Jimmy Fallon’s Rap-ification of Brian Williams

In the Magazine
Mark Lennihan/AP

One, two, three, and to the four. Snoop Doggy Dogg and ... Brian Williams is at the door?

Has the veteran newsman traded the anchor desk for the recording booth? Several videos bouncing around the Internet last week made it seem like Williams was bringing his trademark gravitas to the hip-hop game, but it was actually just the latest viral success from Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.

Staffer John MacDonald cuts and rearranges Williams’s reportage into old-school hip-hop jams. When MacDonald first showed Fallon his creative work, the host immediately thought: Oh, my God, this is hilarious. Before you could finish your gin and juice, rapping Williams was everywhere. They’ve produced three mashups so far: “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, “Regulate” by Warren G, and “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A. The first video was such a hit that Fallon’s team released the other two over the next two nights, rather than keep its audience waiting, Fallon said.

Even the original artists are praising Williams’s turn on the mic. “It was funny as hell” and “kinda dope,” says N.W.A.’s Ice Cube, who found out about the supercut from Twitter. A flattered Warren G says it was “pretty cool just to see a cool cat like Brian Williams do a classic record produced by me.” He says Williams “nailed it” and that the anchor should “think about a rap career.”

Williams may not be coming out with his own Big Willie Style album, but he’s no stranger to comedy and has no qualms poking fun at himself. “America’s most trusted newsman,” as Fallon refers to him, has done cameos on 30 Rock and The Soup’s “RAWR! with Brian Williams.” He has also “slow-jammed” the news with Fallon, who calls him “a good sport.” Williams himself was unavailable for comment, but Fallon heard through the grapevine that he approves of the new rap mashups.

Since Fallon started hosting Late Night in 2009, his show has become a destination for brilliant musical shenanigans. Highlights include the aforementioned slow-jams (one of which featured a deadpan President Obama, who recognized the cachet that comes with a Fallon musical appearance), the expansive History of Rap medleys with Justin Timberlake, adorable elementary-school music-room concerts with Mariah Carey and Carly Rae Jepsen, and that inimitable imitation of Neil Young covering Will Smith’s Fresh Prince theme song.

But these latest videos are more than just clever parodic conceits. They’re prime examples of the current trend in late-night television: younger, pop-culture-savvy hosts who appeal to younger, pop-culture-obsessed audiences. With Fallon set to take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno, Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers sliding into Fallon’s spot, and Jimmy Kimmel’s rise in popularity, this isn’t your father’s Late Night anymore—though it might be Big Poppa’s.

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