New York City audiences have not seen much of Tom McCaffrey's stand-up in the past year, but they have seen quite a bit of him rapping, either in live shows or online in music videos.
That's because McCaffrey decided to produce his own rap album. "Get Rich or Move Back in with My Dad" came out Sept. 21, 2010, and he and his friends — many of whom contributed to the album — celebrate the release with a party/concert Sunday at Pianos in the Lower East Side. You can buy the CD then, or here via iTunes:
Several of the 17 tracks already have music videos. Previously I posted vids for "How To Make A Hip Hop Hit 101," "Less Money, Mo Problems," and "How to Rob Comics." Here's the video for "30-Something," featuring Rob Cantrell. Roll it!
Sure, the lyrics may be funny. But it seems as though Tom McCaffrey wants to be taken seriously as a rapper, too. So, which is it? Or can you be a comedian who raps, without necessarily being a rapping comedian? I asked McCaffrey to explain himself.
You went to performing arts high school here in New York City. Were you a musical stand-out back then? If so, what kind of musical training did you receive? I actually don't have any musical training aside from playing the trumpet in 5th grade. At Performing Arts HS I was a drama major. I studied acting. I did have a lot of friends that were musicians and are now professional musicians. But I was really into hip/hop music when I was in high school. Way way into it. I was basically a Beastie Boy in High school. I had gotten into rap when I was about 11 with Run DMC's first album. And I was always rapping back in those days, not my own raps but rap songs I liked. I memorized all the ones I liked and would constantly do them. I never even thought about actually doing it myself even though most of my idols were rappers.
But wait. This is not a joke, right? I mean, we know it's a joke in that the songs are funny, but this decision to become a rapper is not some sort of Joaquin Phoenix performance art prank? Or worse, like when Garth Brooks pretended he was a rock singer named Chris Gaines? Why do I know that? Did you know that? I definitely don't want to be like Chris Gaines. This is where it gets interesting. It is a joke but it's not a joke. I mean I love rap music and rapping but at the same time I realize its ridiculous that a comedian in his thirties would begin pursuing a career as a rapper. But the fact that I'm a comedian makes it a bit easier for me to get away with doing this. When I first started doing it I only did it because it felt like an unfulfilled dream and I really wanted to be in a rap video. It was supposed to be over the top and funny but I also wanted to look cool and be a skilled MC. I think rapping is like the coolest skill to have so I didn't want to make a mockery of it. When I first did it I had no idea what I was going for I just did it and I feel like a lot of times creatively you have to just dive in and see where things lead. When the Lonely Island's album 'Incredibad' came out that helped me figure out the direction I wanted to go. That album is really good and really funny and they clearly love and know hip hop and were honoring it in a way. The tone of what I'm doing I think is similar to Tenacious D. Those guys are extremely talented musically and love making music but at the same time they're in on the joke too. I figured I had to own what I was doing and go all out and it's a joke but at the same time I want to be awesome.
Are you still doing stand-up, or do you want to be known as a legit rapper now?
I'm too legit to quit. I have done stand up a few times in the last 3 months but I have gotten away from it. I got so wrapped up in recording this album that I didn't have a lot of time to do it. I kind of made a decision when I started doing the full length hip/hop album to really commit to it fully. I immersed myself in hip/hop music and was writing raps constantly. I knew I had to go all in with it since I wanted to really show people that I was good at it and was actually serious about it. Then I thought it'd be funny if on a very small scale it started spreading around that I was doing what Joaquin Phoenix had done and quit my original career for a career as a rapper. So right now I'm not doing stand up but I can't say I'll never do it again. I don't know that I want to be looked at as a staright up legit rapper but I will say that it is important to me that I be good at it. I want to have talented rappers think I can spit well and that my writing is on point. I do think that my experience writing comedy is a big strength because the best rappers are the ones with the most clever and witty rhymes. That's the thing about hip/hop, a lot of it is really funny. Oddly rap and stand up have a lot of similarities. The only difference I can see is that rappers get laid a lot more.
You share the wealth quite a bit in terms of allowing other comedians and musicians to contribute on the album. Is this just for the record? Or are you and the others part of a larger entourage or rapping posse? That was the great thing about this project. Rap really lends itself to having a crew. It's like the more the merrier. Stand up is very very solitary, obviously. I wanted to mirror real hip/hop albums complete with numerous guest appearances. And since I was still trying to find my way as a rapper I was more than happy to have other people on board who are talented. It only makes me look better if I'm surrounded by good people. And like I said hip/hop lends itself to the crew mentality more that stand up. Rappers know there's strength in numbers so having a posse of 10 or so people only helps you in the long run. And performing wise it's a bit easier to not be the complete center all the time. It takes off a lot of pressure. And I would say I have a very loose group of people that I perform with. I perform with Mara Herron and Carolyn Castiglia a lot but aside from them there are other comics that are good rappers that I have been perorming with more and it's really cool because it's something different than stand up so it's a much more loose and fun vibe. It's like partying with some people you know onstage.
Where do you hope to see your career go from here?
Platinum albums, movies, rims, clothing lines, cars, hoes and blunts. I'm like half kidding. I have no idea. I'm really really just happy and proud of myself that I did this. It's been so much fun and I do feel like it helped to re-energize me creatively. I would like to keep doing live shows and do a tour with some of the other people on the album. But if I could have anything out of this I would say that I hope to become a rap superstar. Believe dat.