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My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman – Jay-Z

Dave and Jay talk flow, Kanye, cheating and more in Letterman’s new special

For the latest episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, David Letterman sits down with Jay-Z in front of a live audience. Please note that Judd Apatow is in the audience, too. After a brief and breezy monologue, Dave brings out his surprise guest and the show begins in earnest.

The conversation spans several decades and topics and Letterman’s genuine curiousity and interviewing style, when joined by a figure like Jay-Z, is bound to elicit some compelling insights. While the insights are fewer than the pairing might suggest, the conversation is interesting enough. Jay opens up just a little in regards to his marriage and past infidelities but is bit more forthcoming on his upbringing, his relationship with his parents, and the state of the country.

There are some great moments, including one involving lying in hip-hop lyrics.  When Jay-Z tells Dave, “Yeah they lyin’. 9 times out of 10”, Dave’s surprise is a wonderful moment. But, there are some awkward exchanges, including a really ill-conceived exploration of the n-word, that don’t really go anywhere. With Letterman’s scattershot, risk-averse style, questions can go fun and unexpected places while others fall flat; he leaves a lot of power in his guest’s hands.

Where Letterman really excels as a personality, outside of the few funny exchanges, is in his monologue and also off-stage in more relaxed, improvisational moments. In this episode, Letterman visits with producer and Jay-Z fixture Rick Rubin and a group of artists recording at Rubin’s oasis which doubles as a recording studio. This sort of segment will only work for some since the whole music-making doc genre is already quite populated, but Letterman’s excitement and intrigue is contagious.

As Dave plays around more in this new format, some carry-over in tone from the complimentary segments into the main interview would make for a more enjoyable and likely more revealing conversation. Although, to be fair, big reveals may not be what Dave is after here. If the goal is to sprinkle in profound moments amid light conversation with comfortable guests, this will do just fine.

Dani Saad

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. Unless you're Harry Potter in which case you'll lose... everything.