Hannibal Buress doesn't exude hip-hop swagger. The comedian and Chicago native acts more like one of your stoner friends than a thugged-out, blinged-out MC.
And yet, the man has recently contributed bars to a couple of hip-hop tracks, which you can find on his Tumblr blog. He busts a few verses at the end of "Versace Breakfast," a track by Freddy Scott (aka Lil' Big Medium)—and, as you can tell by the title, Buress's flow is ridiculous. ("Fuck mimosas/No Limit soldiers!" he spits at one point.) Meanwhile, on "Gibberish Rap," he does just that, riffing nonsense on a minute-long track produced by friend Tony Trimm.
"I enjoy rapping because it's fun," says the 29-year-old Buress, on the phone from Chicago. Since Buress believes that rappers can be just as funny as the average comic, what's stopping him from doing it? "There's a lot of humor in rap," he says, citing Devin the Dude and Redman as two naturally funny MCs. Still, it's too soon to know if he'll go the same route as his fellow stand-up colleague Donald Glover (aka hip-hop star Childish Gambino).
Buress has been rhyming since he was a youngster. "Since 7th, 8th grade, I wrote my first rap and I freestyled with my friends," he says. "If people enjoy it, they can enjoy it. If they don't, they don't have to listen it."
This relaxed approach seems to inform how Buress navigates both his career and his life. Last month, it was announced that he's writing a script for a cop comedy on ABC, one of many cop comedies that are in development at the network.
"The entire process can be a difficult process, because there are a lot of projects up," he says. "But it's a good opportunity. So, if it goes forward, it goes forward. If not, everybody's still alive and we keep moving on."
Even if the cop show doesn't work, Buress has other things to fall back on—and not just stand-up and his new hustle as a rapper. He would still like to continue being the sarcastic sidekick for his buddy Eric Andre on The Eric Andre Show, one of the many live-action whatzits that appear on the Cartoon Network's late-night Adult Swim lineup.
On this parody of a badly done public access show, Andre interviews guests—whether they are actual celebrities or vagrants they pick up off the street pretending to be celebrities—while the consistently low-impact Buress says whatever he feels like saying. Buress is the perfect laid-back counterpart for the incessantly bugged-out Andre, with whom Buress has performed on his own weekly comedy night at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory and on the stand-up concert documentary The Awkward Comedy Show. "He's such a maniac, and I'm chill," says Buress.
As someone who's been in the stand-up game for 10 years, starting out in Chicago then making a name for himself in his new home of New York, Buress knows how certain comics can be an acquired taste for some and a godsend for others. Buress may be an African-American comic, but he doesn't fit the Def Comedy Jam/ Comic View mold of African-American comedians (that is, a comic whose material consists of pussy jokes and the differences between black folk and white folk).
"All the stuff I'm talking about is stuff that I really think or really happened," he says. "So, that makes it easier for me to come off natural ... the same way you're funny with friends. That should be the vibe onstage."
Unfortunately, being a different sort of comedian has given him the dreaded "alternative" label ("I don't like that term, man," he says). However, being a different sort of comedian also means touring all over the world, getting international audiences who dig his comedy. "I sell tickets everywhere," he says. "What's odd about going to London and selling out shows or going to Norway and Australia? I do comedy, and all types of people come to my stuff and laugh. So, it's just comedy."