Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, actor Baron Vaughn and MC/comedian Open Mike Eagle host The New Negroes on Comedy Central. Vaughn and OME are politically and culturally savvy entertainers whose humor transcends race and opens minds with unerring accuracy. Their show combines rap music with stand-up routines to address topics like racism, social-justice warriorism, police brutality, office rage, conspicuous consumption, drug abuse, and more.
"It's mostly an all-black stand-up showcase, and it's interspersed with live music—mostly me," Open Mike Eagle explained when we chatted prior to The New Negroes tour stopping in Seattle. He said the live show's material varies on a night-by-night basis. "If I find the crowd is hungrier for straight-up comedy, I'll do stuff from the show. If I feel like they're there for a little balance, I'll do stuff that's more varied out of my catalog."
More clips from our interview below, including a Kanye West tangent.
What is your ultimate goal with this New Negroes tour?
We've been doing a pretty successful show in LA for a few years now. We've also done it around the country at various festivals. We just want to see if it's something we can take on the road. People always seem to have a really good time at it, and it seems like something we should be able to duplicate.
Are you trying to persuade people to see the world in a certain way or change their mind about certain issues?
The only real philosophical thrust of The New Negroes as a concept is to dispel the notion that black comedy, black entertainment, hip-hop, is one thing. So we tend to have very different types of comics on board every night. It's representing this postmodern idea of what it means to be black through entertainment. And it's not like there's any one particular lesson or moral to the story that we want people to walk away with. The important thing to us is the variance: We might have a real street comic on, we might have a real alt-heady comic on...
Will you have guest comics on this tour?
Yeah. Our headliner for the West Coast dates is Naomi Ekperigin. From show to show, we're gonna have a different lineup made up of mostly local talent.
It seems like the people who could really benefit from seeing The New Negroes are those who don't even know about it.
My experience with any artistic work that represents marginalized or underrepresented people, that's always how it starts. It starts with people inside of the community, mostly. But the plan is that it hopefully gets bigger, and it does start to attract people who may not normally hear about this kind of thing in their pipeline.
This is off topic, but have you heard Kanye West's Jesus Is King?
I have not. And I probably won't. I need to be given an explanation when people try to do public-image repair. I don't feel like I've really gotten one. So I'm going to abstain from giving him real estate in my mind with his new musical works till I understand what we were watching last year... this year, whenever that shit was. I need the man to reestablish some trust with me as a listener. And I don't feel like he's really done that.