a song called “Deeper” that I really liked. It sampled “Under The Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it was a great song. She had a real gangster vibe, and Onyx was in the video, and the put her in a bandana and a low rider. Then I found out she was raised in Bel-Air. Her whole thing came crumbling down. So, you had to pick and choose, but the ones that were real, like the ones I just mentioned or The Coup or whoever, those were the ones that stuck around for a long time, and you sensed it. Fat Joe telling me that he got AIDS from going down on a woman, I did not get the same feeling.
AVC: Well, let me just say this: It’s interesting that he chose to make it about going down on a woman versus a woman going down on him.
JK: True. It’s not like he doesn’t want to. But also, he’s telling people not to go down on women, which to me is very hip-hop at the time. Nowadays, it’s good to eat the booty like groceries, but back then, going down on a woman was sort of “Ew.” It was a thing you couldn’t do in hip-hop or admit it. I think when Akinyele started saying it in “Put It In Your Mouth,” things like that, it was like, “Oh, he’s one of the first to admit it.” And now it’s open, but Fat Joe sang, “Yo, don’t eat out people because you’re going to get AIDS.”
AVC: It also really perpetuates this image—and I know that this has been said a million times—but he’s talking about the dirty girl versus the clean girl.
JK: Yeah, the madonna-whore complex. Hip-hop has always done that, unfortunately.
The thing about this song is that he was just so ready to tell you that there was a species of women that you just can’t trust, and “don’t trust bitches” is a hip-hop thing that’s been around for a long time. But this one went a step too far. Not only will they take your money, they’re going to take your life. That felt real Hunger Games. It felt like one step too far.
AVC: Fat Joe has the worst part in the song, but Diamond D and Sadat X also don’t really help it out.
JK: Right. Sadat X is the verse in the front, I believe, and then Diamond D is the hook. “And clothes… fancy hoes.” Neither of them help. It’s just that Fat Joe is by far the most offensive part of the song. It’s also his lack of commitment to the song at the end, just sort of giving you that M. Night ending that you never wanted where he doesn’t have AIDS. If anything, just be committed, and I think that’s what I sort of liked about Sadat’s verses and the Diamond D’s work. At least they’re in it. At least they don’t have to say at the end, “I’m completely clean. I was tested last week.”
AVC: What’s Sadat X’s deal, besides being one of Brand Nubian’s founders?
JK: Sadat X has since gone on to become one of hip-hop’s most polarizing people. He’s homophobic. We all know that. He’s come out and said a couple of anti-Semitic things. I think he’s done a handful of stuff that’s really shitty.
AVC: It’s weird that this song was part of an AIDS awareness record, considering its message.
JK: It’s just so crazy to me that they would create an album—and I think money went toward AIDS research as well—that had so many myths on it. It had so much miseducation and so much misinformation that almost picking this as the worst song is me saying there’s also this terrible album that exists the perpetuates the wrong stereotypes about AIDS. By the way, contextually about hip-hop, if you look at what they were doing at the time, so many lyrics were homophobic. So, here you have these rappers trying to raise money for a disease that is detrimental to the gay community, and yet you would go on to have Lord Jamar and hear his music regularly, and just hear how homophobic his stuff was. There are so many rappers on that album that were hardly gay-friendly, because that was the environment around hip-hop. But it’s such a weird idea to make this a project.
AVC: Looking at the album track list, there are two songs on here with pretty funny titles. One is called “Sport That Raincoat,” and the other is called “No Rubber, No Backstage Pass.” They really wrote specifically for this record.
JK: And by the way, “No Rubber, No Backstage Pass” is a good song, which is even worse. I like that song. That’s a Prince Paul track, by the way.
The “America” song has a great verse by RZA, but even Coolio having song called “I Break Em Off” is so insane. “I Break Em Off.” And look, Organized Konfusion is on the album, De La Soul with Da Beatminerz, O.C., and Buckwild, God, some of my favorites. The record has great people on it, but the message… it’s just weird that they would pick these people. Even society as a whole, not just hip-hop, was in such confusion about this disease that it felt real crazy, especially with other albums. There was Red Hot + Rio, and then the one with Keith Haring artwork they always put out at Interscope. There were other albums coming out like the Christmas album, the one that Jimmy Iovine put out every year. Those albums were making money for AIDS research, too, but they didn’t have to have album cuts called “Blood” by the Goodie Mob on it. Just “Blood.”
AVC: It’s a 16-track record, and your HateSong is track number 14. I wonder if they knew it sucked and just tried to bury it.
JK: I do love on Wikipedia, it says the record was “dubbed a masterpiece by The Source.” “A masterpiece.” Even if you like this album, there was no way you heard it and called it a masterpiece.
And look, I don’t know what song he produced, but No I.D. is on this album. I don’t know what song it is, but No I.D. produced some of this album, who has gone on to become pretty much the head of hip-hop nowadays. So, there were a lot of good people working on this record, just not a whole lot of doctors coming in to talk to them about facts right before they recorded. By the way, that would have been a good A&R to add to the album.
AVC: Between the tracks there could have been some beats, but with doctors talking over them.
JK: “By the way, most of the things said in this album are completely false. Keep that in mind. Here are the true facts.”
AVC: I hope they put a big sticker on the CD. “For more information, call this 800-number,” because it’s 1996.
JK: I do think, in the liner notes, it did explain who to call and how do find out more.