On Netflix's My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, David Letterman's familiar wit from his Late Night and Late Show days on CBS is still intact. But the monthly streaming special has added an element that's absent from that network past. He lets his guests get serious and do most of the talking.
That's particularly evident with the host's latest guest, hip-hop superstar Jay-Z, who especially warmed up when asked about his influences. Like a kid in a candy story, Jay-Z riffed extensively about two '90s hip-hop acts, Eminem and Snoop Dogg.
On the episode, slated to debut April 6, Jay-Z went on about the cadence and rapid-fire delivery of Eminem, even emulating the Slim Shady persona at points. As for the Snoop, the performer rattled out the deep, much-sampled “one, two, three, and to the four” line that the Dogg dude interjected into NWA veteran Dr. Dre's "Nothin' But A G Thang."
Wide-eyed, yet still comfy in the presence of the elderly Letterman, now with bifocals and a beard that almost rivals the chin mops of ZZ Top, Jay-Z was animated, yet thoughtful about his take on the stars that helped formulate his own sound, made famous on such hits as "On To the Next One," "Renegade," and "Empire State of Mind." He also let the studio audience on one key to making it big in the hip-hop world.
“There’s multiple ways to be good, and some people really just have it all,” he said.
Jay-Z's appearance also spells out a major reason why the Letterman show is such a hit on Netflix, an ingredient that he brought with him after leaving CBS in 2015, after some 20 years on-air. Unlike cohorts like Leno and Carson during the '90s, Letterman never relied on safe musical acts that stuck with lounge jazz or light pop genres. Instead, he was willing to take a chance on more cutting-edge acts on the fringe of public attention, like M.I.A, Primus, Pixies and even the godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop.
His choice of people to appear on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction not only don't need a ringmaster-bellowing walk-on, but certainly have a great deal to add to a show that promises insightful conversation. Letterman also has a chance to go deeper by having only one guest on each episode, giving him more time for some entertaining exchanges.
People who have already appeared on the program include President Barack Obama, George Clooney and Malala Yousafzai. After the Jay-Z episode, Tina Fey is slated to be Letterman's next guest.